Analysis of Product Design Alumni Profile and Their Relation to Product Design Education and Occupation in Indonesia


The development of art and design in Indonesia cannot be separated from its relation with educational institution. With specific study related to alumni’s profile, this paper portrays recent condition of product design in Indonesia. Research’s object is constrained for Product Design ITB Alumni year 2001 to 2008 whose occupation is still related to product design. I use questionnaire and in-depth interview to observe their insights (field preference, design method, design work classification, etc.) and create design occupation’s taxonomy. Furthermore it seeks how effective is design education and whether the alumni evidently contribute with design practice or not. Other findings are generated from literature review and observations in related subjects such as creative economy, millennial generation, and design association. The purpose is to find how product design in Indonesia might be developed.

The development of art and design cannot be separated from its relation with educational institution. Each year educational institution generated alumni who were hoped to be the initiator of art and design in society. According to that, research related to designer and design educational institute is complementary. The pioneer of product design education in Indonesia is Bandung Institute of Technology which inaugurated product design major in 1972.

The scope of product design is utterly broad so it requires classification regarding which component that is included to the field of product design. Moreover preference of product design career is not only as a designer. So far there is no specific study about the alumni’ profile and their relation to product design education and occupation.

Writer chose phenomenology approach for this research. Phenomenology is one of the subsidiaries from philosophy which was introduced by Edmund Husserl circa 1900 in Logische Untersuchungen book. Phenomenology is a study of being and being-in-the-world (wissenchaft des seins). In practice, research served as a platform to explain the phenomenon (appearance) as it is through the experience of everyday life (lebenswelt). It should not have assumption or presupposition until there are some data supports in the form of concrete experience.

The applied research method is qualitative method with bottom up theory, begun from the daily observation of writer’s experience as a Product Design ITB student and ended with the elaboration of phenomenon regarding to the profile of Product Design ITB alumni. Qualitative method was conducted by 3 data-capture methods: (1) observation; (2) questionnaire; and (3) in-depth interview.

Considering the great number of Product Design ITB alumni, the research’s object is constrained for the past 8 years, from 2001 to 2008. It is also constrained for the alumni whose occupation is still related to product design, either as primary occupation or secondary occupation. With this constraint, the research was hoped to be more focus just as the main purpose. Questionnaire data was obtained from 50 respondents and the interview was held with 6 alumni at different time.

Product Design ITB Alumni

Product Design ITB alumni who work as a designer or related to design field are 62% dominated by men. Beside most of the students are men, women have higher tendency of unemployment, for instance they choose to be a housewife.

The domination of 54% alumni resides in West Java, specifically Bandung. Apparently the distribution is narrowed at Bandung and Jakarta while the distribution in other cities tends to be fair since there is no significant difference with the numbers. Bandung becomes the most popular country to reside, in line with the high number of alumni who became an entrepreneur.

Bandung is a suitable city for production process since it has diverse resources, either craftsman or raw materials. Bandung is also supported by strong creative atmosphere, so a lot of newcomers from other cities decided to stay in Bandung after finishing their studies. At his blog, Gustaff H. Iskandar (2008) explained that British Council determined Bandung as a pilot project for creative city development across Asia Pacific on ‘International Education & Employability; Developing The Creative Industries’ seminar which was held on October 2007. For all that matters, the development of creative economy whether it is based on small industry or community is fully supported by the city government.

As much as 72% alumni become designer who works for design agency or company with the average salary 3 – 5 million Rupiah each month. This amount differs slightly from the minimum wage of Bandung as the common residence of the alumni with the amount of 2 million Rupiah. However within data processing alumni who worked as designer still overlapped with the alumni who worked as entrepreneur, thereby entrepreneur occupy the second most preferred employment option. Moreover up to 62% alumni have a secondary occupation.

Occupation Taxonomy

Apparently interest is not the main reason to choose an occupation. Most of the alumni experience difficulty to determine suitable occupation since there is still no specialization on college (considering that product design has broad scope). Eventually they adapt with any available occupation (work under someone else) or start an independent business. The most widely chosen workplace is design agency or local industry. Meanwhile the alumni who get involved in manufacture industry are very few.

Up to this point it appears that the alumni who focused on one product type or problem since their college days are not that much. Most of them took any occupation which was available and finally end up loving whatever offered with that occupation. Their interest in college is not always continued to their work life. On the contrary, referring to one of the alumni, consistency is essential in work. With consistency people can distinguish one designer from another just by seeing their product.

