LIFE IS WITHOUT DOUBT LIVID 💖 PINK IN the world of Fredrik Öst – self-proclaimed Dr of disturbance, disruption and disobedience and founder of Snask – who really know how to challenge the outdated idea of what a design studio could be in an unrelenting passion for making, craft and mischief. As well as working for clients like Spotify, they have their own beer, record label, signature pink bicycle, they put on rock shows rather than stale lectures, in 72 hours wrote an honest and amazing book Make Enemies & Gain Fans and have new a line of Merchandise anyone would die for! The new world order really is Snask.
We met Freddie at Art School, Rebecca was a student and I was a tutor teaching the course Freddie was attending. Our collision happened in the weirdest of locations (CARLISLE) a place that was alien to Freddie and us. It was in this time that Snask and GRRR came to life; what else would they be but a shadow of the darkly–lit tragic comedy musical, with its bizarre ancient rituals and hilltop campus of the CIA. We caught up with Freddie to talk about life, creativity, conservatism, fuckups, love and death, and all things Pink.
INTERVIEW— Transcribed from an email conversation. There is a full list of links at the foot of the page in the Notes.
Glen: I feel lucky to be able to say that I have known you for some time, Freddie, we met in the city of Carlisle (a place described in the opening chapter of Make Enemies & Gain Fans as England’s arsehole) which, to be fair, is accurate. Like Snask, GRRR passed through the bowels of Carlisle and in some ways the underlying energy of not giving a fuck about what people might think has been a provocative catalyst for me. I’m going to be honest, at the time I was a newbie tutor and your influence (tbh all the Swedish students) provided a much-needed kick in the balls and has made me the tutor I am today.
I am keen to start in Carlisle because origin stories are important, I can’t believe it was 15 years ago - FUCK 🤯
Freddie: It warms my heart to read this start of our conversation. It makes me blush to get such fine words from a person I deeply respect and admire. You were my tutor and an inspiration during my student years. You were part of helping us lay those first bricks to what would become the foundation of the madhouse that is Snask.
We have indeed known each other for a great number of years and it feels cleansing to have travelled through the bowels of Carlisle together. It might seem that we resent that city but it’s not true at all. We love the people (not all, in fact far from all) living in it, walking in it and dwelling in it. But truth be told it’s not the most picturesque city on the British islands and the harsh climate (not the weather) made Snask what it is. If Carlisle hadn’t been this way during our years there, we wouldn’t have experienced the real England and we have drawn a lot of inspiration in the deepest soul of Snask from that world. 15 years ago. Fuck indeed.
Glen: I agree, Carlisle is filled with wonderful memories that remind us it’s who you’re with that makes life happen. I couldn’t wait to leave. I remember at Midsommar you, Jonas and Joanna asking me not to leave 🤩 some things are meant to be. With hindsight, I am aware I had a serious quantity of facial hair (see egg evidence) but I am still not sure being regularly taunted by kid-chavs for walking down the street minding my own business is acceptable conduct 😭.
Freddie: Chavs. They are a species only existing on the British islands. Like Koalas in Australia but with farr more yapp and aggressiveness.
Annual Egg Flinging Project Crit – Cumbria Insitute of the Arts, Carlisle.
Midsommar 2005 – LC-A Lomograph
Glen: One of my favourite stories (analogue evidence provided) is being invited to Midsommar by Anders and discovering how many connections there are between our cultures (I am from Suffolk, a regular landing place for visitors). Seeing my first midsommarstång and små grodorna sort of awakened a memory (I have written an unpublished novel about it now) and ever since GRRR regularly celebrate festivals like the Summer Solstice with greater intention. What does Midsommar mean to you and how did you celebrate it this year?
Also, back then did you have a pair of lucky pants (underpants) and socks, and what did they look like? (Drawings are an acceptable answer.)
Freddie: Midsommar to me means to get together with the closest of friends and celebrate summer. I don’t really care about the hedonistic and pagan history of it all. It’s for sure fun and beautiful to build the midsommarstång and dance around it. But I don’t see it as putting my seed (nor others please) in the ground to fertilize. In the same way I don’t think about Jesus being born on Christmas, I was first blinded by all the gifts and now I’m blinded by the blissful enjoyment of spending time with close ones. I do think of Jesus dying and resurrecting on Easter. Not because I feel sorry for him, more because I either choose not to believe in the story, or I choose to believe that zombies are real.
For sure I must have had lucky underpants and socks but I can’t really remember them. They tend to wear out, understandingly. But since I was a student back then I didn’t wear Prada or Maserati briefs. So it was probably Topman or Debenhams slightly washed out and in a spectacular color combination. I was experimenting a lot with clothes back then and hadn’t really found out that less can be more. When it comes to socks I’ve been mostly wearing black socks during my entire adult life.
So happy to have started this and I would like to ask you a question as well. What was your honest opinion or view on me, Petter and Magnus? I’ve heard from Tony Peart (one of our other tutors) that we were mischiefs and that there was a love and hate relationship with us from his side. That we were talented but spent more time organising club nights and concerts than schoolwork! Hahaha!
Glen: I only have positive things to say – I was sad for Magnus and his dispute with the course leader, Rebecca remembers sitting outside at Brampton Road consoling him. I thought Magnus was a committed disciple of normcore fashion and probably a pioneer in this regard. His Manatee music packaging for Motive Sounds was an amazing piece of print and design. Petter was a genius and two things stick in my mind; those marble wash skinny jeans and the time he ripped someone to shreds in a group crit (in the small room next to the office) because of their lack of ethics. Nikes were mentioned. Petter’s project was about the artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Petter was imaginative and I loved his illustrations. Freddie, I remember white skinny jeans probably with studded belts and how you always had the ability to slip a fuck or fucking into most sentences or projects, the editorial about Handlebar Moustache’s pull quote ‘Fuck you you fucking fuck’ for example. Lost Systems was another lovely piece of print for Motive Sounds, that collaboration always produced great design work.
