Visit Porto, Portugal: ECSM2015 – 6-11 July Paper Presentation and Visual Research documentation.

Some of the snap shots during my visit in the Universidate do Porto.

I had a chance to present my paper about digital archiving and current status of archiving in Malaysia in the 2nd European Conference on Social Media, in a beautiful city Porto in Portugal. Thanks to RCMO Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) for sponsoring the financial for the trip to the conference and supporting research in USM.

My paper entitled: An Exploration of how Networked Citizens Play the Main Role in Outsourcing: A Method of Creating Digital Collections of Malaysian Cultural Artefacts, discuss about the current status of archiving/digital archiving in Malaysia and then propose potential solution to managed the digital archiving issues that most countries is facing now, the funding and space, through the method of using networked citizen and also crowdsourcing. Although this is not a new method but it has not been apply in archiving. Mainly used as marketing tools and also data collections for most companies.

Below is the abstract and if you’re interested in the paper, do send me an email at zainurulrahman @ gmail. com and you will be able to read the paper.


Architecture in Porto – Photo by: NurulRahman2015
Snapshots around Porto. Photo by: Nurul Rahman 2015

Some of the snap shots during my visit in the Universidate do Porto.




Pursuit of beauty – fantastic and seductive video construction

Workshop for Designing Effective PresentationToday we (the academic staffs of the School of the Arts) were asked to attend a workshop to teach us on how to work or design an effective presentation. This class is organised by Mr. Zaid Alsagoff from International of Medical University Malaysia. He shows us the latest tools that I found fascinating.

Here I would like to extend Mr. Zaid talk and sharing session about the useful links if you want your presentation to be much more interesting and as they said, create an awesomeness of your presentation.

Useful links:
VideoScribe –

Bitly – to shorten your long links to a shorter version
This site is fantastic as it help to shorten an image links that you got from internet to be less messy and shorten it or simplify it.
Try this one and it makes your life


Poll Everywhere –
is a superb tools for a fast response, to get the students to response to a certain topic for the open discussion.

Socrative is a fast tools to do quiz, or forum in the class. This is a great tools for the class exercise and to engage the students to the topic that you want to get the student thinking.

Useful links:
VideoScribe –

Bitly – to shorten your long links to a shorter version
This site is fantastic as it help to shorten an image links that you got from internet to be less messy and shorten it or simplify it.
Try this one and it makes your life


Poll Everywhere –
is a superb tools for a fast response,
to get the students to response to a certain topic for the open discussion.

Socrative is a fast tools to do quiz, or forum in the class. This is a great tools for the class exercise and to engage the students to the topic that you want to get the student thinking.

Visual and seduction. Another interesting video to sharpen your understanding of the use of visual construction and how it can influence our way of doing and living in everyday life.

This video is done by the beauty product company by LANEIGE U.S. Besides selling the product, Laneige touch a bit on the idea of seduction and beauty. I also like the way the images and the videos been carefully constructed here. So here it is a video worth to be shared, not for the selling of the product or for the sake of the advertising but for the love of design. Funny, as much as it is a seductive video and I can see that it will be selling well the product, after the understanding the idea of construction and deconstruction, examining it and breaking it layers by layers, the video is now less seductive for me.

Designing book is no joke. It’s a serious business.

I would like to share few more interesting talks by Chip Kidd, an American book author and book designers. His talk in Ted is a fantastic performance, which I think he have made a point that design is not only about designing the actual piece of design, such as book cover but also about how do you get the message around – communication skills. In his talk, Kidd have shown the audience that designing the book, book cover and the content layout is not a joke. In fact it is a real serious business and need a lot of understanding about book before you start designing.
Chip Kidd- book cover’s design

Turtle Brush & Eggs slicer

This new technology arrived..

RepRap from Adrian Bowyer on Vimeo.

Can you believe it, or even dream of that someday this brilliant technology became reality and part of our everyday culture? Design has continue to make impact in our life and the way we do thing. Now this new technology, invented by a British Engineer and Mathematician, Adrian Bowyer that allow us to reproduce in a small scale our every artefact, instead of buying it at the hardware shop. RepRapProject is an open-source self-replicating 3D printer. This printer allow us to first make duplicate of itself, so that then we can start making duplicates of other little thing.

