Kartono's slow design radios
Product designer develops radio which incorporates Indonesian culture
by Lynda Hong, Channel NewsAsia
An Indonesian product designer has developed a simple radio that he hopes will become a timeless classic.
It is a functional piece of art, based on the designer's interpretation of Indonesian culture. But there are no traditional carvings on a Magno Radio.
Its creator Singgih Kartono wanted to go beyond established forms of Indonesian art, such as batik and carving, while retaining the cultural philosophy of having a connection between the user and the product.
He said: 'We do not think of a product as an object, we think it is part of our life. And I try to explore that in my design.'
The radios are made from Pinewood, Mahogany and Albasia - wood from trees indigenous to Indonesia. And Singgih plants a replacement tree for each one he uses.
He explained: '(This is) because wood is a soulful material. Wood tells us about life, balance and limits. When I combine electronic products with wood material, it seems like a soul embodied, it makes a closer relation to us. '
The radio started out as a final year university project in 1992 when he was studying product design, and it took 13 years to start production. The main challenge was difficulty in sourcing small numbers of radio circuits, to be encased in Singgih's wooden radio casing.
Suppliers normally only sell a minimum of 1,000 radio circuits per purchase. But in 2005, a supplier finally agreed to sell Singgih 100 radio circuits.
A Magno radio costs between US$200 and US$300, depending on its size.
A team of 30 craftsmen makes about 200 sets every month at a workshop the social enterprise entrepreneur had set up in his home town in Central Java in 2005 to provide jobs for his fellow villagers.
That is not enough to meet demand from Europe, the United States, Australia, China and Taiwan. But Singgih has no intention of increasing the production of Magno radios. And he is in no hurry to come up with new designs.
He said: 'I will make developments. But my design is slow design. I do not want to make things fast because I am not driven by the market, or driven by the money.'
Singgih said the Magno's simplicity means it can be a timeless product. And he hopes it will evolve into a collector's item that is used for many years to come. - CNA/ms