Freddie: Hahaha amazing. I love the idea that Magnus was an early instigator to normcore fashion. Yepp, that’s Petter for sure, still today. WHAT haha, did I wear white jeans? How the hell did I pull that off? I probably didn’t, I don’t remember. Denial, it’s a beautiful thing. Yeah, fuck for some reason was just a way for me to put emphasis on something. I realised later that I must have come across as a teenage dirtbag.
HON, 1966 – Niki de saint Phalle
The Caravan Project – Peter Johanson
Glen: I think we can quote Prince here: ‘If you didn’t come to party don’t bother knocking on my door’ if you’re not organising parties, especially when a student, or for that matter going to parties, then there is something really wrong. We have (in the past mostly) had some epic house parties and I bet you did too. Sally (poster above) was a practice run and I don’t see it as not studying – that would imply it was easy to organise a club night (in Carlisle), or help rebuild a caravan and drive it around Sweden! Be honest, what was the work slash party spilt? I think while I was at art college it was 50/50 but always in favour of party.
Freddie: Work vs Party, hmmm. I think it was around 50/50 yeah. But when do you have time to have fun and be free if not in your student years eh? I can miss times when things weren’t that serious (only setting the foundation of your own career for the rest of your life probably).
Glen: Ultimately we get what we put into any situation. I personally love it when students make it happen for themselves (combine creativity and passion) to scare people with their sheer beauty. For me the education you gained in Carlisle was partly learning about design and part happening, do you think it’s the side of your brain where ideas come from?
Freddie: Perhaps, I strongly think that education, at least how it’s built up today, is only a part of your profession. So much has to do with social skills, pedagogy, rhetoric, empathy, teamwork, etc. Very few individualists ever make it in our industry.
Glen: Freddie I have a very visual memory and can picture the time you shocked year 1 students (as year 2 students) with your choreographed welcome address — which means I have the mental image of your pelvic thrust – how long did that routine take to perfect? Your ability to make life more performance was joyful. Do you think people like Sagmeister paved the way for the kind of hybrid design thinking Snask plays with today (where you become an actor and play a part in the design outcome) or does it have Swedish origins? When you started making films it made complete sense – I watch OFFF Lille quite often! What’s your role in the creative process?
Freddie: My God. I didn’t know you had such a good memory, Glen. I kind of regret this now haha. I guess I had been practising those moves during my 13 weeks on the Greek island Cos. Nothing from that trip ever makes it into my CV for some reason. Sagmeister might have paved the way in some sense and I do think that the designers before us that put 110% of themselves and their own engagement into their work have influenced us a lot. It definitely has nothing to do with Sweden, that’s for certain.
Amazing, I love the OFFF Lille film. We had so many ideas that we didn’t know what to do. In the end, we found an amazing location and let it put the framework for the entire story. I’m more strategic and in the idea and concept phase. I see myself less and less in the execution phase. Probably a consequence of running your own company.
Glen: Happy Friday 🥳 Freddie. My year 3 students had an assessment deadline today (on Friday the 13th). Do you have any wise 🧙 words for them you can share?
Freddie: Nice! Friday the 13th, big day for sure. Well, since they are graduating in the worst times ever and we’re in a very depressing time of the year (when everything dies and it’s just getting darker, colder and more and more “upside-down-world”. Wise words would be, work on your portfolio. You won’t have time as soon as you get a job. You will be happy at first getting a salary and start of your career, but you will soon realise that you very seldom produce things you want to put in your portfolio. You will wake up 10 years later, dependent on a salary, and with a portfolio that you either don’t want to show or that your boss won’t allow you to show. I know so many designers that wish they had worked on their portfolio before their first big career move. You will have, pardon my French, “all the time in the world”, to do this since the job market looks pretty harsh right now. So in order to see your glass as half-full instead of half-empty, you should see this as a chance to do self-initiated projects where you are your own client, and that way have total creative freedom and push your portfolio. This way you might not have to take the career stairs once you get your first job but rather take the elevator because your portfolio is much better.
Glen: I like the Batman reference in the Chapter Make Enemies, It’s Great, I also think the villains are so much more tangible. I saw a clip of Affleck saying his superpower was being rich. I think even Ben wanted a villain to slap him with a wet fish at that point. Enemies give us purpose but it’s important they don’t overpower our true nature. I’m not talking about forgiveness. Fuck that. I am keeping count though. Ben Affleck, not Batman (that has to be stressed). We’ve made enemies of the chav, but you’ve dealt them a blow with the As Cozy as Kitten's film which flips their bulldog image on its tail. I loved that film being a cat person (there are talking cats in my book). We’ve also called out the son of god and Sagmeister.
Freddie: Ben haha, my lord. Yepp, I agree. There are very few worse Batmans. Yeah, it’s true. You should never let the enemies overpower you or let hate take you over. Enemies will help you project yourself towards the opposite, and finding that opposite of your enemy will be your vision and goal. It will take you as far away as your arch enemy’s value as possible.
Glen: I also enjoyed watching your lecture when you talked about making enemies. Are you still making enemies or have you mellowed? and are there people you wouldn’t let Snask work with or for, following the G incident? Next time you will kick them out when it happens but it’s worth realising you evolved just like with the chavs (a grown man should never ever, ever ride a child’s bike in Carlisle).
Freddie: We are still making enemies. We still hate conservatism and we strongly believe that change isn’t optional anymore, but a constant you need to get used to. We fight conservatism in every meeting and every situation. We think it’s fucked up that there hasn’t been a #meetoo in our industry when all we hear from conferences is that so many old men that are called “genius” and “design gurus” openly demand “new girls in my room every day”. Some conferences choose then to never book them, and it makes us wonder what the conferences that do book them promise them. We know that parts of our industry is very hierarchical, and in those hierarchies, it’s mostly men that are called “creative geniuses” and women become their assistants. There must be so many #meetoo’s out there and I wish that one day we will be able to open that door and call out and throw out everything that’s rotten.
