Weekend Heller: Insight Into Indonesian Innovation

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Nigel Sielegar, principal of Corse Design Factory NYC, is an Indonesian-born designer with a special interest in promoting design in his native country. Towards this goal he recently published “Collected: Contemporary Graphic Design of Indonesia” co-produced with DGI Press in Jakarta. The book opens yet another window to the international scope of graphic design and typography (order here). I asked Sielegar to speak about the the book and design in Indonesia too.
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What prompted you to do this book and how did you get government to support the process?
The book comes from the realization that there are many Indonesian designers working in the design field, yet there’s not many publication that talks about them. The local graphic design books that we can find in Indonesia so far, has been created, designed, and marketed only within Indonesia, and to Indonesians. So, I thought it would be worth it to create a publication that highlights these subgroup of the creative industry as a whole. With the hope that this publication can be a platform for Indonesian designers anywhere to start shaping their own identity and presence.

As for the Government involvement, BEKRAF  (The Indonesian Agency for Creative Economy) has shown interest in this project, and wanted to use it as a media to promote the graphic design industry in Indonesia. We are currently still in the beginning stage of discussions to see if that’s a possibility to explore.

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How were the designers selected?

Working with DGI (Desain Grafis Indonesia – one of the large organization/graphic design forum in Indonesia) we held a call for submissions. We invited all Indonesian graphic designers whether they practice design in Indonesia or abroad, to submit their portfolio. The guidelines is rather broad as well, we ask them to submit work that becomes the signature of who they are as a designer. Within a few months, we received hundreds of portfolio from all over the world.

Since the whole goal of this project is to highlights Indonesian graphic designers internationally, I thought it’s very important to have both outside and inside perspective within the curation. So, DGI and I decided to ask 2 designers from New York City (Eric Baker and Rafael Esquer), as well as 2 senior design figures in Indonesia (Sita Subijakto, and Gauri Nasution) to be the curators for the book. These four curators then given the task to select the 35 designers to be included in the book.

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There is a lot of Western influenced work. Do you think that is the dominant style in Indonesia?

While design industry is young in general, it is even younger in Indonesia. Even though Indonesian arts and crafts has been growing for centuries, for some reason they never really get translated into the commercial arts. At the same toke, a lot of the Indonesian designers practicing design today, got their education abroad, and these young designers brought back a lot of those western design principles into their work.

What were some of the biggest surprises in putting this together?
This project certainly comes with a lot of surprises. I, personally did not realize how spread out Indonesian designers are. We received submission from around the globe. I did not realize how rich and diverse the work are either. Although, like a true Indonesian (and New Yorker), I really embrace this diversity. It makes the book interesting, and really paint a picture of the state of contemporary Indonesian Graphic Design.

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It seems that design is healthy, which must mean business is healthy too. Am I right?
Logically yes. I would love to think that the growth of the economy can be reflected in the growth of the design sector. However, one of the things that I learned from this project that, the design industry in Indonesia faces many difficult challenges and undergoing what businesses called “the growing pains”. But I have faith that if the design community (both local and abroad) can support each other, the design industry in Indonesia will certainly flourish.

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