“We love anything that screams chaotic”: Escape into a future fantasy with Fon and Fa Watkins
The London-based creative duo see their work as an adaptation of retro futurism. Here, they tell us about their inspirations, a couple of project highlights and more.
- Jyni Ong
- 10 June 2021
Fon and Fa are not your typical creative duo. As well as sharing a mutual creative vision when it comes to their art direction and graphic design practice, they also share a set of DNA as the London-based pair are also twins. Born in Thailand, they moved to the UK at the age of seven, and ventured to London where they’ve been since studying at Central Saint Martins. Having grown up with manga, anime and video games, “anything that’s almost super stylised,” Fa tells us, the twins have always been drawn to pulling narratives together. Creating unique worlds based on designed assets, Fon and Fa have worked with the likes of Converse, Nike, Fila (just to name a few) injecting such brands with copious amounts of futurism and fun, overlapping a multitude of disciplines from photography to 3D animation.
“There’s always a fantasy narrative to our work,” explains Fon, “this idea of being able to escape into another world or story. We enjoy the ability of directing a project to transport you into another realm through the build up of images, or creative graphics that are able to transport you by how it’s been drawn collectively into the space, and how it changes things once it’s in there.” With a hint of the surreal, the creative duo also draw from their Asian heritage and ground their work in Asian pop culture. In their Fila SS20 campaign for example, if you look close enough, you can see respectful nods to Akira and Fast N Furious. And in this way, Fa and Fon have a highly innovative method of transporting their collaborators into the story too.
When they work with models, the models are transformed into the main protagonists. By doing this, the viewer immediately gets a sense of what role they play – an important characterisation when telling a story. Then, Fon and Fa can match the styling, the art direction and so on, to the complimentary world that’s occurring before their eyes. When it comes to their graphic design practice on the other hand, Fa says “we’re not trying to do something that looks super high tech or clear”. Instead, they see their work as an adaptation of retro futurism. In other words: a vision of how the future has been perceived throughout history. “We love anything that screams chaotic,” adds Fon on the purposefully rough-around-the-edges aesthetic.
For Fon and Fa, there’s no sticking to grids, layout formats or conventional graphic design rules. Everything on the canvas is situated because they “think it looks good” and in turn, the twins see their practice more akin to a painter’s process as opposed to a designer's. Like a lot of painters, Fon and Fa are heavily influenced by nature, prone to using geometric patterns within natural forms along with organic time-lapse formed sculptures to evoke nature’s delicate balance and harmony. “We particularly love natural tones, texture and colours,” says Fa. “I think now more than ever we are all very much caught up in the digital realm and have been neglecting the world around us, so we’re taking in a lot of inspiration from the resources the earth has provided us.”
The creative duo talk us through a couple of recent projects, including one for yours truly for TikTok. Here, the twins struggled initially as the change from working on a large wide canvas to narrow portrait mode was a challenge. Another hurdle was creating 30 seconds of engaging content and, even though it sounds short, it “felt like a year” at points. To make matters harder, the TikTok demographic have notoriously short attention spans, so to create something that “provokes interest in every single frame” proved difficult. Despite this, this project turned out to be one of the twins’ favourites. “Sometimes I feel as if the more stressed you are on a project, the better the outcome might be,” Fon says looking back on the work.
Another project highlight is Fon and Fa’s project for Converse recreating the Chevron logo and making new assets around it. The project stood out for its exploration of materials, as the pair fixated with how chrome looks when printed on low quality paper. Adding a kind of “air brushed effect,” Fon and Fa liked the painterly illusion which seemed almost hand drawn. Referencing the buildings on Tracey Island from Thunderbird and 80s car ad posters, the pair experimented with a variety of textures to elevate the Chevron logo into another dimension.
As for the future, Fon and Fa hope to further develop their craft, develop their business acumen as well as their artistic ethos. With an inter-disciplinary practice, they’re always looking to be inspired by new mediums. The latest being glass blowing for its glossy transparent textures, something they hope to incorporate into 3D work or even set design sometime soon. “During lockdown, it was really hard to stay inspired and continue on our own creative exploration since we had a few commissions,” they finally go on to say. “So we definitely want to give ourselves some time to experiment more and allow the flow of natural design evolution to happen.”
GalleryFon and Fa Watkins (Copyright © Fon and Fa Watkins, 2021)
Fon and Fa Watkins: Converse SS20 (Copyright © Fon and Fa Watkins, 2020)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.