Glen: It upsets me greatly to hear about design gurus requesting “new girls in my room every day” and it sounds like a #metoo moment is on the horizon. History has seen many artists and designers who are women being marginalised in the story of our subject. A great example is surrealism which is dominated by the likes of Salvador Dali (creator of the Chupa Chup Brand), but female surrealist artists like Dorothea Tanning have a greater depth and soul. Search surrealism and you will nearly always see male artists work on blog posts — a change is necessary in all ways. It’s part of our GRRR. I try really hard to see both sides but men tend to fuck it up and not in a good way and sometimes it seems intentional and sometimes not. Going full circle on my mention of Sagmeister, which was an innocent question, is exactly the fuck up I am speaking of. Fuck! 😭
When you talk about conservatism what do you mean?
I come from a pretty conservative country and time. I wasn’t allowed to wear earrings and then only in certain ears and not both. Rules! Being eighties I had a blue teddy bear earring that my school teacher demanded I remove. If we are talking about it in the design industry old standards like not paying interns is still an area that needs constant vigilance. Or working late or not sleeping until you bleed type for the client. I have experienced this side of the industry and don’t recommend it. Now I am more likely to suggest Gremlins as essential graphic design research than an all-nighter.
Freddie: Yes, there is still so much rot we need to get rid of in this world. Unbelievable really. Lack of empathy being one. Men calling out women for being drama queens because they have “too much emotions” while men incapable of showing or communicating emotions are probably one of the biggest threats to our society and planet.
Conservatism in regards to everything that refuses change for the sake of it. If you want to keep something “the way it’s always been” I think you need to choose a date in history. Without a precise date and year, it’s hard to know what anyone means with that statement of conservatism. Should we decide that everyone who came to the British Islands before the 1200th century is full-on British? Or should we say before christ was born? Is “American” also the history of the native Indians living there before the Europeans crossed the ocean? Or is America what the Europeans decided? Or is America what it is today at this very second this sentence is read? Can you really say that one moment in history was so good that we need to conserve the way it was when all we see is that change is constant and development is a result of change.
When it comes to our industry I hate everything conservative. We need to stay on top of change and understand that it’s not optional. Overtime and working late is conservative. One of the biggest regrets of people laying on their deathbed is having worked too much and not having spent enough time with loved ones. This is not something new and thus having a rich private life full of friends and loved ones and giving them your full presence should not even be considered as “new”. It’s natural.
Glen: Art schools are required to measure success in narrow margins like the number of zeroes on a pay-check. I have raised thoughts that success might be measured with new metrics that the graduates decide (it’s their life) – support for ideas like this are sometimes stifled. You talk about redefining what success might be in the chapter When you die: Deathbed should be fun. How would you measure success as Dr. Öst?
Hierarchy, it’s all I talk about some weeks, I mean type hierarchy but you’re right we really shouldn’t go there. I do get to indulge that urge as a tutor which is funny because I can’t stand hierarchy in life and I really hope my students see that!
Freddie: Yeah, success is completely subjective. And it can also change with you as you develop through life. But it’s almost never any of these three: money, power and titles. Those three are toxic and will only make your judgement cloudy until you go blind and turn into a monster. Follow your heart is probably the easiest but also most true advice you can give yourself.
Freddie: Tell me about what you think of our book. Are there more parts than the chapter about Carlisle that you recognize from our student years?
Glen: Freddie, I can see you saying yes to fun rather than no as a student more than Magnus. I don’t doubt Mr. Crayon instigated and was a bad arse. Do you still practice the principle of saying yes today and does everyone at Snask? I have noticed you tattoo interns and have a ‘V’ society, are you allowed to explain?
Freddie: Haha yes that was probably the case, at least when we started out. Yes was a big thing for me, but it was also a way for me to get affirmation and acknowledgement. To be there for others and jump on every opportunity. It has for sure been valuable for me. But the problem was that I’ve always had a hard time asking others for help. So while I was always being available for others, feeling needed, I never asked others for help which deprived them of feeling needed by me. I learned this too late, unfortunately. But when it comes to saying yes to everyday situations, or tattoos, I’m all for it. And I think everyone at Snask feels the same, even though we all have our own boundaries. Yes, we tattoo interns haha. It’s a very fun tradition. When it comes to the V-society we were a bunch of nice people hanging out in Australia for a week. We really got to know each other and at the end of the week, we decided that we would all five get the same tattoo, a V for Five (we became six in the end but who cares).
Glen: One of the people that changed my life was half Swedish, probably Swenglish, he called out one of England’s other arseholes ‘Lowestoft’ for what it was and I escaped its grip by saying yes to something I would have said no to, probably. What was the last thing you said yes to that hit the spot like a dream and the last time it was a total fuck up? For me saying yes led to a total fuck up and that fuck up eventually led me to Rebecca. Now we are GRRR 🌈
Freddie: Last time I said yes to something that was like a dream was to move to Gnesta, which is a tiny village 35-60 min out from Stockholm (sounds crazy to Londoners but it’s far for us Swede’s). It’s in the countryside and at the end of the train line. My girlfriend grew up here and she wanted to move back. At first, I was very hesitant. Gnesta isn’t even considered a suburb of Stockholm. This is something I’ve come to realise is part of its charm. Most suburbs become dead because no one stays there to wine, dine and socialise. They all go into the city instead, leaving the suburban centre dead. Gnesta is far enough so people stay here, meaning that you run into people all the time and you quickly get to know everyone and become part of the community. But, I had gotten used to preaching that I wanted to live in the neon lights of a city where everything happens all the time. So it took me some time to realise that it made me stressed and what I actually needed was a place where nothing happened and that I could choose to go where things happen if I need to. But my home is in the nothingness and close to nature. So my friends ask me, “Gnesta? WTF happens in Gnesta?”. And the answer is nothing, and that’s what’s brilliant.
When it comes to the last time I said yes and it went to hell is every time I say yes to that last beer when you already decided to go home. It’s so fucking stupid and it won’t help at all the next day and it’s not even enjoyable. We all know that the first beer is the best and the last should never be had.
