POST A: Indonesian And Australian Design – What To Consider

Local context should always be considered when designing because it is “seen as a mirror and agent of change.” (Moalosi, R. Popovic, V. & Hickling-Hudson, A. 2006.) This varies a lot between countries or even between different groups within the same society. Context also has a “big influence on what people regard as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design.” (BBC UK. 2014.) For example, in South Africa red is the colour of mourning. However, in China red symbolises good fortune. Trying to sell the same red product in those two countries would produce a very different response. Furthermore, any design for a society that has not considered their cultural beliefs as well as social and political practices has the potential to be pointless because it may lack meaning for them. Therefore, to be sure that a design will have an impact and serve the needs of the target market, it has to be created whilst considering their local mores. The only way you can do this is by understanding their social, technological, economic, environmental and political context. (Raynsford, N. & Lipton, S. 2000.) I realised this whilst immersing myself in the Indonesian culture, conducting research and undertaking an anti-smoking campaign with Vital Strategies, where my group and I designed a billboard to discourage smoking.

Walking around the colourful streets of Banjarmasin and talking to Indonesians allowed me to understand and respond to the unique social context of this engagement. For example, when developing our billboard design, we quickly noticed how popular it was amongst the Indonesian youth to take pictures using their smart phones. We also observed that unlike Australia where the predominant messaging application used is iMessage, in Indonesia, this was WhatsApp. As our billboard needed to be relevant to the audience we were targeting, this was an important piece of information we gathered to ensure the success of our design. In addition, we also learned through discussion with the Indonesian youth and Vital Strategies that our assumption of iPhones being as popular in Indonesia as they are in Australia was wrong. In fact, 88.37% of the Indonesian market in December 2017 (Statista. 2017.), used Android phones. As such we had to modify our design to reflect the social context in order to achieve greater local relevance and trigger an emotional response from the audience.

My group’s first iteration of the billboard started out in our presumed most popular format: iPhone. Our design had to change when we learned that Android phones were more popular in Indonesia. (Image: Group Durian. 2018.)
Our final design using the Android format was more relevant to an Indonesian context. (Image: Group Durian. 2018.)

Furthermore, during my time in Banjarmasin I noticed some key cultural and regulatory differences between Australia and Indonesia exist. This makes the task of reducing the prevalence of smoking in Indonesia significantly more difficult. Such differences should be acknowledged and taken into consideration during any anti-smoking design initiative for Indonesia. Firstly, as a Muslim country, drinking is not a wide-spread recreational pastime and as such cigarettes are arguably of greater importance as a source of relaxation and social interaction.

Research into Indonesian cigarette advertisements. (Image: Lepew, P. 2011.)

Secondly, Indonesia is the “only country in the South-East Asia region that still allows cigarette advertisements to be aired on TV and radio, and ads are also printed in newspapers, magazines, and on billboards” (Anshari, D. 2017.), with only minor restrictions that the Tobacco Industry must adhere to. For example, this L.A. lights billboard to the left literally says “DON’T QUIT”. (Morris, P. 2011.) Conversely, Australia’s political context does not allow for any tobacco advertisements at all with the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992. (The Department of Health. 2017.)


Walking the streets of Banjarmasin, it became apparent that cigarette advertising was far more prevalent than it is when I stroll the streets of Sydney. This difference needs to be acknowledged when designing for Indonesia or Australia. (Images above: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

Lastly, packaging laws in Indonesia allow for 60% of the packet to focus on branding and glamourising the product, with the remaining 40% to be on health warnings. (Anshari, D. 2017.) By contrast, Australian law prevents all branding and provides no opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves. Cigarette packaging must focus on the health warnings as a result of smoking alone under the recent Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. (The Department of Health. 2017.)

indonesian cigarette packaging
At a street market in Banjarmasin, the health warnings on the cigarette packets were mostly covered up by a red sticker. This would be illegal in Australia. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)
The uniform plain packaging of cigarette packets in Australia. (Image: Scott, L. 2017.)

Given these positive influences that actually promote smoking in Indonesia, I realised a design campaign there might focus not only on why smoking is bad for you like it is in Australia’s context, but could also consider ways to dismiss or negate positive attitudes towards smoking in order to successfully design for their context.

In addition, I have come to discover that an Indonesian anti-smoking campaign focussed on fears should not necessarily assume that culturally Indonesian people fear the same things as Australians. In Australia for example, design campaigns such as the plain packaging shown previously are very much focussed on premature death and the risk of dying. However, when I conducted an interview with youth leader Gading, he told me that Indonesians do not care about confronting pictures of disease because they know they will die anyway, so they may as well die smoking. (Fajar, G. 2018.) The prevalence of strong Muslim beliefs in Indonesia might mean that the fear of dying is less relevant and powerful. Arguments and designs that show smoking is somehow inconsistent with the values and beliefs of their religion may be far more likely to succeed in an anti-smoking design campaign.

Subsequently, design must always consider the social, political and cultural context.  Without acknowledging the importance of these local contexts, designers risk delivering messages that do not influence the target audience and risk failing to achieve their fundamental design objectives.


Reference List:

Anshari, D. 2017, ‘Effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warning Labels for Indonesia’s Cigarette Packages’, Doctoral Dissertation, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 20, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

BBC UK. 2014, Cultural Influences on Design, GCSE Bitesize, viewed 30 January 2018 <;

Fajar, G. 2018, Interview, 19 January 2018

Group Durian, 2018. Billboard Final Design, 17 January 2018

Group Durian, 2018. Billboard Iteration One, 12 January 2018

Lepew, P. 2011, Indonesia Tobacco Giant’s Shameful Billboard Says “DON’T QUIT”, Tobacco Free Kids, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Moalosi, R. Popovic, V. & Hickling-Hudson, A. 2006, ‘Culture-driven Product Innovation’, Proceedings 9th International Design Conference, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 573-578, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Morris, P. 2011, L.A. Lights ‘Don’t Quit’ Billboard, Tobacco Free Kids, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Nicholl, A. 2018, Banjarmasin Cigarette Advertising, 08 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Glamourised Cigarette Packaging, 08 January 2018

Raynsford, N. & Lipton, S. 2000, ‘Urban Design In The Planning System: Towards Better Practice’, BETR Environmental Transport Regions, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-99, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Scott, L. 2017, Australia Wins Landmark WTO Tobacco Packaging Case, Acosh, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Statista. 2017, Market Share of Mobile Operating Systems in Indonesia from January 2012 to December 2017, The Statistics Portal, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Introduction of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australia, Australian Government, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Tobacco Advertising, Australian Government, viewed 31 January 2018, <;


3 thoughts on “POST A: Indonesian And Australian Design – What To Consider

  1. I appreciate your balance of personal experience and research–it makes the piece more accessible and engaging. Strong core arguement too (y). GG fam ❤

  2. Really interesting to see how you explore ways that smoking might be discouraged in Indonesia compared to Australia. I like that you utilized your own familiarity and experiences in Indonesia with the process of designing the billboard and how this has informed you.

  3. Great piece. Good use of the smoking epidemic as an example to carry the whole post through and demonstrate the ideas proposed in your research 🙂

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