What is more interesting with this self-replicating 3D printer is it can duplicate almost anything provided you could find an open source 3D work of an artifact for example a coat hanger online. If you do have it, then you can reproduce a coat hanger as much as you can. Now when it comes to the material, here is where I am concern. That these material are made from plastic and I am wondering if it can be recycle and not ending up as a waste. If it does then what can we do with it? So far this project is still under its working progress with several engineer around the world participating in the prototype testing project.With this printer, we move to another era and perhaps it is not too much to say here that we might move little step forward. Imagine in future, if you think of needing something for the house, instead of going out to hardware shop, you download a 3D model which is an open source, and print it. It is almost similar to the changing era from print (paper) to digital world. People don’t have to buy newspaper anymore, because they now can download (through subscription ) a digital online newspaper monthly monthly. Or they can connect to the web and read it online. Well.. even though most of us still catching up with many new updates with new technology, we cannot stop it from evolve..
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It is obvious that Japanese culture have been parts of our everyday life, in particular popular culture. Hello Kitty, Mangga, Samurai, Bento, Sushi, Honda and Kawasaki are among products and brand that most of us are familiar with and perhaps adore to owned. I like to engage in the discussion about Japanese culture and its influences in Malaysians everyday life since the time Japanese occupied Malaya between 1941-45. At that time the name Selipar Jepun (a Japanese made slippers, or also know in Australia as tongs) and Terompah (a wooden made sandals used outside of the house) became popular.

Popular cultures in Malaysia are very closely linked with the Japanese culture or it is not to exaggerate to state here that have shaped partly most Malaysians everyday life. A soap opera known as Oshin (Im sure most of Malaysia remembered the spirit of strong Japanese girl who have fought for her life to survive and gained respect for her generation) for example have an influential recollection of teenagers life for many Malaysia in 1980s.

The close connection between Japanese and Malaysia are inevitable, since their occupation in Malaya early 1940s to the establishment of Malaysia in 1963 and till present days. Large numbers of Japanese products are used in most Malaysian household, from the bigger scale appliances such as rice cooker, washer machine to the little tiny stuff such as hand brush and eggs slicer.

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My visit to one of the most popular Japanese café in Melbourne known as CIBI reminded me of my childhood in Malaysia. CIBI is a café that served coffee, Japanese breakfast and lunch. It is situated along 45 Kelle St, Collingwood, Melbourne. An interesting set up and approach, CIBI not only provide delicious home made Japanese breakfast and lunch, but also been actively participating in promoting and exhibiting Japanese design kitchen products.

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Recently CIBI conducted an exhibition called ˜Japanese Kitchen tools or Nippon No Daidokoro Daigo (contact CIBI for further info at info[at] It exhibits mix of old and new kitchen appliances used in Japanese kitchen. What I found fascinating while browsing around the exhibition space is that some of the products are very familiar to my childhood. And all this while I thought it is locally made because it is heavily used in last decades of Malaysian generation. My grandmother used to have it all the time in her house. Can also be known as all-purpose brush, the hand brush known as Japanese Turtle Brush or Kaminoko Tawashi is a traditional Japanese brush made from hemp palm fibre. It is a hard brush mostly designed for the hard and rough surface to scratch mud on rough surface vegetable, shells fish, bathtubs, floors or muddy shoes.

Another product is the egg slicer. Most of the hawker or roadside store that sells Nasi Lemak one of the all time Malaysian favourite dish (coconut rice served with anchovies, sambal “cooked chili paste, slice cucumber and eggs), will have this egg slicer handy to slice the eggs. Discovering more and more product that are used in Malaysia comes from Japan, makes me wonder how much Japanese culture have influence Malaysian everyday life practices.

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The Author :
Nurul Rahman is currently working on a research project under School of Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia on tracing the Japanese cultural route in Malaysian culture
(Jan-August 2011). Permission and copyright (photograph and text) in this blog please contact through email : nurulrahman[at]

Turtle Brush and Eggs Slicer by Zainurul Aniza Abd Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
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Kereta Lembu ‘Cow-Cart’ : Why it has been omitted, and why it’s reappearing?

