Jackson Tan, Alvin Tan, Melvin Chee and William Chan

:Phunk Studio, Singapore

It was destiny in the making. Four ordinary guys of Singaporean Chinese descent who had an immense passion for Art and Design, 'Rock and Roll' music, anime, pulp fiction and 'Kung Fu' movies. Nothing out of the ordinary - until their worlds collided. This happened when Alvin Tan, Melvin Chee, Jackson Tan and William Chan met at LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts. The four came together to form :phunk studio, a creative collective based in Singapore in 1994.

:phunk studio's revolutionary style and cross-disciplinary approach to art and design is prevalent in all their projects which encompass typography, graphic design, illustrations, animation, graffiti, audiovisual design installations and capture the pulsating beat of contemporary design, urban street and pop culture.

Described as 'The Champion of Singapore's Graphic Scene' by Creative Review (UK), 'Asia's Hottest Agency' by Computer Arts (UK) and 'Iconic Representatives of the New Wave of Young Asian Creators' by Get it Louder, a publication from China. :phunk studio is Asia’s leading art and design collective.

They have propagated a visual signature that seamlessly blends and re-interprets their diverse influences such as traditional Chinese craft and folklore, Hong Kong pulp fiction, Japanese manga and Otaku sub-culture, Western popular culture, Art and Design movements into a singular creative thought that reflects their multicultural identity, background and environment. The concept of 'universality' in the age of modern globalisation is a constant theme in their works.

They constantly challenge the conventional notion and definition of the 'artist' and 'commercial design studio' by constantly blurring the boundaries between both, mixing Neo-Pop Art ideology with Post-Modernist design sensibilities. Their cross-disciplinary approach is best described as 'an aesthetic collective consciousness' focused on experimenting with new approaches to visual expressions. Their expansive scope of projects spans across art, design, publishing, fashion, music, film and interactive.

"You just have to see their work and meet them in person. They are four regular guys who love collecting music, pulp fiction paraphernalia, sneakers and paying homage to music legends such as Bob Marley and The Rolling Stones. But what they do differently is that they draw all these 'influences' in their lives to create interesting work, and sustain their practice with not only passion but also dedication," says Joseph Kalaivanar, Marketing Manager (Industry Relations) at LASALLE College of the Arts.

:phunk studio has collaborated and worked with international brands such as Nike, Nokia, MTV, Daimler Chrysler, Comme des Garcons, Levis, Tiger Beer and Salem. Their works are featured in many international publications and they have exhibited and lectured extensively around the world with both solo and group exhibitions such as 'Control Chaos' at the Reed Space in New York, 'Baroqracy II' in Tuami, Ecuador, 'Split, Nike Spiritroom' in Berlin, 'Animamix Biennale: From Modernity to Eternity’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, China and 'Todays Art Festival 2007' in The Hague, Netherlands.

They also represented Singapore at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2005 and the showcased their works at the '20/20 Movement Singapore Design Tour' at London Design Festival in 2006. The Singapore History Museum hosted their 10-year retrospective exhibition titled 'A Decade of Decadence' in 2005.

For the past decade, :phunk studio has bagged numerous award recognitions such as Finalist, Macromedia International Type Design (1998), Finalist, Apple Design Competition (1998), Selected, American Center of Design - The 100 Show (2000), Finalist, D&AD (2001), Finalist, One Show (2001), Finalist, Creative Circle Awards (2002), Merit, Singapore Design Awards (2002), Best of Show, Singapore Design Awards (2004), Best Visual Arts & Best Of Show, Singapore StreetStyle Awards (2005). Phunk Studio has been repeatedly awarded by PROMAX ASIA several times and received Gold and Silver medals in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

They've certainly come a long way from days of designing t-shirts and print publications. Jackson recalls how he used to design his own magazine in school from the pages of his classroom books. "It all started from Star Wars, comic and album covers! What could be more rewarding than having a career that pays us for doing what we are most happy doing."

‘‘Remember to save your work, eat well and go home early.... and most importantly, always have fun and enjoy the process of design...’’

Insights from the Recipient

What does it mean to practise as a designer in Singapore?

It means having a unique outlook that is shaped by our multi-cultural background and diverse influences. Singapore's design industry has grown significantly. When we first started, we were a cultural desert. Today, we are a global design city.

What is the responsibility of a designer to the community or society?

To create positive value, meaning and purpose. In the context of Singapore, this requires designers to ensure that design influences that shaping of our national identity. Only by doing so do we become a global design leader.

How has receiving the President's Design Award benefitted you as a Designer/Architect?

It has brought recognition from beyond the industry.


‘‘Remember to save your work, eat well and go home early.... and most importantly, always have fun and enjoy the process of design...’’

Jury Citation

This innovative design firm exemplifies a new visual energy in the Singapore design scene, with its quirky interpretation of diverse influences that are expressed in a spontaneous, pulsating manner, making the audience feel like they are in the middle of a designer music video. This is not surprising given the fact that the four founding members actually knew each other previously as 'Rock and Roll' band pals but have since evolved into an experimental multi-disciplinary design studio. The diversity of their creations include fashionable snowboard patterns, editorial illustrations, brand identities for music videos and complex large scale brand retail environments. Their works are absolutely unpredictable, unorthodox, fun and vibrant, which suit the many different international clienteles from the sports, fashion and telecom industries. Phunk on dudes!


Nominator Citation


Jackson Tan graduated from LASALLE in1994 and formed the cool creative collective, :phunk studio, with his graphic design pals(classmates Alvin Tan, Melvin Chee and William Chan). Who would have thought that they would have gone from humble beginnings of designing customised T-shirts and advertising campaigns for MTV Asia,to collaborating with international brands including Daimier Chrysler, Diesel, Levi's, Nokia, Salem and Tiger Beer?

With their experimental cross-disciplinary approach and distinct visual signature, :phunk studio has been described by UK's best-selling design magazine, Creative Review as 'The Champion of Singapore's Graphic Scene'. Last year, :phunk studio was one of six international designers commissioned by NIKE to produce an art installation incorporating sculpture, film and graphics for their latest campaign, 'Sum of All Parts'. How cool is that?

Jackson, who's also creative director of Black Design says, "Creativity is about defining your own space. Space is not defined by physical structures or limitations, but is defined by one's mind." Jackson was also the curator of the recent '20/20 Movement Singapore Design Tour', sealing his credentials as one of the most sought after designers on this island.

So did LASALLE play a role in this creative revolutionary? Jackson reminisces, "In the early years, it was about the people and the possibilities. There was a very large D-I-Y culture and creativity was very exploratory and defined by the students. I spent the first year of my studies at the Old Goodman Road and Telok Kurau campuses. It's wonderful to see how far we’ve come from then to the New City Campus, which gives me an immense sense of pride."

Nothing is ever enough to satisfy this dynamite team's hunger for more. One of :phunk studio's upcoming projects for 2007 include an exhibition in Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art.


Hans Tan


Founder, Hans Tan Studio; and Assistant Professor, Division of Industrial Design,
National University of Singapore
Hans Tan Studio