Questions about Communication Design

Every monday here in Meanwhile.. we postgraduate student of Communication Design in RMIT will meet and discuss about topic related to communication design, our research and other people work.

This week is about our research background. All of us is doing our research from the point of view of communication design. But not one of us actually understand what is Communication design?

Laurene send us list of big question that she didn’t expect us to answer now, but to start thinking about them. The questions are…
1. What is communication design? What is unique, special or particular to this design field?
2. How is it different and/or how does it relate to other design fields?
3. Design can be describe as a communication practice – so if that is the case, what is it about communication design?
4. How does research contribute to this field? And what methods or approches can enable knowledge in this field?

Two key ways that research and practice are now being evaluated by governments and funding bodies are:
What kind of knowledge is being produced through the actions?
And, how does this knowledge relate to the end users of its creation?

What kind of knowledge are you producing and what informs this?
Who is your research for and how will contribute to their lived experience?
You may be your user – but then what?

Abstract April 2007

I always try to write my abstract as short as possible. Recently I’ve changed it again. Here is the new version.

“This PhD research explores the relationship of national identity and communication design, and the cultural implications of branding in Malaysia. It will also explore the complexities of individual and national identity, and investigate how the Malaysian government and companies use branding to communicate ideas of nationhood. An online forum has been used as a method for undertaking the research. I will analyze the responses to this forum in order to understand how both residential and expatriate Malaysian citizens view their Malaysian identity. This study will also include the cultural implications in the process of creating Malaysian product, locally and internationally. I also intend to contribute to contemporary discussions about cultural engagement and its implication in communication design and their impact on countries and local industries.” Nurul Rahman, PhD in Communication Design

Artefacts that links to our-past patrimony..

I wanted to know why…
One of my most interesting article at this time or perhaps I should put it like this ‘My best article of the week’ is called Modernity, Islam and Tradition: struggle for the heart and soul of Art and culture in Malaysia by Farish A. Noor published online by Nafas. Art Magazine. This article bring back my memories when I was doing my Bachelor of Fine Art honours Degree (BFA) in School of Arts, USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia). This is back in 1998. My major is in Graphic Communication or as known as Communication Design and my minor is in Theater Studies. I enjoyed theater performance as much as I enjoyed doing my design work.

I also took an extra class in theater. It is a traditional dance class. In this class, we have the opportunities to learn a small part of Mak Yong dance. What is Mak Yong? Mak Yong is an ancient dance-theatre form incorporating the elements of ritual, stylized dance and acting, vocal and instrumental music, story, song, formal as well as improvised spoken text. It is performed principally in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia. Many theories have been advanced to explain the genre’s origins, though it’s generally acknowledged that it’s deeply rooted in animism as well as shamanism. Today, Mak Yong is performed in three basic styles, as non-ritual theatre for entertainment, as ritual theatre associated with healing and done in combination with the shamanistic main puteri; and as urban commercial theatre.

Credit Image: Zainab Awang (Mek Nab)

I then learned that it will take years to master Mak Yong. Futher more, it is hard these days because no one want to learn Mak Yong. Therefore, there is no demand for Mak Yong apprentice. To cut this story short, Mak Yong, one of Malay heritage from past is slowly vanished from our modern life. Why? There are few reason that contribute to this cause. One of the reason I found is from discussion with my Mak Yong tutor, Che’ Mat and Prof. Ghouse, I then got to know that one of the reason Mak Yong is no longer wanted in this ‘new’ Malay generation is because there are many ritual practices in Mak Yong that relates with shamanism. This mean believing in good and evil spirits which is not accepted in Muslim religion.

My repond to this is only by asking why is this happening in Malaysia, ‘the truly Asia’ like how the tourism Malaysia promoted? How can we be truly Asia we’re cutting our past from our present? Why are we mixing our-past heritage and our religion? (I personally this is two different topic we’re talking about.) Why are we denying our cultural patrimony? Why should we undermine the shared cultural heritage in Malaysia and the people, whose the traditional culture are based on, and reflect to, the history of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism?

This scenario happens with other Malaysian traditional arts and culture artifacts like Malay traditional woodcarving. Nik Rashidi is one of Malaysia woodcarving artist that experienced the same situation to keep woodcarving heritage alive. But it seem there is more and more conservative Islamist group began to voice out the rejection of the Malaysian historic past. As Farish A.Noor wrote in ‘Nafas Magazine (2004)’, the rise of the political Islamic in Malaysia recently, contribute to the narrowing of Malay closed minded, confiousion on a thin line between the religion and the cultural heritage, cutting away Malaysian pre-Islamic past.

Qoute from Nik Rashidi expressing his thought and feeling about the scenario. “The politicians and the religious leaders keep telling us that we must be modern, and better muslims as well. But so often all they want to do is to destroy everything that is old and traditional, and to erase the past. How can we progress to the future if we don’t remeber what we were before? And how can we be proper Muslim today if we don’t remember our ancestors of the pre-Islamic past?…

We talked about our ‘Asean Value’ and our pride in our past. But where is this appreciation and how it is reflected? Businessman and the rich elite in the cities just want to buy woodcarving to decorate their masions and apartments, while the religious leaders tell is that our carvings are un-Islamic because we still depict images of the Hindu Gods, deities and natural sprits. But our tradition carvings are our only link to the past, with nature around us and the living elements that keeps our art alive: This is our Malay art, because it comes from the land and it breathes the history of our people. If we cut off our links to our ancestors, we would be like a ship without a compass; a people without history.” (Nafas, 2004)

Credit Image: © Photos: Spirit of Wood – The Art of Malay Woodcarving, by Farish Noor & Eddin Khoo, photos: David Lok.

