2023 Kaleidoscope: Graphic Design in Indonesia

Productivity in the nation’s creative field seems to be on a never-ending climb following the pandemic, this includes that within the context of graphic design. The prevalence of many programs and initiatives by graphic design practitioners can act as a benchmark for the revival of the scene. Annual multidisciplinary creative events like ARTJOG, JIPFest, M Bloc Design Week, Bandung Design Biennale, Indonesian Contemporary Art & Design, Jakarta Art Book Fair, Bintaro Design District, and Art Jakarta have all returned once again to enliven the creative ecosystem this year with ideas, programs, and far neater presentations.

Furthermore, the 2023 creative world has been celebrated through many new events. The first editions of Out of Office, Jakarta Doodle Fest, and Jakarta Illustration & Creative Arts Fair have also enlivened the scene as well as offered something new for practitioners, enthusiasts, and the general public. This has shown that this year, innovation and diverse initiatives are thriving in the dynamics of the creative field.

Meanwhile in the professional field, there is a rise in the productivity and accomplishments felt by fellow practitioners. Shani Nur M, Studio Manager at Dassein Design Bureau (DDB), stated, “In 2023, Dassein Design Bureau, generally speaking, we’ve been able to hit our studio targets both in terms of the quantity of work we’re getting as well as from business aspects that are aligned. We met clients in new fields we’ve never come across before, both at the local scale as well as at the international scale which have come our way unexpectedly. Both Dassein’s activity and productivity was concomitant with the matching quantity of work, it was quite packed in Q3 and Q4.”

He also added, “Although the productivity conditions are quite high, internally as a team, we didn’t forget to create initiatives or DDB programs beyond client work, like Designer Responses and our routine activity, Dasskusion, at a few opportunities. Of course the number of clients that we handle can be a form of equivalency to see that the demand for design in Indonesia, in terms of enthusiasm, varies each year. This goes back to the ‘industry pool’, which is what we do, so that the role of Indonesian graphic designers as a profession can progress massively and continue to be demanded by the existing entities.”

Meanwhile, Danis Sie, Creative Director at Sciencewerk, chimed in, “The design industry is becoming more competitive. A number of design pitchings have to now face studios based abroad that have a branch office here in Indonesia. Productivity is rising, generally speaking, designers nowadays have to be multidisciplinary a.k.a a jack of all trades or super specialist.” In his view, the workload is rising and so are client expectations. However, he feels that this is not sufficiently counterbalanced with the capabilities of local graduates, specifically in Surabaya—the city where Sciencewerk operates. 


Seto Adi, Creative Director at SatuCollective, expressed similar sentiments. He noted that 2023 was quite productive for bothSatuCollective as well as the graphic design industry at large. “When the industry was recovering and readying itself following the pandemic, graphic design as a profession began to find its role. You can see it from the initiatives by practitioners, festivals about design beginning to fill up, studio productivity, and the sheer quantity of works created. Add to this brands’ need to create marketing materials after the pandemic to reestablish the market conditions and ever-heightening competition,” he explained.

In a broader context, it seems graphic design is gaining ground in the public consciousness. The Ibu Kota Negara (IKN) Nusantara, or Nusantara Capital Authority of Indonesia, visual identity closed competition and selection was a historic step in the journey of Indonesian graphic design. Beyond the active involvement of graphic design practitioners, the transparency of the visual identity selection and the direct participation of the public in that selection should also be celebrated as accomplishments of Indonesian graphic design. Through an array of stages, Aulia Akbar’s design was chosen as the future capital’s visual identity. Not limited to the IKN visual identity design, designer participation through Asosiasi Desainer Grafis Indonesia (ADGI), or the Association of Indonesian Graphic Designers, for the Indonesian Independence Day (HUT RI) also continued this year. Through a variety of selection mechanisms, Katarina Monika’s design was chosen as the 78th Indonesian Independence Day visual identity, adding to the merriment of the commemoration.

The participation of the nation's graphic design practitioners in several crucial projects this year didn’t end at just the visual identity design for the IKN or HUT RI, but it was also seen with the visual identity design of the latest public transportation mode, the Whoosh high-speed rail. Involving ADGI once again, ten studios were invited to participate in the selection and design process. Through each stage, the choices were narrowed down to the big three designs. These three designs were then presented to the public. Eventually, the identity designed by Visious Studio was chosen based on the evaluation of the organizer's internal team and public response.

Internally, this year has also been full of important moments in Grafis Masa Kini (GMK)’s accomplishments. Last April, GMK had the opportunity to visit Singapore and observe the graphic design scene there firsthand as well as chat with local practitioners. The data and interviews were then processed and used as an approach in exploring domestic graphic design discourse. These findings were published and became GMK's first printed publication. Moreover, GMK also continued to strive to be consistent and variative in how we share news and information on graphic design and the visual arts to the public. As of October, GMK launched grafismasakini.com as a writing platform that offers a more comfortable reading experience. This website is also intended as a channel with more varied content.

The activities of the graphic design scene this year should be appreciated in order to take on the next steps. The splendor and achievements in this field are worthy of celebration while also fueling optimism to keep going into the coming year. Initiative projects carried out by individuals, groups, or collectives and collaborative programs need to continue to be encouraged to form an ecosystem that continues to be productive. Furthermore, the proactiveness of the practitioners also needs to be increased, especially at the national level, to continue improving the position and acceptance of the graphic design profession in the public sphere.

About the Author

Daud Sihombing

Daud Sihombing has been writing professionally for the past 9 years. This fervent alternative publishing enthusiast prefers his quaint little town over the hustle and bustle of the city and doesn't let sleep stop him from watching every single AS Roma match.