gRaFFiTi… What comes to your mind when you hear this term? Shocking, offensive, disrespectful, obnoxious… but then we might remember some that actually left a lasting impression on us, not the bad one. Then our perceptions change – powerful, influential, skillfully executed. At least that’s what happened to me when I saw a few graffiti places in Vancouver that looked more like works of art, than spray-painting. Looks like I’m not the only one being inspired by the street art: Audee from Graphic Identity is sharing with us her experience with Indonesian graffiti in this guest post:

Graffiti has become culturally or geographically specific. However, modern (twentieth century) graffiti predates hip hop by almost a decade and has its own culture, complete with its own unique style and slang.

During my visit to Surabaya (second biggest city of Indonesia), I spent some of my time taking snapshots of its Graffiti Designs. Hip hop and Grunge style are talked about a lot among teenagers. I found two interesting spots where young people interpret their styles into a mural along the highway wall that is more than 50 meters long. I also discovered some other amazing graffiti art which are located in random areas of Surabaya.

Graffiti spot in Gubeng Pojok Street of Surabaya

The 50 meters long Mural Art

I can’t really say an act of vandalism is happening here, because I haven’t seen them spreading randomly in public places or buildings. In the past decade the Indonesia’s government policy on Graffiti and Murals is getting strict. By all means, it’s not easy for any Indonesian graffiti artist “to put up beautiful art” anywhere he likes. The 50 meters long Mural perhaps is one of contemporary masterpieces of the city and I believe the local government sets this area aside for this purpose.

I came across an interesting post written by Daniel Tucker, Graffiti: Art And Crime. He said that:

People are unused to art “approaching” them out of conventional settings such as a museum or gallery. Graffiti reaches out to the people, sometimes very unexpectedly and, for some, it is scary. But the way some see it, is just what the point of having a bare brick wall? It’s an eyesore! If the building has no architectural beauty and is a perfect place to display a mural, why not put one up?

Yes, why not put one up? A three meter high street wall has no architectural beauty in it, and I have to agree with Daniel that it is also a perfect place to display a mural, where everybody can experience the art.

Graffiti spot in Gubeng Pojok Street of Surabaya

Some graffiti art stands out as a protest tool on political issues or represents rebellion against authority at different points in time.

Graffiti spot in Gubeng Pojok Street of Surabaya

Below is an example demonstrating local identity, since the person in the graffiti drawings is one of Surabaya’s former inspiring leading men Bung Tomo. The graffiti artist got inspired by the spirit of Bung Tomo and other fighters and rebels against Dutch Colonialism in 1945, and youngsters delivered this message through murals.

Graffiti spot in Gubeng Pojok Street of Surabaya

Graffiti is also about tagging an area. The typography below has no meaning other than to mark their territory or “turf” by tagging to inform other gangs of their presence, especially if many groups populate one specific area or city.

Graffiti spot in Gubeng Pojok Street of Surabaya

Floral decorated Graffiti

Graffiti spot in Kusuma Bangsa Street of Surabaya

The popularity of floral decor as an element of design in web templates and printed media has been gaining more attention nowadays. I believe this is a new interpretation of our old culture. Nouveau act in peace and natural harmonic environment are what humans always want to get closer to.

Graffiti spot in Kenjeran Street of Surabaya

It was a short blog essay of Dale at, that brought me to this conclusion, as it goes back again as a repeated history. Traditional craft lineage could perhaps be the reason of why floral element is still admired. Indonesia is a country with many traditional handmade crafts, and one of them is Batik. There are many similarities in shapes or motifs between Batik and those Floral decorated Graffiti.

the-making-of-batik Batik is a handmade craft and generally thought of as the most quintessentially Indonesian textile. Motifs of flowers, twinning plants, leaf buds, flowers, birds, butterflies, fish, insects and geometric forms are rich in symbolic association and variety. How it correlates to Indonesian local graffiti can be seen below:

Graffiti spot in Kusuma Bangsa Street of Surabaya

If you like this article, try taking a close look at the graffiti and murals in your neighborhood. This is a good way to pay more attention to the world around you. Graffiti may be a great example of graphic design developed from older cultures (like Indonesian local graffiti), or it may be an extreme reaction to social issues that are currently happening all around us. As we are all living inside a big or small community, what can be visually seen in it could also be valued as an appreciation of progressive culture. There are always stories behind this visual art and after reading this article please don’t hesitate to share them with us ;)

I would like to say special thanks to my friend Dale of, who has surpassed my expectation in helping me with the edits and for contributing his thoughts to this article.

NOTE: You can also download and take a look at the 50 meters long panoramic mural art image if you like.

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12 Insightful Bits in response to “Graffiti – Graphic Design Developed From Older Cultures”

  1. Audee,

    Congratulations on getting the article done! It looks great, and thanks very much for the recognition. It was a pleasure to help you with it, and you know I look at the graffiti in my own neighborhood much differently now.

    Bye for now,


  2. I live in a small town in the midwest…not a whole lot of graffiti here, but I have always found myself drawn to the words and images painted on the side of train cars that sometimes travel through our area…much for the same reason – the beauty of the graffiti (art) that graces some of their sides.

  3. As long as the artist isn’t marking private property against the wishes of the owner, I enjoy seeing graffiti.

    I’ve lived in a suburban setting most of my life, so I don’t get to see a whole lot of quality graffiti and murals in my day-to-day life.

    When I was living in Greece a long-time ago, I remember seeing a lot of politically motivated graffiti. (most of it humorous & creative slogans from the Greek Communist Party, interestingly enough)

    And man, Flickr has a ton of really creative graffiti.

  4. Dale,
    Graffiti is something that brought me into attention lately after reading your article about ‘History Repeating’. Glad you are now see them in a different way by doing this small collaborative work ;)
    I agree with you. Some of them are beautifully designed and you might want to capture them with your digicam before the authorities do the clean up on those public areas. Thank you for the comment :)
    Interesting story from your part! Graffiti speaks louder since they are part of urban element and visually delivers a messege thru unusual urban media also. Thanks for reminding me about Flickr man! ‘A must to do search’ for this weekend :D

  5. Audee, thanks a lot for this guest article.
    I agree with Chris – as long as it’s not vandalizing someone’s private property and not carrying any obscenities, a well done graffiti can bring a whole different perspective on art and life, just like the ones Jill mentioned above ;-)

    Dale, thanks for the Stumble on this article.

  6. Fascinating article. My favourite Graffiti artist is from my home town in the UK, Banksy.

  7. wow, I love that tiger graffiti from Banksy – thanks for the link, Johno. Lucky you for being able to see his graffiti art in person.

  8. I have to agree that Tiger was awesome.

    My feelings towards graffiti is that as long as you don’t vandalize something its good.
    Here in Norway they have created own walls that they can create graffiti on in the cities.

  9. It provides information regarding how to develop graphic designs from old moral art,floral decor.thanks for post.

  10. I never know about Banksy before, now I have to be agree with you all…Bansky’s graffiti just awsome!

    Yes, vandalism action would bring nothing better to the graffiti artists. Good to hear that Norway has a way to show their talent ;)

    web designers,
    This is my first guest blog post anyhow, so I’m happy that you like the article

  11. well am from the northwest up in yaks graffiti is big alot off bombings rooftops to everything and i was allways in 2 doing lettering and much more pk dyc tck krew

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on