Post A – Design in Context

Throughout history the construct of design has sought so ‘solve’ issues that face a particular sociopolitical landscape. The manifestation of such design varies greatly between disciplines, but can be strongly identified with the context of the designer, or the context of the design solution.

The Lucky Iron Fish Project is a perfect example of how a layered understanding of the cultural context surrounding a design can decide the success of a project. Christopher Charles visited cambodia as an Epidemiologist in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of Anaemia, a blood cell disorder caused by a lack of Iron in the diet. His initial studies showed a shocking rate of this disease within the 3rd world communities, who could often not afford to eat foods rich in Iron, and suffered  muscle fatigue, lethargy in extreme cases, cognitive impairment.


Charle’s initial solution to this was to distribute small iron blocks, to a few families, with the instruction to add them to the cooking of soups / stews, so that the Iron would transfer into the diet. Upon checking with the families a short while later, Charles found most of these blocks to be holding open doors, or simply cast aside. The initiative was at first unsuccessful. Through further engagement with the Cambodian culture, Charles and his team learned of the “Try Kantrop” a fish found in Cambodia, that is highly symbolic of good luck and health. (Lucky Iron Fish 2014)

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The Lucky Fish casting (The Lucky Fish 2014)

Upon re-casting the iron blocks in the shape of the “Try Kantrop” families were happy and motivated to drop the fish into the preparation of their food, and the results were astounding. Among the early participating families, anaemia was almost completely gone. (The Lucky Fish 2015) 

Those initial tests were over 5 years ago, The Lucky Iron Fish project has already helped over 10,000 families (Lucky Iron Fish 2014) combat the effects of iron deficiency. The Lucky Iron Fish project has worked with local industry to sustainably and responsibly package and distribute the fish, By using local weaving methods, no plastic waste is generated in the packaging process, while encouraging and stimulating the local economy.

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Instructions on the use of The Lucky Fish (The Lucky Fish 2014)


Through a direct immersion with the context of the design solution, Charles and his team were able to successfully create a holistic innovative solution that has greatly benefited the third world countries of South East Asia. This approach is inspiring, and indicative of a shift towards meaningful design solutions that will change the world for the better.

Christie Nicholson, 2014, How Designing Something Into The Shape Of  an Animal Can Actually Improve Human Heath, and Why You Shouldnt Put Condoms On Broomsticks, Core 77, Viewed 30th April 2015. < http://www.core77.com/posts/26431/how-designing-something-into-the-shape-of-an-animal-can-actually-improve-human-health-and-why-you-shouldnt-put-condoms-on-broomsticks-26431 >

The Lucky Iron Fish, 2015, The Lucky Iron Fish, Viewed 30th April 2015, < http://www.luckyironfish.com/ >

The Lucky Iron Fish, The Lucky Iron Fish : A Simple Solution for a Global Problem, Video Recording, Youtube, Viewed 30th April 2015 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY0D-PIcgB4 >

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Post D – Indonesian Punk – Punk’s Not Dead!

Born within a volatile socio political landscape, Indonesian punk provides safety and a sense of identity to many who live day by day in crushing poverty. In Jakarta, the 12th largest city in the world (Karli 2014), it is estimated that 1 in 4 people live in Kampungs, local villages nestled in the dense city scape. These villages foster tight family like communities and are a self governing support structure for all who reside within the area. Elected heads of one particular Kampung were naturally skeptical of the heavily tattoo’d punk band Marjinal’s arrival, given Indonesia’s violent history towards anyone who looked spoke or acted in a way not supportive of the government. However the inspiring drive for creativity and unity made Marjinal an integral part of the community.

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Image: A small part of the massive Indonesian punk scene (Photographer: Karli Kk Munn)

Indonesian punks have not always embodied the western image of punk, with ripped black jeans and piercings. The early indonesian punks embodied  “true spirit of punk; anti-capitalist, anti authoritarian, autonomous, and independent” (Karli 2014). Marjinal band mates “Mike and Bobbi’s parents with their punk spirit and radical politics don’t look like punks. They belong to a generation where if you had tattoos you could’ve been killed” This reflection to a time in Indonesian history of government directed murder gives some indication to the landscape in which these people struggle. The Petrus Killings of President Suharto’s New Order in the early 1980s, involved covert, state sanctioned violent murder of suspected and convicted criminals. These bodies were then anonymously dumped in the streets and became a warning to those who defied the state order.

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photo : THE GUARDIAN

Many victims of this atrocity were tattoo’d, forcing a public association between tattoo’s and criminality. This development of Indonesia into a heavily controlled military state referenced the anti Communist purges of the mid 1960s, in which over half a million people were murdered for their political views. This government corruption is what modern Indonesian punks still to this day strive to question. Through the support of otherwise outcast street kids, the punk scene lead by creatives and bands such as marginal seek to bring hope to a controlled corrupt cycle of life that is still rampant in modern Indonesia.