Malacca Carnival Logo, Malaysia in 1988
Malacca Carnival Logo, Malaysia in 1988

Why it has been omitted for decades, and why it is reappearing now?

For many fellow Malaysian mainly generation X cannot miss to remember an icons of a Kereta Lembu : Cow cart. It is always been associated with the historical city Melaka or Malacca. It might not be part of most generation X life time experience but the image of it is clear in many Malaysian. However, it may be an familiar icon for Malaysia generation Y, like my nephews and nieces. They might either be extra excited or scared to be near the Kereta Lembu, this is if they are lucky to have a chance to experience one. Kereta Lembu had become an icon that projected the image for the state of Melaka since sixties.

For few decades, Kereta Lembu has become a significant icon that are heavily use as a graphic elements such as in the company logo, signage, design for flyers, etc. Having said that, it was a significant icon not only because it represented the state, but also the image were associated with the cultural practice of Malaccanian citizen. Kereta Lembu was one of the main transportation for everyday life it takes passengers, villagers, school children, goods, and sometime are used as a ‘moving van’ from one village to another or from a village to town.

Since late late 90’s, the use of Kereta Lembu gradually began be forgotten as the new way of transportation took place. However, the icons stayed not only as a collection of Melaka’s historical artifacts but also adding in the stereotypical icons of Malaysian national identity. Kereta Lembu vanished forever from Malaysian everyday life as its used now been replaced by cars, buses, motorbike and other new vehicles. Generation Y might not be able to imagine that Kereta Lembu was one of the only vehicle that are available in their parents generation allowing them to move around, but this logo of Malaccanian Carnival in 1988 is one of the evidences that could trace back the significant contribution Kereta Lembu have made for the people in Melaka. In fact the evidences that Kereta Lembu were useful for Malaccanian people can also be seen in songs and movies produced around the seventies. One of the songs that has been captured and expressed is called Kereta Lembu by Helen Velu or her real name Halina Abdul Wahab, a well known seventies female singer. Fairly recent, (see Utusan Online) after few decades since the song was Kereta Lembu song become well-known again. One of the reason is because it is nostalgic, but more over because it is an icon that has been promoted for branding and tourism.

Below, in a newly constructed video clip of the song includes some snap shots of scene the use of Kereta Lembu in people’s everyday life. Thanks to Abang Jebat for sharing this video.


How what it project, shaped what others think?

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A PhD investigation on comm. design contribution on Malaysian Identity by Nurul Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
Based on a work at

Now when you read this title what do you think can go under ‘it’? It in this context could be any form of media, but what I want to discuss today about ‘it’ falls under comics. So ‘it’ in this column means comics, yes only comics, because under comics there’s comic books, comic strips and perhaps other ‘unknown’ type of comic.

Next questions is the question that I asked at the top (title). So what do you think? Let’s makes it easier in putting comic in the sentences. So ‘How what comics [it] project, shaped what others think? What I’m asking here is the role of comics. Hmm..but what is comic? Well, if you look at the comic definition in then the meaning of comic is this – a comedian, a comic book, comic strips, comedy shows or a behaviors that could induces smiles or laughters. Yes, I did said comics is just comic and nothing more, not comedian and not the act of making others laugh.

Sadly because of this ‘unpopular’ areas or medium, people don’t really understand what comic is. The word comic are broadly use, in different situation, depending on the purpose. It is also because comic is not something that are educational appreciated, it use to be considered as a bad influences. But not anymore. Nowadays comic are much more popular, between children and adults. It has become an exclusive desire artifacts for some and cartoonist has become as popular as an artist.

Back to the question asked – what influence or impact does comic have in our life and how it can influence our thinking process or our lifestyle? First, lets see where can we find comics? Traditionally we could only in find comic in newspapers (classic), in children books, in comic books and in magazine. But nowadays we could see them in advertising, in poster and in many other promotional items. So in conjunction to this, comic is no longer a medium under other media, but it is the medium by itself, therefore as what McLuhan (1954) stated “The medium is the message” – comic is the message. Comic has its own ‘content’ through the message it carries , except the content of the message have extended to certain human understanding of comics. Therefore the meaning of the ‘content’ of comic could change and evolve through time. Now if we see the use of new media on comic, this is happening because comic could give meaning and its own interpretation of comic with out reading what it contained. To include comic in advertising work is to create the feeling of comedy, relax, take it easy kind of meaning. Then the content of the comics comes in.

