Last Word: Razif Nasruddin


Having been a full time design lecturer at Kolej Bandar Utama (KBU), Razif Nasruddin is currently working in a design research based company, Make Condition. He also contributes to a blog called Thinklab. He speaks here about independence. Judging from this snap, it can’t be good….

For days, I pondered and questioned the idea of independence. So, I asked my family and friends about it and the response I got is that independence is about ‘Freedom’. So I continued to ask: what is ‘Freedom’. Some expressed feelings about the ability to do anything, with no questions asked. So I began to probe further. Days went by and I finally concluded independence is to me an idea that when suppressed by fear is unacceptable. It is a fight to know, to learn, a process one must go through at every phase in life. To put it into perspective today’s idealist believes financial freedom sets them free. That is what ‘new independence’ means to them.

It takes wisdom by strides to know that you’re independent. To be trapped by the modern society’s commitments to modernity, such as phone bills, businesses, car loans, credit cards and other things is not liberating. Only those who acquire knowledge, move beyond the idea of modernity and its fanatical ideas about material and object as an order to self preservation and fulfillment, those who are passionate about life itself are truly independent. Now I’ll apply that to a designer. There is something wrong with the design industry in this country.


The city of Kuala Lumpur is a tragic place for you to work as a designer. It is filled with visual polluted corporations that make you copy international design works. It happens even to the best design companies in Malaysia. Trust me. My sources are from these design copycat companies, confessing their sins upon their years of trying to create a portfolio. Surprisingly, they were talented creative individuals before coming into the firm. And now they become parasites themselves. I still call them my friends though.

In Malaysia, being a designer is a job. Labour is not pleasure. To some, that in itself becomes a trap to an idea and thus being creative is liberating. How far has the local design scene matured since 1957?

The local design industry and its people in general are fractured and detached from one another. Design requires unity and has to have a common understanding. The taboo that architects, graphic designers, industrial designers and every other design discipline exists in and of itself is due to lack of communication. And that gap is currently filled with prejudice and discrimination. And that is why we rarely celebrate ideas, but instead become cynics to our own kind – other designers.

So when will we develop a mature mindset and see beyond these descriptions and definitions? Only when we understand each others’ role can we acquire the wisdom necessary to seek the freedom that we wish for. It is within us that we must be able to fulfill our obligation to be independent. It is obligatory to educate and empower humanity by becoming independent.

That is to me the true power of Independence.