Australian Broadcasting Commision 2014 Indonesian Punks : Punk’s Not Dead! Sydney, Viewed 28th April 2015 <http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/360/indonesian-punks/5909858 >

Post C – Primary Research. Education Pathways in Modern Indonesia

Education across Indonesia is vastly different from what we take for granted here, not only in the access to schooling, but in the freedom of study we enjoy in tertiary education.

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Indonesian Girls in Traditional Dress, with Religious Offerings. Photo : Benjamin Styles

Indonesian life especially on the island of bali, is heavily influenced by religious devotion. The largely Hindu culture of bali permeates almost every aspect of day to day life, and is reflected within the education pathways available for children across the island. Around 3-4 hours every day are devoted to the temple (B. Styles, pers. comm. 30 April 2015), and as a result schooling starts early, at around 7am and finishes at 2pm, leaving the rest of the day open for religious activity. Within the temple, boys learn instruments such as the Gaemelon while girls learn traditional dance. As the primary source of income for most balinese lies within the tourism industry, there is a heavy push to learn, and be proficient in english. Positions even as seemingly simple as working a till at McDonalds, require a university level of English. For those who do participate in a formalised education, it is often in the tourism sector, for careers in hotel management and food service.

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A Once Heavily Decorated Casket Burns in a Cremation Ceremony. Photo : Benjamin Styles

Children who are not wealthy enough to attend school, living in Kampungs, often learn the trade for which their village is known. “As you come towards the centre of bali, [the villages] specialise in a certain trade, so silver smithing, textiles, paintings, sculpture wooden or stone, and they ship products en mass down to the tourist hotspots.”(B. Styles, pers. comm. 30 April 2015) This is where creativity breeds as crafts are taught by fathers, uncles, grandfathers and the ‘Guru’s’ of each village. Although these wares are largely for tourist sales, it is the religious festivals that are perhaps the most beautifully and carefully crafted. Creativity flourishes as 4-5 day religious ceremonies are adorned in hand made decoration. A cremation festival involves all those who live in the Kampung marching around the small but densely populated village, “the colour and creativity in these events is truly spectacular” (B. Styles, pers. comm. 30 April 2015)

Although there has been a strong push towards western formalised education in the past 30-40 years, “there will always be that bedrock of traditionalism”(B. Styles, pers. comm. 30 April 2015) as Indonesia’s rich cultural and religious history continue to drive the nation forward.

Post B – The Ocean Clean Up

When 6 year old Boyan Slat saw “more plastic bags than fish” on a dive trip in Greece, a spark of frustration started what has become a phenomenal undertaking. Now 19, Slat has driven the ocean clean up project, and has developed, along with a ream of over 100 volunteer scientists and engineers, a revolutionary system of cleaning the worlds oceans of our garbage.

Around the world there are now millions of tonnes of plastic waste polluting our oceans. Through consistent ocean currents this waste has congregated in 5 distinct patches called ‘Gyres’ the largest being the North Pacific Garbage Patch. By targeting these Gyres, through a process called passive collection, the actual removal of the debris becomes a feasible and viable project.
Slat’s design uses floating collection bays, that allow fish and other marine life to pass unaffected. Through extensive research and development it has been estimated that this system could “remove almost half the plastic from the North Pacific Garbage patch in 10 years, while being an estimated 7900x faster and 33x cheaper than conventional methods. (The Ocean Clean Up 2015) 

As well as addressing the current problem of ocean waste, the ocean clean up project is approaching this issue of waste removal as a long term and sustainable shift in cultural norms. Strong campaigning to raise awareness and generate a sense of public responsibility is a key part of preventing more waste entering the ocean systems across the world. Smaller scaled collection bays are also planned to be implemented in local waterways, in an attempt to catch debris before it enters the ocean systems.

This project has grown to include a multidisciplinary team ranging from oceanographers to marketing and communications, allowing a holistic solution that will continue to develop through a sustained approach. Funded by the largest crowdfunding operation in history, over 2.1 US dollars was raised to bring this project to a pilot stage within three years, making this initiative a very real possibility in the fight to clean the oceans of the plastic we have filled it with.

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Aerial view of Slat’s preposed design, using ocean currents to trap and collect floating plastic debris

The Ocean Clean Up (Boyan Slat) 2014, The Ocean Clean Up Viewed 28th April 2015 <http://www.theoceancleanup.com >

The Ocean Clean Up 2014, How we showed the oceans could clean themselves – Boyan Slat on the Ocean Cleanup, Tedx Video Recording, YouTube, Viewed 28th April 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpDxE8BhPSM >

Boyan Slat 2015, Boyan Slat, 2015, Viewed 29th April 2015 <http://www.boyanslat.com >