Jakarta: Welcome to the urban Jungle – FDG expo 2007 conference- Indonesia

By Tarek Atrissi


From the workshop session I gave as part of FGD Expo 2007 in Indonesia. With the assignment “Branding Jakarta”.

Probably nothing illustrates the experience of my Jakarta visit last week more than the slogan “Welcome to the Urban Jungle”, which was created by my students for an assignment in the workshop I gave during the FGD expo 2007 to brand the city of Jakarta. The idea of the workshop came from the big interest people in the conference showed in our 2003 project of branding Qatar- and there was nothing better within the givens of the workshop besides having a small “visual identity for Jakarta” exercise. The one day workshop included around 30 particpants, mostly professional designers working in design and advertising firms across indonesia. The workshop included two other sessions beside mine, one with Stefan Sagmeister and one with Eero Miettinen from Nokia Finland. Stefan gave the participants an assignment to develop an Anti-corruption campaign, While Eero gave an intriguing exercise which started by asking the designers to come up with a very stupid product idea- and chose the most stupid product and then had the students re-package it and brand it and make it into an interesting commercially viable product.

From the opening ceremony of the FGD Expo 2007 at the Jakarta Convention Center.

The Jakarta branding exercise was actually more exciting than what i expected, as I am always reluctant about short one day workshops. However, I was excited to see that most of the groups approached the assignment with an unpredictable honesty. They did not try to project the city as an “Asian exotic” destination, nor to make of it an elegant and over-refined destination that might eventually mislead a oential visitor. They did focus however on the real side of the city, in all its imperfection: The Pollution, the traffic jam, the rule of no rule, the surprise element, the visible social contrast…etc – and tried to make out of that the charming element that makes the city unique. Another concept developed was a pro-active identity, where the identity of the city consisted of a certain “award points” system- that citizens of the city could collect upon acting positively towards the well being of the city- and also loose upon being fined to any negative act. The collected award points could be used for free public transport, free museum entrances and other given services. And the entire identity of the city revolved around developing graphically and conceptually the entire award points system- and linking it as a visual identity towards the identity of the city. The other concept of the “urban jungle” was suggested with a series of very creative ancillary products, such as a “jakarta survival Kit”, distributed in touristic locations and containing, besides some humorous items that helps a first time visitor to survive the chaos of the city, the basic promotional touristic items regularly needed.

The conference was highly covered by the local press. Our PR brief as speakers was simple: highlight the importance of Design for the growing economy of Indonesia

The workshop was part of the bigger event, the FGD expo 2007 conference, taking place for the first time, as an effort from indonesia to develop further its graphic design scene, and highlight the importance of design in its emerging economy. I was particularly excited about giving a talk in indonesia because most of the audience was able to read arabic, and had a particular interest in modern arabic typography; calligraphy based projects; as well as arabic fonts and typefaces developed at Tarek Atrissi Design. Other speakers included Karim Rachid and Stefan Sagmeister, the big New York Designers; Freeman Lau, Ahn Sang-soo and Sudhir Sharma, my co-associates from the Design Alliance- Asia; as well as other speakers such as Lisa Yong, Kiyofumi Suzuki and Jarno Peltonen among others. Every talk had its interesting part; personally I found it a great pleasure to listen again to Sagmeister, once my teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and recall how inspiring he is as he talks about design, and get to see some of his new work that I did not get the chance to see earlier. Ahn Sang-soo’s lecture in which he showed his work was absolutely fantastic, and not for the first time I was so intrigued by his innovation and experimental use of Korean Typography- and inspired by it to explore new possibilities with Arabic Typography. “When I design” said Ahn “I feels like I am writing poetry. It is often a deep self expression, a freedom of work as Marinetti would put it”.

“Influence of the Middle East” was the topic of the lecture I presented at the FGD Expo 2007 conference

The conference attracted an impressive number of audience, and the press coverage was remarkable. During the week all of the speakers were constantly interviewed and broadcasted- and our PR brief was clear: highlight the importance of design and to “think big with design”. Needless to say, how well organized the entire event was, and the touching Asian hospitality that our hosts have shown during this memorable one week event. We got the chance to meet the local designers, motivated and ambitious and eager to develop their profession further, and to see the work being developed in the design studios and firms across indonesia. The hospitality of the organizers and the conference participants took us to experience the different layers of the cosmopolitan city.
A true “urban Jungle”, yet a jungle that no one should miss experiencing it.

The Lecture of Stefan Sagmeister included the showcase of many new projects developed in Sageister’s NYC based office, such as the Casa Da Musica (the music center built by Rem Koolhaas) visual identity in Porto.