NICE! Yes, fuckups lead to good things. A life that is perfect and goes according to plan is a boring life that no one would want to hear a story about. Life is full of mistakes, fuckups and breakups. And it’s called life. Life’s twists and turns are what make it everything else than a boring story. Who wants to read a book about a person’s life when everything went great all the time? Fuckups are essential.
Glen: I think it’s funny that we haven’t talked about graphic design. I wonder what the prestigious design journals of the world would think, I can’t imagine them wanting to publish it. Not that it’s my goal but if you hear of a mega-rich brand (preferably vegan) that wants to take out a back page ad in our magazine that features you, I hope they say yes.
Freddie: Graphic Design, it doesn’t have to be central I think. Talking about typography, colors, composition, etc has never made me hot. There are so many other things to speak about with another human being that is far more interesting. Imagine comparing two conversations over a beer. One is about Helvetica, the other about someone’s mistake or recent fuckup. One is so fucking boring that you would go and check the branches if they were thick enough for your weight with a rope in your hand, the other sparks joy and energy.
Glen: Snask seems to have a different way of thinking about work-life balance, was this a painful lesson and what advice do you have?
Freddie: It wasn’t painful for us to realise this. But we started when we were young and single and had no one else to think about than ourselves. And we worked for ourselves so we didn’t have a boss. Which made it easier to work some evenings. But life soon hit us and we understood that life isn’t to work or have an agency. Life is life, just like Opus said it. Keep it simple stupid.
Glen: You have a strong group of people at the moment. People cross borders to work with you and Erik – I remember reading you were voted number 1 destination for interns and you have a 2-year waiting list. What do you think sits at the heart of this love for you?
Freddie: Yes I love our people. They are the ones that make everything happen here. The reason why people would love to work for us is partly because we have a decent portfolio, without it, people would only see us as clowns. But because of it, we can then have a very playful brand and company culture that resonates with people. We also voice our opinions loudly and we hate the conservative world. Most agencies don’t even dare to speak up for Black Lives Matter or the environment. That means they are afraid and spineless and believe that if they stood up for something in their life people would dislike them or their company and it would be bad for business. As you can read it’s all BS and this is why they will be left behind as long as they don’t realise that change isn’t optional but inevitable.
Glen: Is Snask merch and products about creative autonomy? Or is it your way of painting the world pink, like a planetary take over?
Freddie: Snask merch is our way to express ourselves and have fun, just like all the rest of our self-initiated projects. We get something fun out of it. But also we of course want to spread our message around the globe!
We are SNASK and we are your future romance. A creative agency of misfit geniuses conquering the world through fine lookin’ design and real emotions. To worry about what people think of us is a waste of time. As long as we stay true to ourselves, we are living our dream. We see love as the only way forward, and we will never sell out or abandon our values. Standing up for our opinions and beliefs is the only way we know. We walk with our backs straight on the path to pursuing our truth. With one foot in front of the other, we seek to challenge conservative frameworks. We are doctors of disturbance, wizards of disruptions and spokesmen of disobedience. We assume the responsibility to stay engaged, give a damn, and strive for empathy. There is a short word for this assumption of responsibility: love.
Glen: What does Pink mean to you?
Freddie: Pink for us means a lot. But mostly it means to be free. To Stay Pink means to us to stay the way you are and the right to be whoever you are, truly inside yourself. Your right to stand up for yourself and show the world exactly who you are. That’s probably our strongest meaning of Pink.
Glen: I like Pink as meaning freedom from something bland. When I look at your work I fall in love with the colours and the attitude is unreal in the way I wish life was every day. There is coherence and flamboyance. What can you say about colour – what is the magic secret?
Freddie: The magic secret about colour is to keep it simple. Simply create what you think looks fantastic. Because colour theory is in my view bullshit. At least when it comes to branding. The only thing to consider is to not choose a colour of a competitor and also to own the colour you choose in the end. The rest is just mumbo jumbo. Like red, being a warning color by nature and thus it’s dangerous. If it was actually true people wouldn’t drink coca-cola from a red can or fly with Virgin’s red airplanes. Also red means blood, love, anger, passion, royal, etc. It’s simply very subjective and also heavily bound to a situation. Blue means the sky, cold, water, right-wing politics in Sweden, left-wing politics in USA, being depressed, death in China and so forth. And this is the magic secret, there is no complex theory or method, simply use your eyes you were born with and choose colors you think look aesthetically pleasing, and if the client hates it, swallow your pride and choice of colour (it’s subjective anyway) and change to a new one.
Glen: The idea of Pink Lies, Better than White Ones is something that you definitely had as a student. I might have to contact George to see if he can introduce me to some important people! Has he been up to any mischief lately? I was 11 when Wham blew up and obviously instantly loved George (everyone did) – he has shown us the dark side of conservatism and rapped against the system way back in 1983 with Wham Rap. In fact, reading the lyrics there is a cross-over with Snask philosophy?! Care to explain?
Freddie: George sadly passed to the aftermath as we know. But he continues his work and duty for us. He’s for sure up to no good most of the times. Rumour has it he’s drinking gin n juice. Regarding the cross-over between him and Snask philosophy, it’s mere chance. We never saw him as a hero nor the person standing on the barricades against conservatism, we learned that much later. So any cross-overs are just luck! About pink lies it’s now so accepted that this woman wrote a book about it from the same meaning as we created back in the days: Pink-Lies-Haley-Todd-Kitts-ebook It warms our hearts that these books exist (there’s a sequel) and we own a copy of each.
Glen: You are right that conservatism must be thrown out, especially conservatism at work (bureaucrazy) and working too hard or too many hours is one of its filthy tricks. There is also another bad meme that is (less) common – we must all use creativity for dirty work to pay the bills (maybe it’s wet work – I am not sure how to describe being creative for McDonald's) and then they say this work (that destroys the planet we live on) makes it possible for a studio to take on fun work or projects that make a difference – new designers are often told this story. I get the feeling Snask wouldn’t think like this – what would you say to designers in education about this?
Freddie: I think we actually used to think like that. That dirty work or paid boring work would pay for fun work or projects. Now we’re more mature and secure in ourselves and of course, also have the opportunity to say no to clients. I think it’s important to understand the responsibility a graphic designer has. We are the filter and if shit comes through it’s also stuck on us.
