Makna: Pushing Design Beyond a Purely Visual Experience

Last Saturday (13/01), Makna celebrated their 10th anniversary with 10 Years of Makna at House of Makers, Jakarta. The self-described “creative lab” had actually turned a decade old on October 1, 2023 and had commemorated the milestone with their book A Decade that Matters. Said book denotes Makna’s journey from a freelance designer to the creative hub we recognize them for today.

A Decade that Matters, as many studio profile books, outlines Makna’s numerous design ventures but was able to balance that with an insight into the team’s ever-evolving thought process. It combines their impressive portfolio with the wordsmithing skills of its author, Aushaf Widisto. The book, while celebrating the ups, also doesn’t shy away from discussing the downs–revealing the company’s more vulnerable moments in talking through how the team managed to navigate any rough patches along their journey.

On why they decided to commemorate the decade with the book, Ernanda Putra, Founder and CEO of Makna, explained, “To be honest, we [just] wanted to share that our gumption from back in the day is still alive and well today…We want to show that design is actually accessible to anyone. We’re not saying we’re an [industry] example but at least we could share our ten years of experience. There are a lot of stories there we wanted to convey and also that if you believe in design, creativity, there are no boundaries and Makna is just one of many examples of that.” Alexander Averil, Creative Director at Makna, added, “Hopefully, this can [also] be a diary for us so that one day people can recall [our work] and we ourselves could also be reminded that ‘Oh! We were able to do all these things!’ just in case we ever forgot,” he chuckled. The book goes into great detail into the evolution of Makna from a design studio to the multi-pronged IP we know today. It’s clear that Makna was not interested in trudging along in search of a space that fit them, they always were out to create a space for themselves.

It’s no easy feat to last 10 years in any industry, but to thrive the way Makna has in the creative industry is certainly nothing to scoff at. It seems that one particular book has been rather influential in Makna’s philosophy–Blue Ocean Strategy by Reneé Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim. The strategy refers to markets with known rules boundaries, Red Ocean, as opposed to unknown rules and boundaries, Blue Ocean. In layman’s terms, the strategy speaks of the untapped potential in creating your own market rather than fighting for attention in an existing one. The implementation of said strategy by Makna is plain as day as the company grew from a “small, multidisciplinary creative lab” into Makna Group®, consisting of several ventures under its belt including Makna Coffee®, Makna Talks®, Makers by Makna®, and Makna Verse®.


Makna’s ability to tap into an unfamiliar space and their sheer nerve are their biggest assets as Alexander noted, “I’m the most proud of how we were able to evolve as a team and take more risks.” Nanda added, “Also, we were brave enough to step out of our comfort zone. From a [design] studio, we had the guts to create an IP, a brand. What actually allowed us to get where we are is community, so that’s where we go back to, creating work for said community.” This centering of community began early in the days of Makna’s conception, with Nanda’s keen eye for community building and boldness in navigating new terrain. Before Instagram solidified itself as a social media giant, Ernanda, better known as Nanda, had already begun to engage with and build communities on the platform with gatherings like Instameet. Said community’s meet up at Bromo was later featured on Instagram’s official page.

“This is just the beginning because we feel that ‘Oh, it turns out this thing we’ve been building is very multifaceted” Nanda explained as he looked back on the last decade. “We’ve built the vehicle, now it’s a matter of how to step on the gas. How do we grow each of the IP’s we’ve established,” he continued. Alexander also mentioned how they have always strived to push graphic design beyond a visual experience. ”How can graphic design be drunk, be worn, be heard? So, we keep developing our visual communication design and hopefully, through House of Makers, we can grab [the attention] of even more communities.”

Both Nanda and Alexander still have big aspirations for Makna going forward beyond the next 10 years. “The dream is for Makna to belong to everyone. I don’t know [yet] how we will get there, maybe along the way we’ll hold more community events, and more of our brands can belong to everyone,” Nanda elaborated. 

About the Author

Kireina Masri

Kireina Masri has had her nose stuck in a book since she could remember. Majoring in Illustration, she now writes, in both English and Indonesian, of all things visual—pouring her love of the arts into the written word. She aspires to be her neighborhood's quirky cat lady in her later years.