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.
Creative Commons License
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?