Glen: I have noticed you have a thing about hats, they suit you - is this George again (see evidence below). How many do you have and when did this start?
Freddie: Haha I love hats. I have at least 5 now. It’s crazy, don’t start. Hats are like shoes, once you start caring about it they suddenly empty your wallet faster than you can say, cowboy. I think it started 2 years ago. I didn’t want to become that “hat guy” but here I am, dirty, ashamed and fucking brilliant.
Photo by Michael Putland
Glen: Freddie it sounds you are in love (moving to the wilderness), what is the story?
Freddie: Yes, I love the calmness. Where nothing happens. I’m moving away from having work as a big meaning of my life into having life as the big meaning. Basically, I don’t want to live to work, I want to work to live. When I die I don’t want to regret not having said I love you to enough people, or that I worked too much, or that I didn’t spend enough time with close and loved ones. And putting work or career ego in front of life will most likely result in me having those anxieties. Moving out from the neon and into the nothingness and nature truly helps me to stay grounded as well as present. I strongly see that I wasn’t really present for a lot of years. My focus was on my ego, my narcissism, my career, my work basically everything that boosted my ego and gave me fast kicks. I’m now moving away from that into longterm sanity and in that sane world neon lights (in the metaphors of big city life) won’t make the cut. I need the calmness to be a better person for a lot of reasons and people but first and foremost for myself. Does that mean I’m back to ego haha? Perhaps, but most probably a more sane ego that understands its fails and cracks.
Glen: I liked the quote from Leif GW Persson “Everyone takes risks, tries bad stuff and does stupid things when they are young, those who don’t, have a serious problem.” I’m really keen to know how you found design, what was young Freddie’s inspiration to be bold and create?
Freddie: I’m not really sure where I found my creativity. I think it was always there, a wild fantasy. But then again we are all born with creativity, society then strangles us to be “grown-up” meaning that we shouldn’t dream, fantasize and play. I hate that. When it comes to authority I always had a problem with it. It culminated when I did my military service that is built on hierarchy and authority figures. I revolted against it in there but it only made me rise in the ranks or gave me more responsibility. I think that’s where I put down my foot to go against everything that is conservative. Because in my opinion, nothing conservative can be good. Every progression (that doesn’t go against human rights) is good and needed and has always been needed for the development of humanity. Perhaps we’re on the brink of self-extinction, yes, but I wouldn’t say that conservatism wouldn’t have taken us here as well.
Glen: It’s good to hear you have made it back to nature, it’s an area of understanding that is desperately lacking - education and reverence for nature is our only way forward. Have you taken part in any protests for climate change? My cardboard placard simply reads Emergency Planet Earth.
Freddie: Yeah, nature is for sure something that simply can’t be overlooked. Just walking into a forest makes it so much easier to stay present, something that most other things in our digital life work against. Yes, we have marched in the Greta Thunberg protests with hand-painted signs for example. It’s very interesting that people care a lot about climate change yet vote with their wallet in mind, not the environment. I think that’s kind of crazy. For sure some environmental parties have failed in their communications etc, but there are so many efforts going on about this and still, people go and vote for a system that benefits them financially rather than voting for a healthy world for their kids and grandkids to grow up and live in.
Glen: By the way, I agree with you on colour theory, like a lot of theories they can easily fall apart when reason and common sense are applied. Colour is always going to mean different things to different people and cultures, and that’s without even talking about people who see (or taste or feel) colour differently. I would say learning how to mix colour with inks or paint is a more productive use of time, if anyone wants to develop a deeper understanding. Because colour is essentially energy, it is possible for colours to have different energetic qualities. Have you heard about the Drunk Tank Pink theory? It would seem in this theory pink would weaken, but for Snask it seems to strengthen. Sorry to bring you back to shop talk!
Freddie: Wow, more colour theory. My favourite topic to bash! Here it goes and sorry for ranting:
Yes haha, I’ve heard about the Drunk Tank Pink-theory. But I think it doesn’t really add up. I don’t oppose his results even though I’m not certain about the scientific level of his methods. But what I react to is the parameters he uses. Like how men could even “lose their strength” when being in a pink confined space. What does that mean? I guess he only means muscle strength, strength that isn’t strong in itself until someone uses it in a way that is truly strong. Because what is strong, that’s the question we need to ask ourselves. To me, to you and to the world as well as what should strong mean? Should it be about the size of muscles? Then women will mostly be weaker than men? And men that are not going to the gym will be weaker. Or is it about the effectiveness of the muscles? Like a pro athlete that doesn’t have big muscles but extremely useful muscles, like comparing a bodybuilder to a cross-country ski athlete. Or should strong actually have nothing to do with bodies at all? And instead, we should ask ourselves, if Pink as a color, in confined spaces, actually made men stronger in the sense that they could easier control their impulsive aggressiveness and temper and gain more self-control and patience? If someone becomes more empathic and loving in a pink room and can see and feel other people’s emotions much clearer and also open up and give more to others, I think most people would say that that person became stronger. In this way, the parameters and the values that the person creating the experiment inherit will affect the results. It’s the same way AI works. If a person creating an AI that is going to target criminals through cameras on drones the AI needs to know what criminals look like. And the person creating it will then put in traits that for certain will be racist and stereotypical (actually happened in Germany during the world cup 2006).
Freddie: Colour is also heavily influenced by the culture and the times we live in. Pink used to be seen as a male colour because it is related to red. Red is sangre, blood, and blood is royal and only powerful men were allowed to wear red and tints of red. It’s not like people would have called Jesus gay if he wore a pink robe. And it’s not like blue has always been seen as a male colour. It’s just western mumbo jumbo that was invented some hundred years ago when brands started to sell clothes and accessories to babies and children. Pink is a colour that society made up that men can’t wear because then their sexual orientation is not hetro. But then suddenly men were allowed to wear them as smart shirts and be seen as trendy like Beckham but God forbid if they wore pink pants instead of shirts. Unless you’re a golf pro, then you can play golf with pink pants and still be heterosexual. But NOT if you would wear pink on your woolly hat or your sneakers, then you’re gay again. This only shows how fragile and irrelevant the theory of colour is and how easily manipulated we are from norms that society creates around colours.
