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(Re)discovering Filipino Design

For my Communications Design thesis at Pratt, I created a Filipino Design database for designers inside and outside of the Filipino Community to use as reference of what common techniques are used in the Philippines outside of western European standards of what is "good" or "bad" design.

The Filipino Graphic Design Database is an open and collaborative space for the online Filipino community to reference. It is encouraged for the document to transform according to what each viewer thinks Filipino Graphic Design is supposed to visually be like.

Communications Design Thesis

Link to Database

Thank you to Sachet Archive, Gino, Dan Matutina, Plus63, Ramon Tejada, Hardworking Goodlooking

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Why is this important?

In most design institutions, there is a strong influence of western European aesthetics and graphic design as the basis for what is good and bad in design. The grid system, the rules of typography, and other design “standards” point to a history of mainly white western European graphic designers. For example, Grid Systems for Graphic design by Muller-Brockman.


These rules and ideologies in western design can differ greatly from non-western European influenced design. These minority groups in design can end up as outsiders as they reside outside of these “good” standards. In turn, groups face a lack of representation (if not misrepresented or flattened).


To combat this, this thesis is about preserving Filipino design by creating a space where Filipino design can be documented without any restrictions by colonial authority or judgment.

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Grid Systems by Muller-Brockman

Bauhaus Poster from Germany 1968

Joy Ice Candy Packaging from the Philippines

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Historical Context

After talking to multiple local Filipino designers, creative agencies, and critics, it was important to talk about how much of what Filipino design is right now and how the Filipino sees it was influenced by the people in power.  


This is extremely important as the Philippines is a country that not only was colonized by America but also Spain and Japan for a significant amount of time. Each one had their own aesthetic influence in Filipino graphic design. 


Even after colonization, Ferdinand Marcos, a former dictator of the Philippines from the 60s to 80s who was supported by the USA, dictated that art and design should be more westernized and modern.

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Precolonial indigenous weaving and early Spanish era drawings  

Spanish-era logo of Ginebra Gin featuring Archangel Michael

Japanese propaganda poster to recruit Filipino soldiers for World War 2

American tourism poster featuring Filipino women

American propaganda poster to recruit Filipino soldiers for World War 2

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Marcos Era Graphic Design

Social Realist Protest Painting Poster against the Marcos Regime

Post-colonialism, consumerism,and design

According to a market research on ethnocentrism (nationalism and loyalty to local products) and its effect on purchasing, Filipinos ranked lowest in ethnocentrism than in other categories for purchasing and preferred to buy more foreign brands than local ones. There is also a unique technique of using models with white skin to increase the purchasing of products.

As much as colonial mentality can effect design, Filipino design still varies across class and what each class is able to buy. Designs for sachet packets that are one use and are more affordable are filled with designs, different fonts, and images due to minimalism being seen as a sign of poverty. This is different from more expensive variants of the same product from the same brand which are designed with a more western and minimalist aesthetic to show the quality and luxury of the product.

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A Filipino brand's design as it markets itself as "American"

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Sunsilk Shampoo Sachets

A Filipino brand's design where it markets itself with Filipino models and flavors

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Sunsilk Shampoo Bottle

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