Interview: Snask

The Stockholm-based creative agency on the provocative nature of pink and questioning 'stupid rules'

Stockholm-based creative agency Snask likes to have fun. So much so, their company manifesto declares having great social skills is just as important as knowing how to spell. And their particular brand of fun is contagious; it seems with every project they launch or lecture they give, these Pied Pipers of parties are able to lure the industry in a new, atypical direction.

Fredrik Öst and Magnus Berg formed Snask in 2007 (partner Erik Kockum joined shortly after) in part because they saw the creative landscape as a place rife with convention. But they didn’t just put their name (which, we learned, means “candy and gossip and filth” in Swedish) in pink neon lights and label themselves as arbiters of the way forward. It’s the democratic way in which they view the world (starting with their own hierarchy-free studio) that makes this trio, and their work, stand out.

After seeing their talk at this year’s Design Indaba conference—accompanied by their musical side project, band VÄG—we wanted to know more about their spirited approach to doing things differently. Below is a snippet of our conversation with Erik Kockum and Fredrik Öst.

Right now you’re working on a project that is “going to the extremes to fight and talk about equal rights and feminism” within the fashion industry. But how do you see women perceived in the creative world?

Erik Kockum: Where we’re always trying to shout to make a difference is of course within the industry that we’re in, because the industry is really fucked up. It’s just run by old men, basically. That’s something that we experienced a lot when we started out. Some of these people we tried to meet up with in the beginning to see if maybe we could get some cool knowledge from them, but we quickly discovered that they’re these old men and they have a really conservative outlook on things a lot of the time. Not everyone, but most of them.

Fredrik Öst: The whole industry is ruled by old men, the whole structure—the whole hierarchy system—is made up by old men and controlled by old men. Like Behance, in our world, is the way forward, because that’s a forum where no matter your age, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender or your clients, you’re only based on your work. Nothing else. In industries, you are based on which people you know; if you’re a man, you earn more money, if you’re an older man, you have respect. All of this fucking bullshit that has nothing to do with the quality of design and creativity.

EK: But now it’s starting to change. We feel like it’s because of younger people taking over, starting to have the higher positions in companies and so the view of things is changing, hopefully.

Why do you guys like pink so much?

FO: Pink is a nice color, but also it has so much provocation for people. For some fucked up reason, people think it’s female, but just a few hundred years ago it was manly because it’s close to red and red is blood. Now suddenly it’s manly, but only manly if you wear it on your shirt. If you wear pants that are pink, or shoes that are pink, you’re “gay.” It’s just these stupid rules that no one ever questions, and we liked pink because it’s a nice color but it’s also a bit provocative and we wanted to mix it with gold.

EK: Especially in the beginning when we were pushing out our name and our brand, we were like, anti-macho. We could have gone black and white, because that could be nice too. But when we really saw how people reacted to this, and to the name too (in Sweden “snask” means candy and gossip and filth), you sort of get pleased about the reaction.

What happened when you reached out with your pink and gold logo?

FO: We got a lot of positive feedback from everyone. But as Eric said, the first five years, every one of our clients were female. Every single one, but from within every age group.

You spent time with Erik Kessels and Michael Wolff at Design Indaba. Are those two who get it right even though they’re older?

EK: We didn’t know how they’d be. We were actually scared, we thought it would go badly.

FO: Michael Wolff was surprisingly modern. He was extremely open, he talked a lot about sexism, equal rights, refugees and how it’s fucked up that we can’t help them. He’s 83 years old, and he’s a lot more modern than people I know. And Erik Kessels is just fucking crazy. He and his wife are extremely liberal, they’re total free spirits.

How do you convince more established brands to take risks with you?

EK: Talking about our work, it’s not like we just do it because it’s crazy. We don’t have this box of ideas that we just pull from. Of course we want to create stuff that makes a difference, but we always start from nothing with our client. We start with a strategy and talk about the brand, etc.

FO: They come to us because we do what we do, so in the beginning it’s very important to keep coming back to that. But we always have a rationale on why we’re doing these things. We fight a lot for our ideas and designs.

How did your band, VÄG, come into the fold?

FO: Erik’s been in bands all the time. These two other guys [Alex Norberg and Jackan Backström] had been around in other bands as well. So then they formed a band, but weren’t really playing the music they wanted to and had a really shitty name. I knew that they wanted to play rock’n’roll. So we [Snask] started a record label, signed them and changed the name. [Öst is their manager.]

When we need to be professional, we’re very professional. When we’re rock’n’roll, we’re really rock’n’roll.

How do you manage to keep the party going while getting the work done?

FO: We realized our strength was in two parts—professional (always deliver on time, deliver the highest quality of design and creativity in the world) and lifestyle (rock’n’roll, champagne, having fun, partying). We wouldn’t exist without the professionalism, but clients want to work with us because they also want the lifestyle of Snask. So when we need to be professional, we’re very professional. When we’re rock’n’roll, we’re really rock’n’roll.

EK: Recently we’ve been thinking that we really need to hire people that can party better than us so they can keep the brand promise up.

How much fun are you guys having?

EK: You can always have more fun.

Images courtesy of SNASK