Phew! That was long. But it’s a hot topic that I love to talk about because to me it doesn’t make sense. The same way that ghosts don’t make sense. It’s always an old man or lady or a child walking around in nightgowns from the early 1900 or late 1800s. You never see a hot, young person walking through your room half naked or in a cool outfit from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s etc. And ghosts are always angry, never happy or friendly. It’s because they died in such agony and that’s why they became ghosts. Well, then Omaha beach would be drowned in ghosts whose lives were taken drastically, violently etc. Then dogs and cats can be ghosts, but not cows unless you’re in India. Also, there are no Neanderthals running around. And ghosts tend to stick in houses, but what happens when a house is torn down? Does the ghost “fall down” on the ground and run around freely or is it stuck in a now invisible house 3 meters up in the air? I can go on forever but yes, it’s another topic that to me most of the time doesn’t make sense. If people talk about energies in a room or similar I can buy it, but not if a child or an old man walks in a hallway screaming at night.
Glen: I love your answers! You are right we have our ideas of strength all wrong, the tough guy of American movies has to be discarded for a more engaged attitude for masculinity. My hero in this regard is the musician Prince. My dad was a tough guy and even as a boy, I found this unappealing. Strength comes from collaboration, sharing and giving.
Freddie: I couldn’t agree more! There are many heroes like Prince when it comes to showing another side than the toxic masculinity we’ve been brought up to live with. David Bowie is another one! Both most probably had other issues but they were definitely role models in terms of going against the norm.
Glen: It seems, Freddie! you and Erik are dreamers, I liked how you said your creativity is “a wild fantasy” and that play and dreaming should be at the centre of any creative ambition (I totally agree). It seems you have found a partner with equal audacity in Erik – do you have a strong connection?
Freddie: Yes we are dreamers haha. Yes me and Erik have now been running Snask for over 10 years, with the same idea of dreams and fantasy being the leading inspiration for what we create. I think that directs us much more than trends and I think it’s hugely important to Snask.
Glen: Looking back over the past 13 years which projects are you most proud of?
Freddie: I still love the Malmö Festival 2014 when we turned an identity and festival poster into a 13m long and 8m wide installation that we photographed 30 meters up in the air. I also really love the project we did for Monki where we created the Monkifesto, a feministic manifesto that challenged the norms.
Glen: Freddie do you have a special skill slash superpower?
Freddie: Hahaha what does special skill slash superpower mean?
Glen: A special skill or superpower is your secret weapon, Erik’s was daydreaming (something I can relate to) and Camilla was reading people (very helpful in her role).
Freddie: Hmmm superpower. I think I have a talent for coming up with ideas in a client meeting in order to make them want to work with us. Also, I’m good at pushing the client in terms of boldness, making them realize that they need to turn up the volume, or otherwise they could have worked with any other agency than Snask. Last year my superpower has been to develop myself privately by looking inwards and dealing and processing my own personal shit, thus realizing that processed shit is the best fertilizer.
Glen: That’s a great set of superpowers. I agree what would be the point of working with Snask if you didn’t plan to turn the amp to 11, it certainly seems to be working in your favour but working on yourself and dealing with demons and bad habits is essential self-maintenance that most people either ignore or undervalue - like spending time alone breathing and being quiet is a very powerful tool to use for getting control of a racing mind. What are your self-maintenance goto strategies for positive mental health?
Freddie: I think meditation is one major thing that I have to learn how to master and get a routine in doing it every day. Another strategy is to try and do things that help you stay present. In our world and society and in relationships, being absent on your phone or with other things will most likely break your relationship, friendship, etc. And it can in the worst cases lead to mental illness. So a great strategy is to do everything that helps you stay present. If that is to leave your phone at home when you take a walk or put in a rule that you shouldn’t check your phone for the first and last hour you’re awake, doesn’t matter. It’s all what works best for yourself.
Glen: Everyone (kind of) said Snask operates like one big collaboration of ideas and the culture at work shapes so much of our attitude, what do you get up to as a team to foster creativity? Can you share some pics of the studio environment to give us an idea of your working and social spaces? I would love to see behind the curtains into your creative habitat!
Freddie: As a team to foster creativity I think we simply try to make everyone feel as good as possible at work and support each other. Also bringing in joy and laughter is very important. Sure, see attached for some photos!
Glen: The studio looks awesome, really fun and engaging and massive! Does space inspire you to think big?
Freddie: Not sure if the space inspires big ideas. But it surely feels different than a regular studio space. But as with anything else, it becomes your everyday life and after some months you don’t think about it as anything different until you step into clients' offices and you realize that our own office is incredibly inspiring compared to theirs.
Glen: I noticed you have avoided my questions about death, I am intrigued to know your thoughts, Freddie! (Original Question: I am really sad to say that I have experienced three deaths in quite a quick succession. It has been heartbreaking and difficult, and my community was everything (caring, supportive) you want it to be in these moments. At GRRR we talk about death (often) but we know most people find it hard. Do you think about death? – Alan Watts says “Dying should be one of the great events of life.” I am intrigued to know what Snask’s vision for a wake and/or gravestone would be – do you think it is a brief you would take – any ideas come to mind?
Freddie: About dying, I totally missed that part. I had to go back to your former email and saw that the little “-” made me think the email ended and that the rest was something else, that translates into me being a bit stressed atm, sorry for that! Here’s my take: I am really sad to hear… I surely think about death, I think you need to. When it comes to Snask’s view on death and gravestones we have the attitude that you shouldn’t regret anything when you die, or rather regret that you did too much than too little. Say “I love you” more times than needed, you’ll be happy on your deathbed that you didn’t say “I love you” too few times to the ones you care about. You need to live, not work. You don’t want to find yourself on the deathbed feeling you worked too much instead of living life and spending time with the people that actually mean something. Furthermore, you want to follow your dreams, nothing scares us more than laying on the deathbed feeling that we didn’t try the things we wanted. We’d much rather lie there feeling that we tried and failed than that we never even tried. Similarly, we want to lay there and regret that we did a stupid thing rather than laying there and regretting we never did anything that was the least risky because we wouldn’t really have lived then.
