Designer Olivia Fu’s whimsical characters and cutesy creations may not command attention the same way her idol Vincent van Gogh’s paintings do, but they project a subtle strength in their ability to enhance, without taking over, whatever product it is they are attached to — and there are a lot of products.
From major brands, such as Nickelodeon, to popular dining houses like Pancious and Singapore’s Xi Men Ding, Olivia’s designs have reached places many others in her line of work can only dream of.
Born in Jakarta, Olivia went into the freelance design business four years ago, after graduating from Pelita Harapan University’s visual communication program, She quickly made a name for herself with characters that have helped shape her many clients’ image. Her passion and forte is designing packaging; giving stale-looking packaging a new face that is more likely to catch people’s eyes.
With her particular brand of comic-like illustrations, it is no surprise that Olivia’s clientele include many names whose market is geared toward children and parents. The 26-year-old artist knows where her artistic strength lies and makes the most out of it.
“The way I draw my illustrations is my identity. People are able to instantly recognize my artwork from the way it is drawn,” she said. “Usually my characters are in the ‘adorable’ vein.”
Fittingly, those quirky characters are drawn in bright colors that ‘pop,’ which Olivia also considers her calling card.
“That’s also my signature: the way I compose the layout and playing with fonts and colors,” she said.
Olivia was inspired to go into design after one of her lecturers, Yongky Safanayong, taught her “why good design is essential.”
Her attraction to product packaging began during her college years. She saw this particular line of design as challenging and was enraptured by the need to create something that was both “visually attractive and functional.”
With design packaging “viewers get a chance to physically engage with the design, where they can touch and feel its texture and its weight. It is the perfect medium for a customer to have a real experience,” she said.
In addition to creating a great package, Olivia said she cherishes the unique challenges and different demands such as advertising components and including required information like barcodes or instructions booklets.
“Sometimes I need to adjust my style for the clients,” she said. “There are times when I need to create something that is very distinctive so I can inject a lot of my personality, and there are times when I need to adhere to a strict guideline.”
Perhaps unlike many other freelance designers, Olivia isn’t frustrated by the finicky demands of clients. Instead she often considers their ideas inspirational.
“They usually come to me with brilliant ideas,” she said without a hint of sarcasm. “And then we discuss how we are going to execute this. I really enjoy the process.”
For Olivia, the goal isn’t only to create a connection between her designs and the people viewing them, but also to make a personal connection while working on a project.
“The mood that I am after is a mood where I am emotionally attached to the project, to absorb and to execute it perfectly,” she said.
Her proudest moment came when she created Mai Pipo, the icon for the designer’s online shopping website. “I am proud because I poured my heart and soul into creating it from scratch and with a personality and background story,” she said.
Olivia has big plans for her designing career. “We are all forever always learning,” she says.