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As a relatively new, imported word, the term desain (design) in Indonesian is still mostly understood within its relations to three common academic fields—graphic, interior, and product design—and thus tends to be viewed as belonging to the ‘merely’ visual. While local cultural events and festivals have proliferated in Indonesia, the scope for a conference or a festival that explicitly address design therefore tends to be rather limited. This is not to say that design exhibitions and festivals do not exist. In fact, they have flourished in the country, particularly among university students, reflecting the growth of university design programs and schools to meet contemporary demand. Yet visual-based, market-led development has not been accompanied by institutional development in research and outreach (in the form of dialogues or critical publications), particularly ones that connect that development across different fields. Attaching the word desain to an event in Indonesia invariably means it is associated with either design student exhibitions, or an industrial expo showcasing printers or interior furnitures. This curated piece emerges as our reflection on designing—cobbling up, and calibrating—a design conference-festival from Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia in light of the national context in which desain is received and made meaningful.
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