Introducing RekaCipta: Malaysian Design Podcast by Nurul Rahman

The notion that Design plays a role in the Malaysian society to my opinion is fairly new. In fact, design so far is not considered as part of the high school curriculums. Design is seen as separated identity, here and there in different forms not as one. It is part of Engineering, part of Science, part of Arts (this is not there yet), part of Management, part of Communication and so it is always parts of here and there.

But I think Design should stand alone and it should be the mother of all rather than be part of all these areas of practice and studies. It is not anyone false, it is for my opinion is that each of us ( the design practitioner, educator, etc) did not take Design seriously and did not make much efforts to bring Design in higher respected level in Malaysia.

However, I do believe this phenomena will change and it is changing at the moment, as the world is changing and Design is becoming a stand alone identity. Not part of others.

Many schools (mainly private university’s in Malaysia) are now putting Design as the frontline and one of its own main subject. There are high numbers of design activities happening in the under Design. There are increasing numbers of Design associations established in recents years. People are taking about design practices, how to increase the power of design. More jobs are positions under the category of Design. More companies are looking for designers and creating the Designer’s position. This is all good, however.. like anything when it’s becoming a kind of a trend, not many really understand what Design means, its role, its position and many more.

Before the notion of Design starts to become anything, it is crucial to gathered all the experienced designers, design practitioners, design academics and people who are involved in many design practices in early days that understood the important roles that design can play to enhance the business, the people, the society and the country to come on board for a critical discussion about design.

There are lots of talks taken place in Malaysia for the past five years, where local and international designers come together and share their ideas. Well, mainly international speakers, as naturally in any society the outsiders seems to know more than the native as it perceived. I do believe that we have enough highly experienced and educated design practitioners that we can learned from in relation to the local experience. People like Dato Johan, Abdullah Arif, William Harald Wong, Kamil Yunus, Joseph Foo, Jimmy Choo, Hannan, Asri Ahmad, Prof. Dr. Ahmad Zainuddin, Melissa Wong, Zac Ong, Ezrena Marwan, and many more. And there are many local designers that have make their name overseas and no many local know about them, such as Din Amri, Dr. Joyce Yee, Dr. Christopher Kueh and many more. We need to have our own design idol that our new generation can look up to.

This is why I think its about time we should start our own design podcast. As multi-designer, a design practices since 1994, having completed higher education in Design (Masters and PhD), teaching design and performing in jazz concerts and gigs, part time broadcaster, it seems that all this experience is a great help for me to pull out this podcast together.

So this week I have launched (online) Malaysian own Design Podcast: RekaCipta. You can look up for RekaCipta in FB or listen to the podcast through soundcloud. The first podcast with Asri Ahmad will be uploaded this week.

Typography lesson 1: How to adjust kerning manually using InDesign

It has been a while since I posted something in my blog. Long long while. The reason being is the workloads have taken most of my time. And I have to admit besides that I posted most of my ‘current status’ in a very brief way in the leading social media, the Face Book. Sad but true, this is what’s happening to most of us today. We don’t tend to write long sentences anymore instead we think of a way to post short and brief to express out ‘status’ of the day. Details seems to be forgotten especially if you are actively involved in Twitter. Anyway, I have decided to continue posting and writing in my blog from now on. This hopefully will aid my poor writing skills as I have not been writing as much as I should or to express my thoughts in details these days. I have been asked to conduct a basic InDesign class for fellow designers who have not been familiar working with InDesign, but still dealing with publications and printing (How is that possible?) The 1st one day workshop session start on the 18 October (which I focus more on the training of mind thinking rather than straight into the technical process using InDesign), and on the 2nd day workshop, they have to present their ‘homework’ that I asked them to work on in the 1st session.

So, today I have completed the 2 days sessions of the basic InDesign class teaching designers how to use InDesign for their design work. Yes, surprisingly not many designers now a days knows how to use InDesign software for their book or any publication design. The workshop started with a hands on concept sketching and taking the designers to a very basic understanding of the process of designing for publication, giving some important basic guideline of publication design that they need to know before they even start working with the InDesign softwares.

