The history of Indonesian product design was centred on tools used by our ancestors – they were all handmade. The sophistication of these products did not come from the precision or anything engineered, but more of the local wisdom, materials and how they were crafted. “From our history, we learnt that we were not industrialist – it wasn’t a matter of producing as many products as possible, as long as we can produce our finest work. This was how the ancestors did it, and this becomes our strength,” says Joshua Simandjuntak, who was a product designer and now serves as deputy chairman of marketing at Indonesian Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf).
Along with the economic growth, traditional workshops were shifted to factories, started in the era of Soeharto’s leadership, our second president dubbed the Father of Indonesian Developments. The factories continue to operate to date by local and international business owners, and they have produced a wide array of innovative products.
The advancement goes on, but as told by Joshua, the sophistication of handcrafted products is rooted well in us Indonesians. Paralleled to the global issue of the slow fashion movement, the artisan products are now taking the centre stage again. Many of Indonesians started to look for locally made artisan products, from small to bigger things, hence opening new markets for designers and craftsmen. We can witness the growth of new local brands on social media – we even have online platforms dedicated to product designs such as Fabelio.
By the same token, award-winning product designer Denny Priyatna asserts that Indonesian designers and craftsmen have the opportunity to offer their products not only to Indonesia’s wide market, but also to the regional and even global markets.
“Sure we see products made from our locally-sourced materials such as rattan and timber, but in terms of design, I think we [designers] can explore more of the techniques and treatments to materials rather than playing only with their form,” Denny says while Joshua nods in agreement, “the design will be the main selling point.”
After exploring many local exhibitions and having Indonesian representatives to showcase their products at some major product design events such as New York Now and Salone del Mobile Milano, Joshua says that the curated product design should be aligned with the current trend, namely hand-processed product that has the elements of cultural story, material exploration and contemporary design.
While this might not be spread formally, the trend has brought to the surface by designers. We picked some of the examples as featured in this edition.