Beyond cute: inclusive children illustrations by Fefus Designs
Fiona Morrison (who trades under the design name Fefus Designs), is a British-Jamaican illustrator and surface pattern designer. Her passion for Art & Design started at a very young age. After studying Fashion Design & Technology, Fiona went on to work in both the fashion industry & retail stores and has recently pursued her dream of becoming a freelance illustrator and designer.
Fiona’s style would be described as vibrant and cute with a strong emphasis on diverse characters, inspired by different ethnicities and cultures. She uses a mixture of hand-drawn and digital illustrations.
Fefus Design was born through Fiona’s observation of a lack of representation and diversity in popular characters and images reflected in children's fashion & merchandise.
Could you tell us the meaning behind your artist name, Fefus Designs?
Fefus was actually my childhood nickname. I decided to use this name to pay homage to the little Fiona and all girls of colour who didn’t see people that looked like them in the media, fashion and popular characters.
Tell us about your artistic background. Were you an “artsy” kid?
I’ve considered myself an artist all my life. My love for art started at a very young age. Being the youngest sibling and the only girl, I amused myself with art. This was my way of expressing myself.
Art is my meditation and therapy; it’s my quiet place where everything stands still and it’s a way for me to express my thoughts and feelings.
You draw mainly little girls or teen girls? Why is that? Was it always the case?
I’ve always been attracted to the kids’ fashion market, in particular the illustration and graphics of the products. My handwriting is very feminine and I guess that as a woman, I relate more to girls.
I found that in the fashion world, graphics representing girls were not diverse enough and usually aimed mainly at only one type of consumer - I wanted to challenge this.
I am currently working on boys’ illustrations and will be sharing them in the near future.
Your designs are unabashedly cute. Was it really important for you to put out something really positive in the world?
With so much negativity being projected on to girls/women of colour, I want to be the one to shout a little louder to say yes, we are enough.
My intention is to offer children of colour a choice and I passionately believe that this should no longer be seen as a privilege; I want to help it become the norm!
How did you develop such a distinctive style?
Hair is my main influence, especially afro hair. This has had a huge impact on my illustrations because hair is to important to many women of colour.
Whilst at uni I always drew my fashion illustrations with the biggest, expressive hair. There used to be this assumption that girls and women of colour couldn’t grow long hair and the natural hair movement has proved this wrong.
After returning to natural hair over four years ago, I started drawing my girls the way we should be represented. I also chose to represent them with big, expressive hair, to counter the false belief that black women can’t grow long hair. Girls of colour have so many unique features and I wanted this to come across in my work through skin tone, hair and facial features.
What do you think of the lack of representation in children illustrations / books?
I have always made an effort to buy products with children of colour for the children in my family. The internet has made it a lot easier to purchase these products, but I still think we have a long way to go!
Do you have a big goal that you would like to achieve as an illustrator?
I want to run my own illustration/design studio, specialising in supplying diverse artwork to the fashion, gifting, educational and editorial industries.
I would love to see my artwork being used in many of the high street stores and also illustrate a few kids’ editorials.