Inspiring Conversations

An interview with :phunk

  • SumoMe

by Penny K

:phunk is a local contemporary art and design collective. Their most recent works have been seen on limited edition FRANK by OCBC cards. The :phunk soul brothers have also worked on projects for brands such as MTV, UNIQLO, Disney and even Tiger Beer.

The guys from :phunk take time to answer a few of our questions.

PD: Who makes up :phunk? What do you guys do?

:P: Alvin Tan, Melvin Chee, William Chan and Jackson Tan. We are a multidisciplinary art and design collective.

PD: How was :phunk formed?

:p: We first met as students in LASALLE College of the Arts and came together in 1994 after graduation to form :phunk. We shared many common interests ranging from old Hong Kong kungfu 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 realising that we sucked musically. 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. The rock and roll ethos, DIY spirit and working dynamics of a band was developed into our collective’s DNA. That’s how it all started. The rest, as they say, is history.

PD: What are some of :phunk’s more interesting projects to date?

:p: We have worked on projects with with brands such as MTV, Levis, UNIQLO, Diesel, Casio, Herman Miller, Disney, Tiger Beer – from creating animated packaging for MTV shows, collaboration projects with fashion brands, products, organising parties, publishing magazines, curating exhibitions, designing spaces… Recently, we directed the retail concepts for Herman Miller (iconic American furniture company) as well as designed merchandise for The Rolling Stones. We also created our own original artworks, paintings, prints, sculptures and installations, which are exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. We do not distinct between art and design. We like to explore, express and communicate our ideas through different mediums. Our projects spans across art, design, publishing, fashion, music, film and interactive. We like to blur the lines and push the 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, sound and image.

PD: How did the opportunity to work with OCBC’s FRANK card come about?

:p: We met the OCBC team a while back when they were initiating the FRANK project. We were very happy when they approached us to pilot their artist collaboration series. It was a great opportunity to create something new and fresh that’s never seen in the market before.

PD: What inspired the limited edition OCBC FRANK card designs?

:p: It was inspired by our ‘NEW WORLD’ and ‘DAYDREAM NATION’ series of artworks. The artworks have synergy with FRANK’s brand values and ethos. The overarching theme was “Freedom to dream and explore the world”.

PD: This might be the first time a bank has collaborated with a design group. How do you feel about this? 

:p: We are really happy with the creative process and outcome of the project. We hope that it will push the boundaries of the way banks communicate with their audience and also pave the way for more interesting collaborations between banks and artists.

PD: Have any of the limited edition design cards been sold yet?

:p: We heard that the $1,000 one of a kind card was snapped out within a few days of the launch.

PD: Possible to share what :phunk is working on now or upcoming projects?

:p: We are currently working on a new series of artworks for a solo gallery exhibition in Taiwan next year.

PD: Assuming the world doesn’t end in 2012, where do you see :phunk ten years from now?

:p: Still rocking it from our armchairs!

PD: What are your thoughts on design in Singapore?

:p: It’s young and emerging, with a lot of exciting and interesting space for growth.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Find out more about :phunk, visit their website at

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