Principal of Nusae
In this internet era, all things need to have aesthetic merit as part of their overall design appeal. Contemporary and modern designs appear on our screens all the time. These styles are amongst the most popular with architects and interior designers, but the role of graphic designers is maybe less well understood. We talk to Andi Rahmat, the principal designer for Nusae, about the state of graphic design in Indonesia today. His main concern at the moment is to raise the profile of graphic design so they can play a vital role in the ongoing evolution of modern design in Indonesia.
What are the key trends in Indonesian graphic design current?
At the moment, we are still pushing for graphic design to get more attention from the public. This is more or less related to the history of graphic design in Indonesia, where graphic design evolved out of the well-established advertising industry. As a consequence, the public has generally viewed graphic designers as “drawing men,” while in reality it is not that simple: there is always a profound thinking process behind every graphic project.
Formal education in graphic design in Indonesia only started in 1972 at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) following the return of AD Pirous after a one-year stint at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the US. He went to study there because ITB realised that there would be a growing demand for graphic designers, seeing the large number of businesses setting up in Indonesia who would need to create logos, branding images and marketing material.
Today, the programme has developed very well, as evident from the larger number of practitioners in the profession, as well as the many design studios emerging and developing throughout the country. Every designer possesses different characteristics and each, therefore, offers a slightly different interpretation about graphic design in Indonesia.
What do you think about the development of graphic design in Indonesia?
The appreciation of the Indonesian people towards graphic design is getting better, as we can see from the growing number of graphic bureaus in the country. But design-wise, personally I feel that we can still do better.
We can obtain information much faster in this internet era so we can see and gather more data, which we can use later. Therefore, we can discover better or different designs that we can gain inspiration from – not copying them visually, of course, but more about the thought process behind the design. From this we hope that people can begin to discern between designs which are simple illustrations or drawings and those which have been created by experienced designers.
So far, we haven’t really seen good graphic designs in public areas in Indonesia although this should be a very important part of the environment, such as signage that makes it easier for people to find their way in public spaces or public information that is specifically made for the benefit of the people. At the moment, graphic design is merely used for consumerism purposes: for advertising and promotion.
What do people think about this field?
Better than before, but I don’t reckon it is as good as I hoped it would be. This is because of the common public belief that they can do the work of graphic designers themselves—it is already in their mindset.
When did modern graphic design start in Indonesia?
In the 1990s, the logo design of PT Kereta Api Indonesia (Indonesian Railway Company) was already done in a modern way—it was well proportioned and made in a metric fashion. This effort produced good design, which I think is still relevant to this day. However, a lot of designers do not want to learn from things that have worked in the past – and are still effective – because they always want to come up with something new and different.
Of course there are graphic designers who have successfully brought graphic design to the surface so that people can enjoy the results. For instance, the design for the Indonesian Independence Day image that within the last years has been done by local graphic designers – this year it was done by the Blackhand Design studio from Bandung – as well as the logo for the Jakarta MRT by Wulan Pusponegoro and the Asian Games logo by Feat Studio.
What are you working on at the moment?
Aswin Sadha (Thinking Form), Andi Kurniawan (Kudos) and I are creating a group called Indonesia Design Modern with the vision of representing and promoting modern Indonesian design – raising the profile and public awareness of what we do.
At Nusae, equipped with the knowledge of the history of graphic design in Indonesia, we have a clear focus about what we have to do now. We’re trying to create modern designs of the best possible quality, highlighting functions and information that should be easily and effectively communicated through good design. At the moment, we’re making a big effort to collaborate with other bureaus and other fields of work that share the same spirit: to create modern Indonesian design.
I am also helping few architects such as Andra Matin, Budi Pradono and Danny Wicaksono, as well as Hermawan Tanzil at Bintaro Design District, with a one-week design event that was held in mid-October. Eventually we want to make the event as big as the London and Tokyo Design Weeks but obviously, at the moment, we are taking small steps. Next year, I am helping with the Pasar Papringan event which is the brainchild of Singgih Kartono. It is wonderful to collaborate with other people with the same principles to create better quality of Indonesian design, and make Indonesia look more modern in the process.