I’m not sure what it should say on Snask’s tombstone. Maybe that we stood up for our own beliefs until we became gardeners instead of designers. My personal tombstone should say the 4 words: Brave, Fun, Genuine and Loving. That’s the direction I’m slowly and windingly walking towards.
Haha well, that sounds very morbid indeed. I think that celebrating someone’s death can be beautiful. For sure there will be mourning but having a celebration of a person's life and remembering the great parts can be very soothing. In Mexico, on the day of the dead (dia de muertes) people gather on graveyards and celebrate the dead. They cook the favourite meals and place them on the graves, they bring their favourite cocktail and drink with the dead. They play the music they like etc. And it’s actually more celebrating and spending time with the dead instead of only mourning them.
Herbert – GRRR
The Seven – GRRR
Glen: My tutor introduced me to Mexican culture back in 1989 (oh shit) and I have been obsessed ever since and day of the dead is such a brilliant way to celebrate the life of your family, everything about the festival is inspiring. We regularly run skull making workshops in Oct/Nov to try and open people to the idea of having fun or a picnic and singing songs, rather than being sad when visiting a loved one’s graveside. What songs would you like to be sung to you? Spotify playlist would work here!
Dead Nice Exhibition – GRRR
Freddie: That sounds amazing, I should steal your skull workshop and do it in Gnesta! I actually made a playlist that I would really love to have played at my funeral. It’s a mix of revolt and power: Send the Pope to Redemption. This was my contribution to one of many Snask playlists that we have. If I would choose an album right now it would probably be Orville Peck - Pony. Amazing artist that is openly gay, sings country and wears a mask (so no one knows his true identity).
Labyrinth Tattoo Skull Fragment – GRRR
Glen: Your take on death (life really) is fabulous and I couldn’t agree more that you don’t want to regret something, personally I try not to overthink past events that do not serve me in the present and I don’t play well with the ideas of shame or guilt. I particularly resent it when people say things like ‘it’s a shame you...’ normally followed with a negative, I do not accept shame. If we look at the Dictionary definition (a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour) then that pretty much describes my outlook: Conscious foolish behaviour, which is why we often describe ourselves as being mischievously led.
Freddie: Yes, shame is something that we all have naturally from different happenings and traumas. So it’s definitely nothing that we need help growing, rather the opposite. We need to speak about this in order for guilt and shame to transform from monsters into less scary things.
Glen: I know you’ve probably done some truly mischievous things but can you describe the top 3?
Freddie: My top 3 mischievous things must be:
1. When being a student (6 years) I learned a lot of surviving tactics in taking trains for free. So two of these must be train tactics. Might not work in the UK but they work in Sweden! I would jump on a train and figure out where they changed the ticket controller. I started out finding the wagon with “cinema feature” in it. Which basically meant there were screens on the seats and the lights were off and there were signs saying you had to be silent. I would sit down and put a jacket over my head and pretend to sleep. The ticket controller would be more hesitant to check people's tickets in that wagon and risk bothering people twice. I never got checked in this wagon. If the train didn’t have a cinema wagon I would either sit in the smoke part (yes they had that for a long while on Swedish trains) and smoke a cigarette, the controller would normally skip this part since it was filled with people who had seats but had gone to take a smoke break in this section. Another tactic was to go to the bathroom but not lock the door. This way the red lamp outside wouldn’t light up and the ticket controller would assume no one was in there. After having made the stops until they changed the controller, I simply went out and grabbed a normal seat and the new ticket controller would fake that he/she knew every face but would never check anyone who didn’t say they were new passengers. There were more tactics like this. I once had a meal in the dinner wagon and got to befriend a couple of sisters and when the controller came to check I lied and said I stayed in their compartment and they insisted that I was telling the truth. Another time I found a family of three sitting in a compartment for 6. I noticed that the daughter had the same brand of hoodie as me so I asked the dad if the middle seat next to him was available and he said yes. So I sat down awkwardly in the middle seat and asked if I could borrow one of his magazines and he said yes. So when the ticket controller came I leaned in and sat a bit too close to the father for a few seconds. The controller looked a bit skeptic but there she was having the choice of asking me for a ticket, a Korean adopted guy with the same brand of sweater as the white daughter, risking being blamed for racism for asking the non-white family member for a ticket. Drastic economy (student life) needs drastic strategies. The family went off at the same station as me so I had to let them go off quietly before I ran up and jumped off before the train went off. I did this because I didn’t want the poor family to think that I would come after them and psycho kill them or something similar.
2. Phew! Long one. This is shorter but is also trains. Me and Magnus were on our way down to Malmö (a long train ride) and we had taken the midnight train and slept in a compartment. We weren’t students anymore but had just started up Snask and was not taking out normal wages. In the morning when we arrived in Malmö they announced in the loudspeakers that if it said “Breakfast” on your ticket you were to go to Clarion Hotel and you would get your breakfast in there. I looked at our tickets and it didn’t say breakfast. So I took a ball-point pen, pretended in my head that I was a controller dealing with passengers that paid for breakfast but mistakenly got tickets without that word printed on it. I then wrote “breakfast” and circled it and then put two initials as well. We then headed to Clarion Hotel and showed the tickets to the receptionist. He looked at the tickets, looked at us and you could see that he was thinking about the handwritten word. Then he probably thought “what do I care if someone eats a few more bacon and eggs” and welcomed us. That was a sweet breakfast for sure! 😀
3. Once me and some friends were working at a festival (Hultsfred) in Sweden and the only pay for working was a free ticket. When we were backstage I met some people with plates of food and I asked them where they got it. They replied that they worked for Halebop (a Swedish phone company) and that they were allowed to get free meals of food and that they had a special wrist band for that. I thanked them and then walked up to the restaurant and asked to get 4 plates of food for me and my friends, standing behind me. The lady at the register asked to see our wristbands. I told her we worked for Halebop but that we never received our wristband because they were temporarily out of them when we arrived. She told me we couldn’t get food if we didn’t have them. I then just told her that we were working for free and just got tickets and meals as payment and that her boss would know about that we didn’t receive wristbands. She smirked and said she was gonna call her boss and I encouraged her. Said and done she took up her phone, called her boss and “Hey, it’s Ella from festival meals, yeah, I have 4 guys here who say they never received wristbands but now they want their food”. I never heard what her boss said but it was clear that she/he didn’t care and just told Ella to serve us. She hung up, put up 4 plates of food and we then ate for free for the rest of the festival.
