Rakhmat Jaka animates the “vernacular visuals” of Indonesian culture with his lively moving posters

The South Borneo-based graphic designer and illustrator uses mood boards to weave childhood memories with a multitude of graphic references.

8 August 2022

Inspired by the “vernacular visuals” of everyday life in Indonesia, Rakhmat Jaka’s posters and illustrations are bursting with vibrant references to films, advertisements and music. As the founder of one of our favourite graphic sticker archives, Grafis Nusantara, Jaka has a treasure trove of inspiration when it comes to planning a new piece. “I try to learn from this archive where they get their inspiration and what specialised techniques they use to achieve a specific effect,” says Jaka. “Then I adopt those processes or methods to my work.” Brought to life with playful animated loops, Jaka’s work is positively effervescent with its vibrant colour schemes and vintage pop culture references.

When taking in one of his many layered compositions, it comes as no surprise that Jaka is an avid moodboard maker. Alongside his extensive collection of graphic ephemera, the designer often stops to sketch an “impromptu idea” or “interesting object” he encounters in his day-to-day wanderings. “Then, in the future, I can revisit these concepts and apply or incorporate them into my work.” After crafting the perfect moodboard for a new piece, it's then just a case of balancing “grunge effects” with “half-tone textures” to finish it all off with a pleasing vintage aesthetic.

Jaka traces his creative journey back to watching MTV music videos as a kid. Fascinated by the graffiti often featured in the background of the videos, it wasn’t long before he turned his own hand to street art. “Even though I had no idea, the name was graffiti at the time”, he laughs. “But then I tried to dig deeper and fell into this world.” He began teaching himself the basics of design with a series of tutorial books his late father bought him; a keen supporter of Jaka’s creative practice. His first major creative project was to make a series of graphic T-shirts for his friends. Even though he didn't make any money from it, he describes this hobby as an important “learning experience”. Quickly graduating from the simple lessons he could glean from his collection of tutorial books, the designer decided to spread his wings, moving from his small hometown in South Borneo to the city of Yogyakarta to study design.

In Yogyakarta, Jaka began experimenting with a whole host of new skills like pointillism, lettering, pixel art and motion graphics. Here, he learnt to harness his love of quotidian graphic culture with a sturdy formal training. This has resulted in the joyful graphic style of his current work, which recently attracted the attention of Synchronize, one of Indonesia’s biggest music festivals. The commission gave him the perfect opportunity to play to his strengths as a connoisseur of “vernacular visuals”, he says. Responding to the “Lokal Lebih Vokal” (Local more Vocal) theme, Jaka took inspiration from the “music, nature and diversity” of local cultures. Unlike most of work, which is awash with contrasting colours, Jaka opted for a powerful electric blue palette for the visuals.

While he began attracting more commercial commissions after his training in Yogyakarta, being far from home also made him “miss the vibes” of his “kind and friendly” hometown. He channelled these feelings into the making of Nostalgic Memories (seen above). Like a visual mind map of his childhood, the piece is composed of “sentimental items” he remembers from his home in the 1990s, such as “radio tapes, calendars, landscape posters, toys and drinks”. These are woven with memories of outdoor environments – “food stalls, workshops, passing cars and stray cats that used to enter the house,” says Jaka. All in all it is a beautiful summary of Jaka's ability to imbue a mixture of visual references with emotion. For him, the piece is a pure representation of “simplicity and happiness”.


Rakhmat Jaka: Sepi ing Rame in DGTMB Sanitizer (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2020)


Rakhmat Jaka: Lomba Shihir (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2021)


Rakhmat Jaka: Baroka Riso (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2020)


Rakhmat Jaka: Selamat Menikmati (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2021)


Rakhmat Jaka: Internal Mental Overload (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2021)


Rakhmat Jaka: Synchronize (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2022)

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Rakhmat Jaka: Vakansi (Copyright © Rakhmat Jaka, 2021)

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About the Author

Elfie Thomas

Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.

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