Interview :Phunk Studio

    I may say that :Phunk Studio is one of Asia's powerful force in the design industry today. This group of four from Singapore provide us with knock out designs in incredible diverse range of projects and consistently feed us with creative mix of graphics style . Last week i had a chance to ask :Phunk Studio's Jackson Tan and the rest of the guys about.their works and few little things about them.

What is the story behind  :Phunk?
We met when we were students at LASALLE College of the Arts and came together in 1994 after graduation to form :phunk studio, We shared many common interests, ranging from old HongKong kung-fu TV serials, Chinese mythology and Japanese manga, to British indie music, American pop culture, pretty girls, alcohol, and parties. We tried starting a band initially, but gave up after realizing that we sucked. Out of boredom, we started 'jamming' with visuals and graphics on the Mac in Jackson’s bedroom and sent the 'EPs' out to people we liked. That's how it all started. The rest, as they say, is history.

Where did the name come from?
Well... yeah... hahaha... after our failure to start a rock band, we decided to create our own "street wear" label... we were fresh out of college and knew nobody and nothing about running a business... When we were looking for a name for the "brand", we stumbled upon a flyer / poster designed by Ian Swift (who was also the designer of Straight No Chasers magazine) for the British record label Mo' Wax... It was called Mo' Phunky... it connotes the idea of the future of funk... we decided to use the word Phunk.. later when we decided to work as a collective studio... we added the word Studio behind.... and Phunk Studio was born...

You guys are from Singapore, How would you describe the design scene there?
Singapore is a very young nation with a unique personality and identity. It is a place that is unique in the sense that, unlike most other modern cities, it doesn’t have much cultural baggage. There aren’t a whole lot of visual or cultural history and traditions to weigh us down. In a way, it is a blank canvas, and the new generation of creators are defining it. So yes, it’s a really exciting time. There is an emerging new wave of young Singaporean creators from different disciplines and media who are well-informed and well-travelled, and choose to live and create with their own individual ways and styles. Singapore also celebrates diversity and openness which constantly reveals itself in our artworks.

Can you describe your creative process? And how do you divide tasks within the company?
We approach the creation of our works like a band producing an album.
For example If it is a series, first we decide on the main artistic
theme of the series. Decide on the number of tracks (each artwork =
one visual track), and start working on each artwork collectively. We
usually make one "art album" of around 40 "visual tracks" a year. One
band member writes the songs, another adds the lyrics, make the music
arrangements and performs., We talk and think of the original idea,
the idea gets interpreted into visual imageries. One member makes the
initial concept sketch, one draws the illustrations, one composites
and colors,and one oversees the production and one reinterprets the
idea into sculptural form and the process continues... it's never a
fixed arrangement or order as we switch roles all the time.  There is
not much difference in the creative process between our fine art and
commercial design works. We do not distinct between art and design. We
like to explore, express and communicate our ideas thru different
mediums. Our projects spans across art, design, publishing, fashion,
music, film and interactive. We like to blur the lines and boundaries
between art and design, creativity and commerce, craft and technology,
east and west, fantasy and reality, control and chaos, love and hate,
friendship and partnership, audio and visual.

What is your motivation? What makes you get up in the morning?
Pursuing our collective dreams, love and friendship

What does your typical day look like?
There is no typical day

Are there any particular artists or art movements that influence your work?
The main access and outlet is through visuals, information and
cultural influences within our own collective interests and
backgrounds. We have been avid collectors and junkies of popular
culture paraphernalia since we were kids. That has been a recurring
theme in our work. We have constantly sampled and referenced these
influences. It is an instinctive and natural approach for us, since it
is a visual language that we relate to and understand very well.

We were all born in the '70s, which was the golden era of television,
movies and pop culture. As kids, we grew up watching a lot of
television and movies. These included popular Hong Kong kung fu movies
produced by the Shaw Brothers studios and Cantonese TV series such as
the Return of the Condor Heroes. Japanese cartoon anime such as
Gatchaman, Doraemon and Gundam, and American TV programmes such as
Sesame Street, The Six Million Dollar Man and Solid Gold.

It was also the beginning of the Hollywood blockbuster era, so there
were all these mega-movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones and E.T. We
also read a lot of comic books: Hong Kong’s Tiger Wong comics,
Japanese manga such as Akira and Fist of the North Star, American
Superhero comics such as Superman, Batman and Spider Man, and also the
British comic, 2000 AD.

As teenagers in the '80s, we were fascinated by the music and visual
culture of British indie pop and new wave music and also American rock
music and MTV. It was a time when the experience of walking into a
record store to look at the record sleeves such as Peter Saville’s
designs for New Order and Peter Blake’s cover art for the Beatles was
as enriching as viewing a museum masterpiece.

When we were in art college in the '90s, we were greatly influenced by
various art and design movements such as the Bauhaus, Fluxus,
Situationism, Pop Art, Swiss Modernist and Postmodernist design.
Nowadays, we are influenced and informed by our travel to different
parts of the world and meeting different creative people who share our

It was an instinctive and subconscious decision to explore these
diverse influences. Even before starting the studio, we spent a lot of
time talking and sharing our passions. They forged a common bond
between us and became our main source of inspiration. In this sense,
they were the source of our collective identity. :phunk studio came
about organically, as an exploration of these individual personas and
psyches. What we do is a projection of our collective consciousness.

I heard about your Transmission Project this 2010, can you please tell me more about it?
The TRANSMISSION: PROJECT is a cross-disciplinary, multi-media broadcast of collaborative explorations in contemporary art and design.  It documents the progressive concepts and thoughts from an international showcase of creative minds in graphic design, fashion, product design, photography, illustration, motion graphics, film, interactive, architecture and fine art. The 2010 edition of the project, ‘TRANSMISSION: EXPERIENCE’ is a venture into contemplation, inspired by multitude possibilities of experiences. This allows contributors to interpret their experiences into visuals/ sound keepsakes, which are then transmitted to the viewers.
What was is it inspired you guys to create this kind of project?
We created TRANSMISSION when we graduated because we could not find a platform or outlet to communicate and broadcast our concept and works. We hope to share that with the new generation... to also transmit our experience, knowledge and skills to them.

Since Transmission is a collaborative project, can I have at least some hints who are the featured artist/designers for the 3rd edition?
Some of the invited participating artists / designers are 1st Ave Machine, Rob Ryan, Aya Kato and The Analog Girl

Favorite Animated Character?

How would you describe  Phunk design style? Is there a secret formula?
Visual Rock.

Is it possible to teach creativity? How?
Yes it's possible with the right education and attitude

How do you guys avoid repeating yourself? How do you stay fresh?
We get bored easily... we try not to do the same things...

What are you working on now?
Various exhibitions and brand collaborations around the world

I heard guys will be speaking at Graphika Manila 2010  this coming August. What do you plan to share for my fellow filipino graphic designers?
Stories of our dreams

:Phunk Studios future plans?
We plan to live for today

What is the most important piece of advice you could give to a young art student or aspiring artist?

Believe in yourself, listen to you heart, chase your dreams... and most importantly... remember to save your work.

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