In working with other people they eager to learn more because they often feel that the lesson from college is very weak. They can learn about technical field production, management, and marketing techniques from work. Since the main purpose is to learn something, they tend to shift occupation frequently when they perceive that the lesson is sufficient. They shift to get different lesson which is useful for their personal development. This tendency is shown by the average duration of working which is 1 – 3 year for 37% alumni. Other reasons that become their consideration are desire to work on bigger scale company and higher wage.

According to one of the correspondent, there are several aspects that should be considered before choosing an occupation: (1) how nice people there; (2) how much you can learn; and (3) how much you can contribute, with the order that the first point is the most basic. If it is analogized with the previous statement, it appears that most of the alumni are trapped at the second aspect, which is why they seem lack of contribution to their workplace. By all means in order to concretely contribute, they require more time and greater determination.

Aspects to Choose Occupation

The ideal work surrounding (in case of working with company) is when their personal value is parallel with company’s value. To illustrate, an alumni who concerns on social issue feels delighted to work with company who accommodate the needs of minority while the other alumni choose his current company because they equally consider the importance of environmental issue. In addition, other benefit from working with company is they do not have to multitask since there is a clear job distinction between every employee so they can enhance their focus.

It is true that every company have their own constrain to make a creation, from suitability with company image up to limited facility. Sometimes it becomes an obstacle on the alumni’ early workdays, although at last they can adapt. That is why as employee they want to be heard and feel satisfy when they can convey idea and personal opinion, not just designing based on company’s provision. Other obstacle that is often experienced by the alumni is they do not perfectly understand technical field production. Moreover company is frequently emphasized on economic value. In other words, making best-seller product is plainly different from making ideal product which they learned on college.

Creativity-related discourse also affected the global economic. In general creativity means an ability to make something for nothing. In this 20th century, creative economy is one of the most growing sector and leverages country economically. Creative economy is proven to survive when there was crisis everywhere. On particular research by John Howkins (2001), it is discovered that copyrights export from USA is as big as US$ 60.18 million which is far cry from other sectors like automotive, agriculture, and aeroplane. To some extent this marks the beginning of creative economy era. Therefore most of the alumni choose to work as an entrepreneur, whether it is independent or in group.

The rest of the reasons to be entrepreneur are connected one to another. According to the correspondent, Product Design ITB is superior on concept, but not really master the basic terms of technical production. So the lack of skills make the alumni have less interest or they are not likely to be accepted when they decided to work for industry or company. Finally in order to survive they decided to work as an entrepreneur.

This phenomenon also in accordance with the character of millennial generation who gets many positive inputs about entrepreneur. Moreover it is also backed by effortless information era (new wave technology). Therefore promotion and open a shop is not as expensive as before since they can do it for free with social media. Beside social media, the rise of curated market and concept store also serve as effective media for marketing.

Market Project by Design Project 2014 Facilitate Alumni Who Own Brand

Based on the surroundings, millennial generation is fully exposed to the ease of information and communication technology. William Deresiewics (2011) describes millennial as generation sell. Certainly this is affected by that ease. What is more is that the cultural hero of this generation is mostly entrepreneur, namely Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckenberg, or Ariana Huffington. Apart from sell in the true meaning (product or service), this generation also sell their self by image. Nowadays there are an excessive amount of books, TV programs, or events which invite Young CEO as the speaker. The rapid development of creative economy in Indonesia helps to provide entrepreneurial climate. The growth of creative industries and local brands is predicted to level up sharply for the upcoming years.

Flexible time, better chance to expand network, and tendency of higher revenue are some of the most appealing reason to be entrepreneur. Frankly most of the alumni who work on company hold aspiration to own their own company. They work just to obtain more knowledge and experience that can be used as a foundation for their business later.

By looking at it, it is prevalent that the alumni design work tendency remained towards lifestyle products. These products are more commercial and have many selling channel. For example furniture, bag, and clothes. This is chosen by 54% alumni. Of all the products, the most dominant is furniture with 20% alumni. Lifestyle product is also supported by annual competition and media (magazine, TV show) so the enthusiasts are better-informed. However from the technological term, transportation is the most popular product. All in all the easy access for media coverage impact designers’ will to choose lifestyle product.

The emerging phenomenon of this past decade is the rise of avant-garde designer or high design which is called as designer star by Peter Domer (1990). According to Asmudjo Jono Irianto (2012) in a Design/Art themed exhibition, designer star occupies above the line position, which means designer appears to the surface and well-known by public. It is in opposite with below the line position of designer who works at industrial or technological field whose products are widely-known by public, but not the designer.