One of the most important one among other things is the manual part, on how to adjust some parts of the text manually. One of them is kerning. I thought it would be great to keep it in the record for my blog. Here is to show different type of kerning.

To understand kerning here is a useful text that I have extracted from Ellen Lupton Thinking with Type page. You can read more in the page for details.

Kerning is an adjustment of the space between two letters. The characters of the Latin alphabet emerged over time; they were never designed with mechanical or automated spacing in mind. Thus some letter combinations look awkward without special spacing considerations. Gaps occur, for example, around letters whose forms angle outward or frame an open space (W, Y, V, T). In metal type, a kerned letter extends past the lead slug that supports it, allowing two letters to fit more closely together. In digital fonts, the space between letter pairs is controlled by a kerning table created by the type designer, which specifies spaces between problematic letter combinations. Working in a page layout program, a designer can choose to use metric kerning or optical kerning as well as adjusting the space between letters manually where desired. A well-designed typeface requires little or no additional kerning, especially at text sizes.



Metric kerning uses the kerning tables that are built into the typeface. When you select metric kerning in your page layout program, you are using the spacing that was intended by the type designer. Metric kerning usually looks good, especially at small sizes. Cheap novelty fonts often have little or no built-in kerning and will need to be optically kerned.
Optical kerning is executed automatically by the page layout program. Rather than using the pairs addressed in the font’s kerning table, optical kerning assesses the shapes of all characters and adjusts the spacing wherever needed. Some graphic designers apply optical kerning to headlines and metric kerning to text. You can make this process efficient and consistent by setting kerning as part of your character styles.


In InDesign software, there are ways to work manually, which many have not discovered or learned. So here I would like to share with you how to adjust your kerning manually.

How to do it?

Manually kern letter pairs

In display type or large headlines, some pairs of letters may need a little extra attention. To kern manually, place your cursor between two letters, and change the Kerning value in the Character panel.

Tip: To kern quickly and visually, place your cursor between any two letters; then press Option (Mac) or Alt (Win) and click the left or right arrow keys on the keyboard.


Image taken from InDesign CC tutorial.

“If creativity survive the formal education, it’s a miracle.” Einstein

I think the title here says it all. It s a speech by Albert Einstein,’Speech on Education and Socialism”, in 1930, and yet we are still ‘there’. Here’s some reading wrote by Kate Strain discussion about it. Read here.

Someone I would love to meet in person, is a graphic design, Bruce Mau,. Here he talks about design and how it should be part of the ‘important’ list in our society. It is definitely, a must listen and discuss among designers. I have been wondering about the same topic for years, and still I have not found any answers. If design is so important in our everyday life and everything we do, (and that is what I have been constantly telling my students) then why is it not part of our education syllabus, our practice, our community, our policies, our business oriented, our government and our thinking (even though we all talk about design thinking is important).

Design have the potential to make change.

Work on what you love Mau
Bruce Mau

Bruce Mau – Designing Thinking

Malaysian Design article is now published in The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design

My short and brief but concise providing an overview of Malaysian Design History has finally been published by the Bloomsbury Publisher in London. My article is among hundreds of articles representing each country around the world in the set of 3 books entitled The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design edited by Prof. Clive Edward from Loughborough University, UK.

The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design edited by Prof. Clive Edwards (2016)

I hope that this article will provide an introduction of Malaysian Design History to the world. I was given a task to write 500 words a seriously concise overview about design history in Malaysia. There’s much happening in the design world in Malaysia but not much is documented and written. I hope that this will add something. In writing the design history of a country, one cannot go away from including the history of the country itself. Who said history is boring? So here are my version of Malaysian Design (history).

Read the article: Malaysian Design by ZainurulRahman2016


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..
Creative Commons License

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
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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.