The Malaysia Design Archive actually began in Havana, Cuba. In 2007, founder Ezrena Marwan visited the city for the Icograda World Design Congress, where, as she listened to Cuban graphic designers share how they were limited to creating propaganda by their country’s politics, Ezrena was struck by how different it was from her own experience as a graphic designer back home.
“We only design for commercial stuff, and we don’t really pay attention to anything else,” she says. “I was really inspired by how much they think about design, and how much it’s linked to politics and the land.”
She started collecting and documenting everyday graphics in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and shared them online. That marked the beginning of the Malaysia Design Archive, a website that traces the history of this Southeast Asian nation through its visual culture.