Indonesia Emerging Artists and Designers Article from Elle Decor Magazine

For this reason, no wonder students choose designer star (designer who appears frequently on media) as their role model. It can be seen from furniture as their most popular product. However it is true that access to introduce success designer in other fields like consultant, industry, technology, even entrepreneur is definitely less. Following this, students create higher expectation about how glorious design world is as they seen on media, without really understands the strive of those figures. Along with that the tendency to make commercial product also contradictory with lesson at college which emphasis on innovation.

Being one of the most respectable design agencies, IDEO design method is chosen by 42% alumni as the most used design method. IDEO design method consists of: Observation → Brainstorming → Rapid prototyping → Refining → Implementation. IDEO considers many aspects from human (desirability), business (viability), to technical (feasibility). This method is considered as the newest among the other theory and most closely design thinking method which emphasize on innovation.

Considerably high amount of 44% alumni take postgraduate master degree. Some of them take design-related course and some take more specific course such as jewellery engineering, product service system design, and architectural lighting design. Unfortunately, this specific course is only available abroad. Consideration of location and cost are the reason why only a few of them who take specific course. As a result their knowledge is not profoundly specialized. Other popular course (beside design) which is taken is supporting their current occupation, for example business administration and transportation planning. Furthermore the alumni who pursue a doctoral degree are still a few. This is reasonable considering their age range.

The education of art and design in ITB emerges as pioneer from the wide spread of design education these days. The objective is still the same, which is improving human quality of life through design. Each year there is many alumni which are hoped to solve society’s problems. Therefore educational institution should serves as a bridge between students and society.

Up to 2014 it is counted to be 15 product design educational institutions in Indonesia, which spread on Bandung, Jakarta, Tangerang, Yogyakarta, and Surabaya. Four of them are considered as new since they were established at the past 4 years. Assuming the significant growth of product design major, especially in Jakarta, it is possible that it will keep increasing.

Product Design Educational Institutions in Indonesia

There are some differences from those educational institutions. Firstly is naming. For instance Paramadina University name its major Industrial Product Design, while Surabaya University choose Design & Product Management. Simultaneously other institutions use Product Design as the major name without any added words.

Secondly, the difference is in grouping with similar type of course in a faculty. Most of the include product design in Faculty of Art and Design although Pelita Harapan University aim to focus on design and group it in School of Design. On the other hand, social and management approach can be seen on some educational institutions which group it under Faculty of Creative Industries. Besides that, there are many educational institutions that used engineering approach, namely: Faculty of Architecture and Design (Duta Wacana Christian University), Faculty of Planning Engineering & Design (Mercu Buana University), Faculty of Engineering & Design (Pembangunan Jaya University), and Faculty of Civil Engineering (Adhi Tama Surabaya Institute of Technology). The rest of them do not have certain faculty, so there is only independent course or major.

Differences in Grouping

It is clear that different approach will generate different teaching method and syllabus. Product Design in ITB divided several topics in studio module. For example Product Design IV deals with community while Product Design V explores technology. Students are free to make any product that fits their interest as long as it is on the same topic.

On the contrary Pembangunan Jaya University classified its students into 5 specialist area: (1) fashion & lifestyle; (2) interior & architecture; (3) toy; (4) transportation; and (5) information & communication technology. Thereby students will focus on deepen their interest. This specialization system also conducted by Esa Unggul University which have 2 specialist areas: (1) transportation and (2) industry. However research related to the more effective curriculum between those variations is not yet implemented.

Some universities assume that product design has extremely close relation to interior design, thus they do not establish product design major. Instead Bina Nusantara University has very specific major named furniture design which is included in School of Design. There is also short course (2 years period) with product design program in Raffles Institute of Higher Education.

Don Norman (2011) believed that in 21st century design curriculum still trapped in 20th century, except with the addition of computer. To examine validity of the statement, this research conduct some question related to curriculum.

The most memorable subject is studio since in this subject alumni can create something new. Final assignment also favoured by them because they can focus deepens their interest and constituted as all studio practices in general. Some of the other applicable subjects are marketing management, design semantics, design ergonomics, and digital modelling. To some extent the subject are good and comprehensive enough but still require to be optimized. Some possible methods are full-time attendance of lecturer and real daily application of theoretical subjects.

Beside the subjects, alumni perceived that the product design teaching process is more instrumental to emerge design thinking in general. Design thinking is really helpful and in fact can be applied to several aspects of occupation. It is not surprising when design thinking or how to think like a designer is widely known and learned by common people. Design thinking process is learned in university in some ways such as precedent study, planning concept, user survey, sketching alternative design, making prototype, until making the real product and evaluation.

