Jackson Tan shares origin story at Graphika Manila 2024

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Just like superheroes, artists also experience their own transformative moments that spark their creative journeys.

This is how Jackson Tan, Creator of Art-Zoo and Co-founder of design collective PHUNK, shared his origin story at Graphika Manila 2024, one of Asia’s biggest and most influential conferences on creativity, held from February 17 to 18 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

How it all started: The supercreative‘s origin story

Jackson shared that he discovered his “superpower” in kindergarten, during an art class where his teacher asked them to go outdoors to draw the garden. At the time, he was particularly fixated on the American TV series Superfriends, leading him to ignore his teacher’s instructions and draw the superhero group instead. Expecting to get scolded, the young Jackson found himself surprised when the teacher praised his artwork.


“I felt like I was Peter Parker, who got bit by a radioactive spider. It made me feel powerful and realized that I had found my superpower,” he exclaimed.

Not long after, Jackson filled in textbooks, jotter books, and any surface he could get his hands on with drawings of comic book characters and rock band logos.

Artists, assemble — the founding of design collective PHUNK

After graduating from LASALLE College of the Arts in 1994, Jackson, together with his “superfriends” Alvin Tan, Melvin Chee, and William Chan, shared a vision of starting a band — something that encapsulated the pop culture during the 90’s. However, Jackson jested that they were unsuccessful as a rock band, therefore evolving their group to PHUNK, the design collective we know and love today.

Keeping its punk and grunge roots, PHUNK created a visual identity that stood out thanks to its melting pot of influences, ranging from traditional Chinese folklore and Japanese manga all the way to Western pop culture.

Jackson then shared “Control Chaos,” one of the most memorable pieces PHUNK released, which was launched in New York in 2003. “Control Chaos” is a series of illustrations inspired by their childhood memories, Chinese mythology, and memorable landmarks like Haw Par Villa. It depicted heaven, earth, and hell, and reflections and imaginations of their environments and lived experiences at the time of its creation.

The power of the “little red dot”

Recalling his obsession with drawing superhero and rock band logos, Jackson featured one of his most popular works to date, the SG50 logo.

SG50 Logo

“One of the things we Singaporeans are constantly reminded of is how small our country is,” he shared. “If you look at the map of Asia, Singapore is just a little red dot.”

Turning this demeaning comment into something more significant, Jackson drew inspiration from iconic logos such as Milton Glaser’s “I Love New York” to create the SG50 logo — a symbol celebrating their country’s 50th founding anniversary.

A simple, red dot with the character “SG50” embedded in the middle became a memorable and influential symbol for Singapore and its citizens. The branding of SG50 quickly made it to various Singaporean establishments, merchandise, and public and commercial services.

Despite its simplicity garnering divided opinions from the public, Jackson took this as a compliment, stating that the logo is “so memorable that your 5-year-old child can easily draw it.”

Creating a world of art and play: Art-Zoo

Fueled by his vision of creating a colorful world that inspires curiosity and creativity, Jackson started his passion project called “Art-Zoo.” The brand is heavily inspired by his fond memories of visits to the zoo and animal-themed playgrounds he used to frequently visit as a kid.

Art-Zoo provides a lighthearted and family-friendly experience combining elements of play, learning, and storytelling. Jackson shared that since its installation at Marina Bay Park in 2017, the inflatable iteration of Art-Zoo has been visited and loved by millions.

Like superheroes, Jackson Tan’s journey proves that artists and designers hold the power to change the world — one creative work at a time.

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of Graphika Manila 2024.

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