Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Designing in a local context

Made in Malaysia. Malaysian design. This has been implemented successfully in the area of architecture with buildings by Ken Yeang seemingly growing in natural harmony to co-exist with the local environment. But can the same be said in the area of local product design? In doing so, what are the questions I need to ask myself? What is Malaysian?

.Malaysian environment?
.Malaysian people?
.Malaysian geography?

In a more abstract context:
.Malaysian politics?
.Malaysian history?
.Malaysian economy?

These 6 categories can be further expanded into:
.Malaysian environment: weather, humidity, temperature, air quality
.Malaysian people: race, religion, physical attributes
.Malaysian geography: soil, terrain, urban, rural and natural landscape, natural materials
.Malaysian politics: expression and limitation
.Malaysian history: culture, social origin, legends and folklore, food culture

These individual points are very general, quite obviously reflected in Malaysian architecture, interior design and graphic design. However, I find them opening a new perspective when they are to be considered when designing a product. Are we using the products we use because it fulfills the 6 categories or is it because it is the global trend to use them? As conflicting as it may sound, although design needs freedom to be creative, it needs restrictions to localize it. Otherwise, I may end up adding to the already-saturated market of globalized products.

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