McCloud in his most influential book ‘Understanding Comic’ (1993) describe his extended meaning of comic and shows examples on how to read and understand comic, breaking it into different parts. Comic is a the most subtle communication medium to communicate. Through comic one can express, tell, suggest and perhaps persuade others for different purpose.

understanding comics

To be able to read comic, one needs to understand the culture background of the comics, a western comic could portray towards Western lifestyle and so on with others cultures around the world. In contrast to this, comic also is a medium of study, one could examine the culture, identity, background of others from different countries through comic. So how does this influences what others think?

Well it is a norm human reaction to imitate others, particularly when is it different from others. Lifestyle, fashion, trends, custom etc, are something everyone of use appreciate, and want to learn or at least curious enough to know. This process could shape our thinking, our views on something and perhaps could even alter our behaviors.

Of course this blog hopes to stimulate some awareness or discussion about design, and guess what, comic is part of communication design. Have a think..Now, what do you say again about comic…is it or is it not influential?

Identity : Constructed

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A PhD investigation on comm. design contribution on Malaysian Identity by Nurul Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
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As you can see I haven’t been writing much in this blog, I’ve been super busy trying to finish up writing up my PhD. But this blog is here and still very useful for me to reflect back my work and throw out some ideas. Many ideas from this blog have brought me long way in my research and some are just left behind as I did not have time to make it happen. Hopefully in future this blog will be much better use than now. I wish to continue some of ‘wish’ and hope it will come true one day.

Well, at this point as I mentioned I’m trying to finish up my writing. I’m in the middle of writing up 2 chapters, both are about medium, different medium that are used in communication design. Or it could also be defining the role of communication design in my research. I assumed it’s both but I really need to be able to articulate my thoughts clearly.

Through this blog, I have meet many peoples that have similar interest, and shared different thoughts. Most of all I have received many supports to get this PhD done. It is not really about this PhD, I think it is mostly about the topic that everybody wishes to know what the conclusion would be. Identity..hmmm almost everybody interested in it and Malaysian are not left behind. It’s been 51 years now that Malaysia managed to survive and stand alone. Thanks to all the Malaysian who makes this happen although some of them are not being thank or mentioned in many ways…

I went back to Malaysia to present a paper in a International Postgraduate Conference in Penang. This is not my first time presenting at a conference, but this is my first time presenting a paper in conference in Malaysia. It was an interesting experience. Why do I say that? Well, I found the conference is not really about sharing the knowledge, and value the research that been taken forward but it is more about showing off the research work and hoping to get some recognition from it. Some are more about the conclusion of the project rather than reflecting the whole research process. What a shame I said to myself as I knew some participant comes all this way to listen and share the space to gather knowledge about particular topic like myself. Yes I’m sounding like I’m ranting about it, I guess I’m just disappointed. Even worst when it comes to my paper presentation.

I presented a paper on a topic of my very first project in the beginning of my PhD. I was determined to know what others think about the notion of Malaysian Identity. I used an online forum as a research method to undertake this questions. In my paper presentation I did mentioned before I started discussion about the paper that my research is based on a practice based design research and it’s undertaken under a communication design projects. And I continued my presentation giving a brief explanation on practice based design research.

In my paper I discussed about “What is practice-based design research?” (Rahman:2008). It is a research methodology that utilizes the characteristics of design as a means for knowledge creation. Its involves a process of researching by, in and through design practices. Archer (1981) defines design research as “Design research is systematic inquiry whose goal is knowledge of, or in, the embodiment of configuration, composition, structure, purpose, value, and meaning in man-made things (artefacts) and systems.”