IDEO Founder, Tim Brown (2008) explained that design thinking is a method to generate new idea. Design thinking concentrated on innovation and adjustment with human needs (human-centered). The aim is to conceive an idea that is suitable with the necessity, not idea that is forced to be adjusted. In brief design thinking process comprise of inspiration, ideation, and implementation.

While this is true Bruce Nussbaum (2011) argued that design thinking is a failed experiment and he emphasized more on creative quotient. Creativity is the original ability that is aimed by design thinking since creativity was found first than design. Whatever the term itself, alumni believe that university surroundings deeply support the creativity and idea stimulation process.

After experienced learning and working process, alumni perceive some significant differences. From the question about essential subject which is not yet learned at university, the majority of them pointed to post design process. Lecture is appraised has taught sufficient knowledge about product development from concept to prototype, but what to do when the product is finished? The urgency of this question had just realized after working.

Post design process includes real life product application by user target, publication, intellectual rights management, and selling it to consumer or company which is interested in manufacturing it. It demands real practice so that after the students’ products are finished being marked, they do not leave it offhand, instead they try to sustain it. There is also same case in final assignment. Some alumni said that their final assignment stopped until final trial, while some had chance to publish it even earned achievements. For all intents and purposes these states need to be intensified.

Moreover designer should understand that their responsibility is not end after designing. This is one of design approach as a holistic process and one effort to introduce design application in real industry. Whenever possible products that are designed in university should continue to be developed even after graduation.

Another question is, are all the alumni should be designer? This research found out that some of the alumni have some occupations related to design beside designer itself. For instance consultant, research & development team, and production manager. Related to those interests, it is better if product design education accommodate more experiment or research. Indeed research is not always about generating new theories or works, but also reviewing already exist works.

Most of the alumni design product while the rest of them offer design service. So far there are no alumni who explore specific design studies. This can be occurred because of facility short come in educational institution. Whereas not all who possess interest in design have to be designer. They can be observer, critic, or researcher. Nowadays there are some design related majors that can be found in foreign countries namely strategic design & management, design studies, design business, and design journalism.

Considering the fast growth of design educational institution in Indonesia, it is better to accomplish specialization. Back then when design educational institutions were still a few it could accommodate all prospective students, but now design major is more prominent and preferred so prospective students should choose the most suitable institutions that have the major they are interested in.

The demand for specialization also declared by some alumni. When they work, most of them have to repeat learn from the beginning regarding to their work field or even bewildered to choose an occupation since they are not focus in one field. There is also suggestion to cooperate with foreign university that possess same specialization in form of student transfer. With this program, students can continue their master study or finish their study in foreign university.

Imam Buchori (2005) in Design Studies International Symposium at ITB defined that design should be divided into industrial design (manufacture industry basis) and engineering design (technology basis). Regarding the development of contemporary design, there is also tendency to add craft design (based on craftsmanship and local value). From these three approaches, university should define the direction of product design as intended.

In general, alumni perceived that there is missing link between university and work whose connection is needed to be found. Solution for that problem is by reconciling work life to students. For instance with study tour, collaboration with industry or company, and invite practitioners guest lecturer. Furthermore product design needs to intensify collaborative approach with different field of studies. Another suggestion from the alumni is to enhance closer relationship between students and lecturers.

Nowadays Indonesian government fully support product design development. Product design was included into Master Plan Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. The plan was scheduled until 11 years from now, which is 2025. According to Presidential Instruction No. 6 Year 2009 about Creative Economy, creative economy in Indonesia is divided in to: (1) architecture; (2) design; (3) fashion; (4) movie, video, and photography; (5) craft; (6) music; (7) art and antique; (8) printing and publishing; (9) advertising; (10) interactive games; (11) research and development; (12) performance art; (13) information technology and software; (14) television and radio; and (15) culinary.

Design is included as one part of creative economy which means capacity of knowledge and design occupation in Indonesia is avowed by government. Following this design was divided in to: (1) visual communication design; (2) product design; and (3) interior design. The vision of creative economy development in Indonesia is, “Indonesian portrays high-quality life and creative image throughout the world.”

Medium for intellectual property protection is also provided, but needs more sounding. Asia Pacific area, including Indonesia, owns specific international agreement related to intellectual property rights according to established standard from Agreement on Trade Relates Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The agreement stated that Intellectual Property (IP) divided into: (1) copyrights; (2) trademark; (3) geographical indications; (4) industrial property; (5) patent; (6) integrated circuit layout; (7) secret information protection; and (8) licensed agreement.

