Words by Veronica Mike Solheim
The moment you decided to become a graphic designer, you probably pictured yourself working at a place so fun that you’d wake up every morning with a smirk on your face. A place where everybody was young, fresh and cool. All your clients were nice and they loved to do crazy stuff. The office was colourful, your desk was a mess and when you left work you went straight to the bar next door to have a beer or two with your colleagues, who by the way were also your best friends. And heck, you even played in a band together. Every once in a while, you would all do gigs with your design/rock & roll band. Everybody knew your name. Then you grew up and realized that the world is a different place. Unless you ended up working at SNASK.
Hi Snask! How was your first meeting with the world of design?
We got into this world with a mantra echoing in our heads telling us that we needed ten years of experience in the industry before starting our own agency. That no matter how good we were, we had to start from the bottom of a ladder built by a hierarchy created by grey, oldmen ages ago. These same men also created structures and theories that the world still swears by, with a few exceptions. We decided to try as hard as we could to not be a part of it and not play by those rules. Rules that in our point of view powerfully differentiate people and discriminate on class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age and more. So we started up fresh without any experience and decided to not be afraid of making mistakes but rather learn from them and by doing it this way create our own view of what’s a problem and what’s not and also how to solve them.
I think everyone (at least people working with clients) would be impressed (and jealous) of how much fun stuff you have in your portfolio. Do you handpick all of your clients or are you simply REALLY good at selling your ideas? What’s the secret?
Haha, wow, I think it’s a mix of everything. But we never put anything in our portfolio that we don’t think is great, no matter the size or credibility of the client. Customers want what you have in your portfolio so if you put shit in it, that’s what they will contact you for, and in the end you will end up gettingpaid less because you do shit work basically. Something else is that we fight extremely hard for our ideas. To us it’s very important and we know that even though we are not that great at most things, we do have knowledge and experience within design, branding and film. And most of the time the clients don’t. So, who should choose which logo is best? The one with education and experience or the one lacking both? And if so, should we apply the same to every other profession such as firefighters, architects, surgeons, rocket scientists?
I assume that ‘fun and play’ are a huge part of your workday. How is a normal work process for you?
Yes, it is. We started this company with the goal to create a vehicle to have fun. And ten years later it still is. But people tend to misunderstand this whole thing about play. You see, playing is good fun. And why ruin fun? We are brought up to believe that playing is childish and that we should act as grownups. Acting as grownups means being boring, strict and anal. Who invented this? Our first five years in the business we thought in every meeting that someone soon would call our bluff that we are not certain of anything. But one day we realized that every “grownup” person in every meeting thinks this and only acts grownup. They dress stiff and when they come home they dress comfy and complain about all the stiff colleagues at work. But hey, you play the same game. Playing grownup is actually one of the most childish things you can do. When it comes to our work process it starts with brief, de-brief, idea, concept, tonality and then this is translated into visual form and then every unit will be produced according to this.
You do a lot of self-initiated projects, on top of all the work you do for clients. How do you find the time and why is this important to you?
Because quite normally a client will fuck up the project. And when they do we probably won’t showcase it in our portfolio. But we will still make the money but also not get the satisfaction from it. So we then decide to use the money we earn on that project to finance a fun self-initiated one or buy a ping-pong table for the studio or throw a party. It then becomes much easier to do boring work that will only bring in money. Also, when you create something for yourself you’re the best client in the world who just says yes to everything and keeps adding to the budget. So, it will probably become a great case unless you fuck up insanely.
Five years ago you published a book called Make Enemies and Gain Fans, described as «the story of how we started to paint the world pink..» Is this the ultimate goal for you as designers?
I think so in a metaphorical way. Of course we love the colour pink and think the world needs a lot more of that. But as a metaphor we think pink is a colour of conflict and find it all very interesting. Men are allowed to wear pink shirts without having other men screaming at them about their sexuality. But if they wear pink pants it’s insane, unlessthey’re at a golf course. Men can also wear pink socks but if they wear a pink hat or pink shoes other men go nuts. Pink is a hue of red and red was sangre, or blood, back then and therefore a very manly colour. Another thing about that statement is that we want to spread our beliefs around the world. Tell people how we feel and what we think about it.
What’s creativity all about for you?
We believe that everyone is born creative, that it is society that then strangles you by all the rules and misconceptions about acting grownup. But we also believe that anyone can find their creativity very easily again, and most of the time through playing. We see branding in a very easy way. It can be compared to how you see a person you meet. The visual appearance but of course also how he/she walks, acts, speaks. What is said, how is it said, when is it said, etc.
«Our lecture destroys the myths about being “creative” as well as giving you our perfectly honest story about taking risks, fucking up and reaching success.» FUN! What kind of myths are you destroying?
Well, one is definitely the one we just mentioned, that creative is something that only a few people are. Calling yourself a creative is more about what you trained yourself into rather than having a birth-given gift. And anyone can train themselves to think creatively again. Another myth is that it’s great to be with a lot of people when creating. It can be true at some points, but most of the time too many people and too many meetings will just make it impossible to move forward. Some of the best forms of art, literature, music, etc., have been created by a single person in his/her own agony, not by a group of people calling themselves creatives.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken since the beginning of Snask?
Wow, tough question. Perhaps our whole approach has been a risk since the world is very slow and conservative. And being pink, bold and loud in that environment can easily turn into bankruptcy and zero clients. You need to be able to back up all the clowning and “funny” stuff that you do with high quality work and professionalism. Otherwise that approach can turn into a risk.
And the greatest fuck-up?
There are so many. We’ve sent the wrong file worth a lot of money to print, ending up paying shit loads for new print. We’ve broken up with one of our founders, which was extremely painful since we’re best friends. We based our studio in the poshest area of Stockholm and we get disgusted by posh people.
What’s the key to a happy life?
I have no fucking clue. We’re still trying very hard to find out. But something that everyone always needs is good and real friends. If you have that everything will become much easier to get over or achieve.
First published in Volume Eleven