Then I continued the presentation more about my project, the contents, the methodologies, participants etc. Although 20 minutes will never be enough in explaining the whole project. Of course some are of the informations are left behind. But at the end of this presentation I received several interesting questions. Some are about the design research and some about the issues that relates to identity. I received very limited positive inputs of the paper in this conference. Others are more about their concern on identity issues. One just asked me ‘What will be your conclusion on this topic? What do you think is Malaysian Identity?

Hmmm…there I’m standing alone thinking how do I answered this questions. First I said that my research never intended to define what is Malaysian identity, but it is about understanding different methodologies that could be taken forward as a way to understand and hopefully to be able to show how identity have been presented and projected to others.

Second, I think identity is not something that can be defined or to be symbolised to something. There’s not correct representation of it and I don’t think it even could. Identity evolved and it accumulates not only one but many different values through culture, tradition, political, lifestyles, history, economical issues etc. Identity cannot just taken from something and project it to others without any historical, political or any other issues above attached to it. Identity is a constructed and it’s involved political reasons.

In Richard Robbins (1999) book called a book called Global Problems and the culture of Capitalism, he discussed a chapter on the construction of nation-state. He presented few examples on how the nation have been constructed and some convincing methodologies. Few authors such as Eugen Weber, Eric Hobshawn and Linda Coley are widely mentioned throughout one of the chapter.

Although there are many other scholar, many of them are nationalists from various persuasions argues that nation state are constructed based on the expressions of preexisting cultural, linguistic, religion, ethnics, or historical features shared by people who make up or who would make up the state, some general view that are more certain aiming scholars, is that nation-states are constructed through invention and social engineering.

But Eric Hobshwan suggested that tradition must be invented. People must be convinced that they share or must be forced to share certain features, such as language, religion, ethnic group membership, or a common historical heritage, regardless of whether they really do.

Then Linda Coley (1992) discussed and showed illustrated examples through painting how the national identities is constructed through critical understanding of nationalism and ethnicity. Her case studies are based on the Great Britain and she discussed her case through Britons. She showed examples and focussed on the issues of ethnicity and religions as the main ways to construct the nation in Great Britain.

“Thus, one of the most effective ways to construct a nation is to create some Other against whom members of the nation-state can distinguish themselves. That Other needn’t be a country; it may be a category of persons constructed out of largely arbitrary criteria, such as racial characteristics or religion. Thus, a group may insist that only people of a particular skin colour or religion or who speak a particular language can be a members of their nation.” (Robbins:2008:116)

Eugen Weber (1976) discussed on the Frenchmen and the nationalism in France. He discussions focusses based on the language, bureaucracy and education system in France and how this contributes in constructing the nation. He claimed that national unity in France was also the evidenced by the growth of patriotism. Even though it is not a obvious as much as American nation building, French have much more subtle ways of provoking and constructing their nation. This is not to say as Weber pointed out, that the French were unpatriotic, only that they had no uniform conceptions of patriotism. As he said “patriotic feelings on the national level, far from instinctive, had to be learned”.

Is there any vernacular Malaysian Design?

Time have fly fast, year 2008 is now reaching at the end. Moi? I’m still in the progress of writing up…It’s been a hard year for me although I have to admin I have learned a lot. Few weeks ago I presented a paper in ICPE’08 (International Conference of Postgraduate Education) organised by USM in Gurney Hotel, Penang. As I imagined the crowd is not from the design background therefore the critics and comments I received is different, positive at least. It is interesting to see what others who come from non-designed background think about design project. I think designers should present more in the conference and write, it is very important to make others understand what we’re doing, and by doing so we will get a better idea and understanding of what we’re doing or working on. I have learned this process while teaching. I’ve been teaching more than 5 years now, casual, part-time and full-time. I found myself fascinated with the student behaviours and reaction with the subject. I came to understand that teaching requires a never ending learning process. To teach is to learn, by doing so one will never stop learning.

In our day to day life, unwittingly we practice this process. Progressively we learn and teach regardless the small actions, issues or thinking. And we talk about it to our families, friends etc. For example, we learn to have a breakfast everyday, by observing or by learning it from our parent. Breakfast, depending which cluster or ethnic group one belong to have its own way. It can be heavy, light, spicy, sweet, etc. Then we practiced and teach it to our children or friends. It is by nature a way of practicing our life..anyway..I shall not continue this discussion until I can articulate this topic clearer.