IP regulation related to product design can be found on industrial property section. Product classification is based on Locarno Agreement classification. Industrial property rights valid until 10 years. At that time, if design was utilized by other party and the owner made complain, the party would be charged by imprisonment up to 4 years or maximum penalty of Rp 300.000.000,00. According to data from Judgment Directory of Indonesian Supreme Court, for the time being there are merely 26 registered industrial property rights. It is far cry from the amount of design works itself.

Each product designer should understand industrial design right. Besides to maintain originality, designer must be familiar with another design works that is produced before so there will be no plagiarism even if the designer does it not on purpose. It must be remembered that industrial design right is given to the first applicant, not the first designer or maker. If there is a case when a design work is applied by another person and the original designer cannot show compelling evidence, industrial design right is still given to the first applicant.

By far alumni’ opinion inclined to the industry that is not yet ready to appreciate designer as an occupation. Absorption capacity of industry is less. As a matter of fact those industries and companies require design service, but mostly they are not aware about it and not considering design as an essential element in company’s development. Also the average salary of designer is relatively small. It is only a few higher than the average minimum salary. Another point is designer does not have vivid career level. Therefore if one designer eager to thrive, they implied to seek new job vacancy.

Profound socialization about positive effects of design on company’s leverage has to be emerged. This sort of campaign was once accomplished by Design Council in The Value of Design Video. Design Council explained that every fund that was paid for design process, even if it was expensive, will leverage company’s earnings multiple times. In other words design is an investment.

The Value of Design Video Campaign by Design Council

To be a professional designer, sometimes it requires specific certification. Technology and architecture has been using Certificate of Expertise for years as basic qualification benchmark. On its progress Indonesian Interior Designer Association (HDII) handles Certificate of Expertise management specifically for members. In Certificate of Expertise there are some divisions based on work experience and accomplished projects, which are: (1) junior expert; (2) associate expert; and (3) principal expert. More or less professionalism of designers is guaranteed and it will be easier to accept governmental project.

Some alumni stated their demand for association. They want to have specific institution that deals with professionalism, so the occupation will be better appreciated. Association is important to build product design branding in Indonesia. In addition association can accommodate dialogue between designers from different backgrounds that can lead to broaden their networking. Some associations related to product design in Indonesia are: Indonesian Product Designer Association (ADPI); Product Design Focus (PDF); Product Design Student Association (HADEPAN); Indonesian Furniture Designer Association (HDMI); and Indonesian Craft and Furniture Association (AMKRI).

There are some difficulties in managing ADPI as product design principle professional association. Mainly it is caused by its wide scope. It is different with HDMI (furniture) or AMKRI (furniture and craft) with narrower scope so it is easier to synchronized association’s vision and mission. It needs to be considered to make specific association thus the members can obtain the highest benefit. For instance footwear designer association or automotive designer association.

One of product design association that can be set as example is International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID). ICSID was established on 1957 by 5 main founders, who are: Association of Canadian Industrial Designers (Canada); Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (Italy); Japan Industrial Designers’ Association (Japan); Ornamo (Finland); and Rat für Formgebung (Germany). On 2013, the membership evolved to 68 countries. ICSID is remarkably active in generating event, research, and public education related to product design. ICSID assigned 29 June as World Industrial Design Day to commemorate their 50th birthday.

Another problem is difficulty in collecting local content about design product. Therefore most of the data came from foreign articles which relevancy may be less when applied for Indonesia’s condition. Journal and research report is not yet published for public and have limited access. Faculty of Art and Design Maranatha University made breakthrough in publishing book that summarizes students’ works in order of Hajad Jagad 2013 event. Lately the book is sold in several public bookstores. This step is truly marvelous and can be set as an example for other educational institutions to make artifact from the learning process.

Documentation and archiving of design or designers’ data can be aided by media and association. Hence nowadays it is really easy to file archives in digital documents. With proper documentation and archiving, Indonesia will be able to manifest the idea of making National Design Museum. History of Indonesian design and iconic products in one era are no longer scattered without ever recognized by next generation.

For full essay please download it here. Do not forget to use citation if you use my works.
Wiradarmo, Aulia Ardista. (2014). Analisis Profil Alumni Desain Produk ITB dalam Relasiya dengan Pendidikan dan Keprofesian Desain Produk di Indonesia. Jurnal Tingkat Sarjana Senirupa dan Desain, 1

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  1. Wow saya gak baca samper beres, karena capek, jadi kesempilannya apaya? :v

    1. Kesimpulan sudah ada di full essay, bisa didownload di link di atas. Kalau bingung bisa baca yang versi Indonesia juga di post sebelumnya.