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The changed of title…

I changed my title again. I guess this is a normal process. After sometimes researching, I realised my title doesn’t fit in my research area. I’m quite sure it might have change again. But at this moment, I think this title the nearest to explain what I’m doing. Confused Identity. Why Malaysia? I would say it can be personal and subjective. It can be national. It’s about previous generation, about mine and about the future of our children.

From Beginner to Intermediate…I think..

It’s been a year since I started to write my thought in this blog. I remember when I started to write in this blog, it was not very easy. I’ve struggled in putting my sentences together and at the same time translating my thoughts from ‘Malay’ language to English. Although I think now I manage to write my thought well, better than when I started, I still have the feeling of not been confident enough in writing. But I guess by practice it will get better.

Also, thanks to Terry who introduced me to this book called ‘The craft of research’ by Wayne C.Booth, Gregory G. Colomb and Josepth M. Williams. This book is great! It does help me a lot in writing, thinking and how to do and manage my research. I highly recommend this book to new researcher. Easy reading and easy to understand for someone whose English is second language.


Other than this great book, i also like this short essay about writing. I find this essay beautifully written.

I took this from paul graham writting website. Quote from the site:

” March 2005

(In the process of answering an email, I accidentally wrote a tiny essay about writing. I usually spend weeks on an essay. This one took 67 minutes”23 of writing, and 44 of rewriting.)

I think it’s far more important to write well than most people realize. Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.

As for how to write well, here’s the short version: Write a bad version 1 as fast as you can; rewrite it over and over; cut out everything unnecessary; write in a conversational tone; develop a nose for bad writing, so you can see and fix it in yours; imitate writers you like; if you can’t get started, tell someone what you plan to write about, then write down what you said; expect 80% of the ideas in an essay to happen after you start writing it, and 50% of those you start with to be wrong; be confident enough to cut; have friends you trust read your stuff and tell you which bits are confusing or drag; don’t (always) make detailed outlines; mull ideas over for a few days before writing; carry a small notebook or scrap paper with you; start writing when you think of the first sentence; if a deadline forces you to start before that, just say the most important sentence first; write about stuff you like; don’t try to sound impressive; don’t hesitate to change the topic on the fly; use footnotes to contain digressions; use anaphora to knit sentences together; read your essays out loud to see (a) where you stumble over awkward phrases and (b) which bits are boring (the paragraphs you dread reading); try to tell the reader something new and useful; work in fairly big quanta of time; when you restart, begin by rereading what you have so far; when you finish, leave yourself something easy to start with; accumulate notes for topics you plan to cover at the bottom of the file; don’t feel obliged to cover any of them; write for a reader who won’t read the essay as carefully as you do, just as pop songs are designed to sound ok on crappy car radios; if you say anything mistaken, fix it immediately; ask friends which sentence you’ll regret most; go back and tone down harsh remarks; publish stuff online, because an audience makes you write more, and thus generate more ideas; print out drafts instead of just looking at them on the screen; use simple, germanic words; learn to distinguish surprises from digressions; learn to recognize the approach of an ending, and when one appears, grab it. “

Differences between “Assam Laksa” and “Curry Laksa”

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I saw this ad from The Edge, Melbourne yesterday. I liked the layout, I found it relaxing and very personal. Perhap thats the whole idea of this ad, to get upclose and personal about Malaysia. But there is a small correction on the text. (you can see this on the correction layout I did). Being Malaysian, I know the different between Assam Laksa and Curry Laksa. These is two different dish. Below is the explaination of these two dishes.

Assam Laksa, one of the Malay‘s famous dish, originally came from the northern site of Malaysia, Kedah, Perlis and “Pulau Pinang”Penang. Assam laksa is a sour fish-based soup. Asam (or asam jawa) is the Malay word for tamarind, which is commonly used to give the stock its sour flavor. It is also common to use “asam keping” also known as “asam gelugor”, dried slices of tamarind fruit, for added sourness. Modern Malay spelling is asam, though the spelling assam is still frequently used.

The main ingredients for assam laksa include shredded fish, normally “kembung fish” or mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red chillis, pineapple, lettuce, common mint, “daun kesom” (Vietnamese mint or laksa mint) and pink bunga kantan (ginger buds). Assam laksa is normally served with either thick rice noodles or thin rice noodles (vermicelli). And topped off with “petis udang” or “hae ko” or “otak udang as the Northen people of Malaysia would said”, is a thick sweet prawn paste. Variants of Assam Laksa is “Penang Laksa” (slightly different from normal Assam Laksa, usually with the garnish of pineapple pieces), and “Laksa Campur” (same Assam Laksa but garnish with “sambal’ cooked chilies prawn and calamari).

Curry Laksa, which in many places referred as ‘laksa’ is a is a coconut-based curry soup with vermicelli or yellow wheat noodle. The main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and is traditionally garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf, which is known in Malay as “daun kesum”. This is usually known as “Curry mee” in Penang rather than curry laksa, due to the different kind of noodles used (yellow mee or bee hoon (vermicelli), as opposed to the thick white laksa noodles). The name “Curry laksa” is more commonly used in Singapore. Variants of curry laksa included Laksa Lemak also known as Nyonya Laksa, Katong Laksa (variants of Laksa Lemak from Singapore) and Laksam (a speciality of the East Coast Malaysian state, Kelantan.

Although this two dishes is a soup base noodle, personally for me, it is still a huge different when it comes to the taste.

View the ad Assam Laksa or
Penang Laksa
Curry Laksa
aadtheedge7april2007a.jpg penang_laksa-copy.jpg 177988880_74d0423263.jpg