In relations to my blog title, I’m still asking the question about the notion of Malaysian Identity, I wonder if I ever would have the answer, or not? But I’m hoping I would be able at least to understand a lot more about Malaysia and its intimate connection to the design practice.

To open the new year event I will be giving a talk about Malaysian Design in particular on a topic or vernacular design in Malaysia, whether it is genuine or merely a copycat act. I’m exited about this topic and hoping to get something out of this discussion with other Malaysian designers.

Meanwhile I’m still continue writing my pieces of collected design exploration through my PhD. Rewrite is the words that I’m now more and more getting comfortable with. It is now my close friend. If you in KL and interested to listen more about design in Malaysia and its relation to identity please do drop by to on the 14th of January 2009.
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A PhD investigation on comm. design contribution on Malaysian Identity by Nurul Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
Based on a work at

I havent been writing much in this blog lately, not that I dont have anything to write but I been busy writing somewhere else. I have some thought now and then, I wish I could go online and see how it goes but sadly its just not as easy as sketching. Well, I should start by wishing you my friend who regularly spend time reading my 5 cents ideas and thought about design checking whats new in my blog. To you I wish Happy New Year and hope this year will give us more guts in provoking design studies, practices and theory around.

Ive been travelling around for a short break, and presenting paper in a conference. Now I have arrived and settle where I came from in Melbourne as I have a lot more to finish, the unfinished research. While Im travelling, in the country I spend most is France, not all region but some places, enough to realise some interesting fact about French or I could say in this case it is not only on France but many other country. Language is very intriguing. Not all countries speak English although it was claimed as the most important language in the world. Indeed, is one of the languages that will allow us to communicate to other, after all almost everybody at least knows one words in English, thanks to film and music industry.
While laying in front of the television after lunch in Reims, I turn on the remote to see whats on. Yes, I know most of the people know this but for me its shocking. Why everything is in French? We could view this from different angle. I ˜m looking at it from identity issues, mainly national identity. Clearly language is another medium to connect and to be able to communicate to each other. Apart from the language also represent or identify almost which country the person comes from. Lying in front of the tele I was wondering, could it be possible with the standardized the language French thinks other people around the world speak French? Every France citizen or permanent residency speaks French. How does the authority get to this? Definitely tv program and promotional advertisements is one of the way to construct this idea. When nothing else is use except one language, one dont have much choice then start learning or else would be left all alone. This idea has strong relation to choice and freedom.

In country like Malaysia, if the freedom of choice is so far away and theres not much choice left, nothing much one can do apart from taking the risk rather then taking the risk to be left alone. Dont get me wrong nothing going towards issues such as politics, blog can become a sensitive issues in Malaysia, therefore I have to say it out loud, nothing political in here. Now because of this limited choice to be able to choose Malaysian have lack of design understanding. What is design and what does it mean to most Malaysian designers? I was supposed to give a talk in KL on kakireka small talk in KL organised by Wrega (Malaysian Non Profit Graphic Design Association), but then something came out and we have to call it off. But the topic I have in mind came after my visit in Penang in December last year and Im writing a chapter about it to publish in a design journal.

The issue that Ive found quite interesting is about the vernacular of Malaysian design. Is there any? One could argue and said that there are, depending on what it the word design means to oneself. Some would say no because nothing reach the standard. What standard? Again this also will goes to what they mean with the word design.
If we look at the Oxford Concise dictionary (11 ed. 2004 since 1911), the word design means:
a) A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function of something before it is built or made.
b) The art or action of conceiving of and producing of something
c) The arrangement of the features of artefacts.
d) The propose or planning that exists behind an action or object.

Now what that mean here if we look at most of the artefact that are available in Malaysia from massive advertisement to the one that are photocopy, from the logo of the big shopping mall to the logo of the small hawker shop, regardless what is the visual looks like, the aesthetic part of it, these artefacts does fit in under the action of designing. So back to the question is there any design in Malaysia, the answer is yes, definitely. But whether it can be claim as Malaysian design, we will find out later on. Is there any vernacular Malaysian Design?