The documentary, Desainer Kampung (or “Village Designer”), recently aired on Indonesian TV about some of 99designs’ village designers. The film was made by of one of the finalists from the Eagle Awards, an annual documentary competition by Metro TV.

The film is set in Kaliabu, a village where hundreds of people have taken on graphic design as a side job. Interest in the industry has grown rapidly – from just two designers in 2012 to around 250 designers today. The two designers featured in the documentary were both early adopters of 99designs – Fahmi, a farmer, and Khoirul, a construction worker – and represent what it’s generally like for their community of village designers.

Having most of his clients come from Australia, Fahmi is thrilled that his work is used and gaining exposure overseas. As he explains in the documentary, “The background of the designer is not as important. What’s more important is the design itself.”

Below, you can watch Desainer Kampung, broken up into three parts below. The film is in Indonesian, so we’ve also summarized it below for you in English.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Designer Village

By day, they are farmers, construction workers, stone workers and industry workers. But while you wouldn’t typically expect it, they’re actually earning big money. In Indonesia, farmers and builders are jobs that are not highly regarded. Workers normally earn between $0.65 – $1.20 daily (Rp. 8,000 – Rp. 15,000). But after work, they are entering and winning design contests, which can earn them up to $450 each time.

Fahmi said that he earns up to $1,600 a month. As a village, they’ve earned nearly $495,000 in two years – an amount so incredible that Fahmi was even called to the bank once, out of suspicion over his income.

“The background of the designer is not important.
What’s more important is the design itself.”

However, it isn’t easy for these village designers. In part two of this film, you’ll see them going on a trip to see a professional designer to invite him to teach the community about design. For these people, just finishing junior or high school is a big achievement.

Not many of them ever actually go to a design school, resulting in only a handful of people in the community with a design or art background. Khoirul, who is also one of the village designers, is familiar with what type of design is related to which industry, but he’s not aware of the design terms related to it.

We see that despite their limitations, they do want to learn more about designs and improve. In part three of the film, we see that the professional designer they visited has agreed to come to the village. The gathering is filmed.

Rewo Rewo designers
Kaliabu designer community, called Rewo Rewo

Another hurdle for these designers is the language barrier. Footage shows two designers trying to understand a customer’s needs in English and failing. Luckily, technology and the village’s internet connection have improved. Fahmi mentions that Google Translate and Navita really help them communicate with customers in English.

In Khoirul’s case, he didn’t even know how to operate a computer back then. When turning off the computer, he would unplug the cable from the wall socket.

“Khoirul didn’t even know how to operate a computer back then.
When turning off the computer, he would unplug the cable from the wall socket”

They have come quite a long way since then, and this newfound interest has brought a great positive impact to the Kaliabu community. Village teenagers used to stay out all night, causing trouble around the neighborhood – petty thefts and minor burglaries were common trends.

But since everyone started learning how to work as a designer, these same teens are now more likely to stay at home, work and generally become more productive. Fahmi even goes as far as saying that safety has improved in the village.

Rewo Rewo designer community
Kaliabu designer community, Rewo Rewo gets a visit from the Happy People community.

This type of personal empowerment has given the Village Designers more confidence. Before working as a graphic designer, Khoirul didn’t feel sure of himself, especially with girls. Earning money online and doing graphic design has given Khoirul more self-reliance and pride.

The film ends with Fahmi emotionally stating that he was able to support his parents, who have now passed away, and make them proud. He emphasizes that whenever we earn something, we should always prioritize our parents.

“When we get earnings, always remember
and prioritize our parents”

Hearing news of this documentary film, FDGI (Forum Desain Grafis Indonesia) – an open forum for anyone who feels passionately about advancing graphic design in Indonesia – is creating a program to help these village designers. FDGI Jakarta, FDGI Semarang, FDGI Bandung, dan FDGI Yogyakarta are all now involved.

This program aims to help these village designers by providing workshops and seminars in their village, Salaman, to improve their design knowledge and skills to enable them in becoming even more sustainable.

Poster for

The event will be held from November 28 to 30 at Salaman. Workshops focusing on color, layout and typography as well as insightful talks will be held by a variety of professional designers.

We fully support this initiative, so if you’d like to offer help or be a part of this initiative, let us know in the comments below!