Actualizing a Healthy Design Ecosystem and Practice with ADGI

Commemorated every year on April 27 since 1995, the International Design Day is an opportunity to reevaluate and affirm understanding of the values of design as well as its capacity to create change on a broad scale. Quoting the International Council of Design’s official website, on International Design Day, designers from all corners of the world are challenged to find innovative solutions to the everyday needs of humanity and use design as a vessel to celebrate diversity and push boundaries. In 2024, International Design Day takes on the theme ‘Is It Kind?’. This theme invites designers, and all who are involved in the world of design or enjoys design, to reflect on the good values applied in design practices.

In exploring this theme, we are prompted by the question—invited to imagine—what if, in the design process, designers were asked before all else: Is this kind? Furthermore, what if the benchmark for the success of a design was seen by the good brought by the design for many people rather than its profitability? With the adjective “kind” often considered relative, defining kindness in the design practice is a question that arises after we reflect on this very theme. The International Council of Design itself asserts, “Defining kind design and building kindness into design practice means: Centering humanity.” This statement can be interpreted as meaning that design should be oriented towards the good of the user, those affected by the design, and all parties involved in the world of design, including designers.

Kind design practices can be realized with the support of a healthy design ecosystem for everyone involved. A deep understanding of the importance of designers' well-being can encourage a more conscious design practice—resulting in kind design. Digging into the implementation of the Is It Kind? theme, in the context of graphic design in Indonesia, Grafis Masa Kini spoke with the Indonesian Graphic Design Association (ADGI), a membership-based organization consisting of professionals in the field of graphic design and other areas of design. As a professional member, Ritchie Ned Hansel, as Chairman of ADGI, said that this association itself provides a safe space for professionals in the field of graphic design to connect with the industry and stakeholders in Indonesia. In this way, the graphic design ecosystem in Indonesia will continue to move and offer new possibilities for those involved to grow.


"Apart from that, we also open up spaces for discourse through our chapters to be able to develop graphic design in Indonesia equally and evenly," said Ritchie. "This discourse and industry movement can ultimately build a design ecosystem as part of cultural progress in Indonesia," he added. Equity and equality of opportunity is also one of the focuses of implementing theIs It Kind?theme, especially in a pluralist human setting like Indonesia. The International Council of Design notes that kind design can be participatory, socially oriented, open, and equitable—meaning good design practices transcend existing boundaries. By understanding the value of kindness in this practice of openness and equality, more participatory and collaborative spaces will be available for all design practitioners in Indonesia.

The presence of an association like ADGI is crucial in building a design ecosystem that continues to grow to produce good and conscious designs. Ritchie Ned Hansel explained that in the process of progressing a field, a neutral vehicle is needed to support policy makers who are able to represent all levels involved. This vehicle also provides support for graphic design practitioners in Indonesia to work together to create an ideal design ecosystem. "It is hoped that ADGI as an association can become a vehicle for all graphic designers so that they can work together to advance and make our (design) ecosystem healthy," said Ritchie. When talking about a healthy design ecosystem, of course there are milestones that serve as benchmarks for the design industry in various parts of the world. A healthy design ecosystem in Indonesia itself, according to Ritchie, "is when design ethics has become a full part of the way we, the practitioners, consciously run this industry, both the users and service providers."


The theme Is It Kind? in celebration of International Design Day adds further meaning to the discussion of design ethics in the industry. In this spirit of goodness, it is not enough for a design to meet the criteria to not be a "bad" product or work. The design is expected to show kindness and concern for the environment in which it is located. This can be realized by having standards for our own design ecosystem in Indonesia that go beyond previous standards—thinking about the essence of humanity itself in its design practice. In the design process, each practitioner is also expected to show concern, not only for consumers of the design product itself, but also all aspects of the environment that are affected by the presence of the design.

Creating a healthy ecosystem for kind design and implementing kindness in design practices is certainly not an easy thing because the values of kindness that are promoted themselves challenge existing systems, including rethinking how design is oriented towards kindness rather than mere profit. Regarding this challenge, Seto Adi Witonoyo, Director of the ADGI Code of Ethics, added, "Increasing the valuation of the graphic design profession is a challenge in itself that requires professional ethics that are general and widely accepted and have the same goals." According to Seto, the professional standing of a discipline, including graphic design, can be realized if there is collective action from practitioners and how this profession has advantages amidst aspects of modern culture like now. Seto then explained the collective steps that could be taken, "Providing a platform for expression and opening up opportunities for designers and the graphic design field to become better known in society, exchanging ideas and knowledge through programs created by ADGI so that they can be accessed by all groups, building practitioners' awareness of making a social and environmental impact through good design.”

With a design ecosystem that continues to develop and move forward, design practitioners can turn the challenges raised by the theme of this year's International Design Day into possibilities for creating new things, and at the same time ensure that what they do promotes goodness that is oriented towards humanity. In Indonesia itself, steps towards a healthy design ecosystem and good design practices continue to be seen. Ritchie said that the design movement taking place in Jakarta could be a representation of how close we are to the ideal ecosystem that design practitioners in Indonesia want to achieve. "However, if we have to push how far we want to go, how can the design field and its community be equally applied in other regions in Indonesia by providing useful solutions. Maybe that's another stage of idealism that we want to aim for," concluded Ritchie.

About the Author

Alessandra Langit

Alessandra Langit is a writer with seven years of diverse media experience. She loves exploring the quirks of girlhood through her visual art and reposting Kafka’s diary entries at night.