Posted May 17th 2005 by

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An interview with
FONS SCHIEDONwords by , May 2005

Fons Schiedon is what can only be described as a mega-multi-disciplined designer. His work can be found on tv, in print, on the web and even across interiors. His clients include Nickelodeon and MTV and his recent series of 13 idents for Nickelodeon are loved by kids and adults alike. His is a strange world, so lets find out more…

Hi Fons, welcome to the world of Thunder Chunky. How do you do today?

Hi. I’m writing this sitting on a hotel bed in Reykjavik. I’m on vacation. So, I’m fine really.

Firstly, for those who haven’t seen your work, how would you describe yourself and your work?

I work within a couple of different media. Animation for tv, designs for print and web, editorial illustration and recently some visuals applied to interiors. It doesnt nescesarily share a common style or look, but there are some overall similarities…at least it’s always rooted in pop culture somehow.

Congratulation on completing the 13 idents for Nickelodeon, are you happy with how they turned out?

I’m especially happy with how they turned out as a series. The 13 of them all together work as a sequence of views of one imaginative world. Because the idents themself are so short, but each one unique in setting and approach, they suggest a context – a world around them. That context shows best when looking at a couple of them.

Of course I have my favorites. Some worked out better than others, and some are thematically or visually just more interesting. But since it’s not a personal project, but commisioned by Nickelodeon, I’m also happy about the project on that level. It’s really being liked by children, and as expected, everyone has their favorites.

Nickelodeon Ident

Nickelodeon Ident

My personal favourite out of the 13 is ‘My Big Head Is Full Of Upside-Down’¬ù, which is your favourite out of the 13, and which do you think has the most ‘Kylie-factor’¬ù?

My favorite would be the My Big Ride Is Full Of Bling. It’s the one with the green car going bump bump on a hiphop track. It’s actually a quite strange one in the series, because it’s lacking a narrative structure or a clue, which most of the others have. But I love the way the marriage between the sound and vision works out. I’m still kind of excited about the first ‘break’ where the beat stops and the visuals freeze. Whenever I show it to people, I still go ‘hmm, sweeeet’ when it gets there.

The Kylie factor. Shortly, that’s something I mentioned to describe the issue of identity versus the issue of renewal. In that light your favorite ‘My Big Head Is Full Of Upside-Down’¬ù and ‘My Big Robot’ would be the ones to be defined as ‘the most kylie’. Both of them originate in an improvised action during the shoot, and were given a context later on. The performance of the kids was so nice – and hardly directed, that I wanted to use the footage anyhow. I thought of something and tried to push it into something strange, yet convincing. Because they were not planned for, it actually gave me a great deal of liberty to go and edit it, and keep adding elements. I was searching for a form, reshaping it, changing, improving etc. This also made the process very interesting since it was like a snowflake tumbling down and catching more and more snow and growing into an avalanche. The first idea was: this girl is doing a handstand, and when she does it, the world turns upside down. Then I added the panda falling. I liked that creature, so I gave it an intro with another panda. Then I thought, it would be nice to turn it back as well…etc…

They still have a very loose improvised feel to it too – almost coincidental, which i really like.

There’s a massive variety of animation, illustration and film within the idents. Did you do most of it yourself or was there a team of people involved?

There was a live action shoot where a group of people were involved. I wrote a treatment and directed that shoot. After that I took the footage and worked on the designs, animation, miniature footage, editing etc… myself. It’s all desktop pc and cardboard you see.

For the music, I was happy to collaborate with Bram Meindersma, who did a great job on all the different flavours, from a technotrack to clubhouse to samba or whatever and back to hiphop. For two other idents the music was done by a duo called David Gilmour Girls.

Printvisie Calendar 2005

Printvisie Calendar 2005

What do you think are the most important things to remember when designing for kids?

I think it’s important to forget that you’re designing for kids. In a way.

Children are really open to a lot of things. They LIKE a lot and as long as you give them enough information and clues, they have no problem understanding or dealing with strange or unusual stuff. In fact, they’re often not bothered by the fact that they dont always understand everything. Adults do, but children pick out the things they like and that’s it.

Hmm, actually, I just do what I like and kids like what I like. I just have to take out the sexy stuff.

What do you think makes a good television ident?

What I like best is what these idents are like. It’s what MTV did a lot in the eighties and early nineties. It’s not so much defining or conferming the identity of a tv channel, but it’s expanding it. It’s an opportunity to find the outer areas of what a station is about. And by trying to stretch the idea of this identity, you’re again confirming it. Which is what a station ID is about.

You’ve worked in all sorts of areas of design. Are there any styles you simply cannot master, or any which you haven’t tried yet?

The thing with the styles is really organic. I won’t sit down and think that today is japanese popday with a touch of fifties americanimation on a palet of pastel colors. There are plenty of things that I can’t do, and don’t need to. And even more things I want to learn. But what I admire in other peoples work often has nothing to do with skills or anything. They’re not things that have to do with style – which is an overrated thing anyway. I could try and perhaps make something look like a Jeff Koons piece, or a Matthew Barney piece (if I try really really really hard), but that doesn’t get me anywhere. I’m interested in what my abillities are, and how I can make my own stuff better. Working for clients makes that often easier for me because it forces me to focus on a specific something. The work is evolving naturally, sometimes feelsing even beyond my control. It’s an ongoing learning process that shapes itself – and has it’s phases – and overall is getting better I think. I seem to recognise more about myself in what I do now, than – say – two years ago.

Illustration in Yoko Eno magazine

Illustration in Yoko Eno magazine

What do you think has influenced your visual style most over the years?

Internet has opened up a gateway to an immense variety of sound and vision. Access to all these different media from around the world is by far the most influencial. Still is. No exhibition or book can match that richness. I particularly find it inspiring that looking for something on the web always gets you somewhere else. I tend to collect whatever I coincidentally find – it’s often very appropriate.

What was the last cool thing you bought?

I found a pair of shoes that I’ve been wanting to have for a long time. They are these classic shiny black and white shoes – I think Kramer used to wear something like them on Seinfeld sometimes. They have a white piece of leather around the laces, and the rest is black. Beautiful. Now I’m still looking for a nice light colored suit ( i have a difficult size apparently).

If there was a FonzTV soundtrack, what would be on it?

It would have David Bowie, Senor Coconut covering Kraftwerk and Elvis Presley. Also the cover of Chris Isaaks Wicked Game by Pippilotti Rist. The Carpenters’ song ‘Superstar’ would be on it, played by Sonic Youth. It would have LCD Soundsystem going Yeah yeah yeah, XTC and Daniel Johnston. Something by Felix Tha Housecat maybe and an encore by Einsturzende Neubauten. I would have to put in Nirvana somewhere too.

Your friends, I Love Dust, are getting a bit too much positive publicity at the moment, do you have anything negative you’d like to add?

Yeah, those media horny bastards!

When you’re fed up designing stuff, what do you do to clear your head?

Go to the cinema. Eat.

Another Nickelodeon Ident

Another Nickelodeon Ident

What?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s on the agenda for 2005?

I’ve just finished two idents for MTVasia. I’ll go to Beijng for a while to work with my pal Neville on a short film concerning his project on the urbanisation of China (www.dynamiccity.org).

After that I will work on a exhibition space for a ceramics exhibition by one Dutch and four Senegalese artists. That’s about it that’s planned ahead.

Finally, what’s the one thing everybody should do today?

Give I Love Dust a prank call: +44 (0) xx xxxx xxxx (edited for legal reasons!)

Enter the mad world of Fons by visiting www.fonztv.nl.

POSTED BY Jon

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