Glen: Showing appreciation seems to be at the heart of your personal philosophy. The world needs more of this attitude whether it was saying I love you or complimenting someone’s garden when I walk past, or smiling and saying hello rather than miserably trudging along. I worry for my country as we head into our third lockdown and more and more people hide behind face masks - I personally haven’t worn one yet and people often stare and look confused and are confrontational (I have a medically supported exception) and this lack of tolerance, active discrimination and prejudice are really quite scary. And when I smile at people it feels like an act of defiance right now, against the harbingers. Aside from not fulfilling your dreams as you have said, do you acknowledge fear in your life (now you are on a new path) or is it an area you are still working on?
Freddie: Yes, I think people need to be social and when we’re prevented from this we tend to grow more distant and cold. That’s very sad because it’s a negative spiral. Yes, I do acknowledge fear. I think fear is a result of caring and engagement. Fear can often be the reason why some people fail in relationships, by simply fearing to give too much of themselves and thus risking getting hurt. But it’s counterproductive since investing in trust, engagement and vulnerability are some of the key factors to deepen a relationship. But I am very much working on it. I can be very relaxed about risks, but that’s also probably because I don’t let my guard down enough in every situation. I still wear a mask or armor that I built as a defense sometime in my life to avoid getting hurt. I think the most obvious situation when my defense comes up is when I spend a lot of time with my family. A tiny comment can activate a defense mechanism and I can be thrown into roles I had when I grew up, also I noticed that situations tend to escalate more quickly when it’s family. Probably this is similar in most families since that’s where the trust and unconditional love should be and thus also the most vulnerable, also some of the biggest traumas happened during a time when you lived with your family so triggers are very likely to appear at family dinners and gatherings :D.
Glen: By the way, I love the pictures of you and Erik (the one where Erik is wearing a pink babygrow), where did the desire to dress up and act come from, how big is your dressing up box and what is the weirdest thing in it?
Freddie: Hahaha yes we kind of love to dress up. I have no idea why. We should probably bring in Freud here. I think we are allergic to normal, casual office photos. To us, they don’t feel down-to-earth, just lazy. So I think that’s why we want to have concepts when we take photos of our team. We have many dressing up boxes so it’s kind of a fun process to go through them all. The weirdest thing might be the grown-up baby suit or a collection of 5 different swords from different cultures and eras.
Glen: Diving into the last part of our interview I would like to go back to nearly the beginning and talk about The Dog Years. After everything we have talked about how do you feel now, reading that you wanted to set-up Snask in a heaving metropolis and it was Magnus that convinced you to think again?
Freddie: I feel that it was a very wise call of Magnus to convince me to start up Snask in Sweden. It is our home and it's been a very good base to come back to after projects abroad or going to conferences far and far away. We'd rather be Swedes coming into New York or London in projects rather than being there permanently. We love these cities and there's always the possibility to go for a week or two (well not with Corona but before that).
Glen: Your story of those early years sounds like it was tough at times, what do you think you would tell younger Freddie if you could transport yourself back in time like Lister in Red Dwarf (Lister just calls his old-self a crypto-fascist)?
Freddie: The dog years was indeed tough for many reasons. Lack of money. Lack of professionalism. Lack of structure. A naive and confused young mind and ego etc. If I could travel back in time and talk to my younger self I would probably just tell him “Everything is as it should, the universe doesn’t make any mistakes” (quote from Swedish ex-monk Björn Natthiko). It means that you should trust and feel calm wherever you are and in any situation, that the universe has a plan and you just need to follow it. It sounds vague, but it’s something very soothing about it and if it can take away some of the fear of the unknown, I think it's brilliant.
Glen: What advice do you have for young designers wishing to start out and make art and design they believe in?
Freddie: For every young designer out there I would just like to say, go for it. Don’t let anything hold you back. Fuck norms and structures. Don’t play by the rules. No one will thank you for being a silent little lamb. Own your own thoughts and life and voice your opinions loudly.
Glen: I would really like to know one of the 99 other stories too?
Freddie: 2 out of 99 stories: Once we sent a magazine to print 45,000 prints but mistakenly sent the wrong pdf to print. It was costly. But also a human mistake and those things happen.
Glen: You also talk about the beginnings of your manifesto, I still like your early ideas “if you are fat and want to become thin, then don’t eat crisps with garlic mayo every day” and “if you don’t love your work, quit” they have the venom of your youth. I love the final manifesto in Make Enemies and Gain Fans and what you believe in, have any of them been tricky in 2020 to maintain, are you focusing on any in 2021?
Freddie: Hahaha for sure venom of our youth. But also some toxic ideas in there. There are of course more complex than simply stopping to eat unhealthy food. Also, some people don’t have the possibility to just quit their job, they might have little mouths to feed, etc. So I think those were fun but also privileged, naive and a bit cynical ideas that we had early on haha. Of our current manifesto, the point that has been more challenging has been “If you love someone – let it show”. It sounds easy but is much harder than you think at first. You can think that you're nice if you avoid conflicts and don't put down boundaries. But it's actually not a nice thing to do. Communicating from a vulnerable place is both more genuine, honest as well as nicer. And if you do that there will be conflicts but you will solve them and get closer. So showing someone that you love them also means having expectations of them and telling them if you feel lonely or betrayed etc.
Glen: Will the manifesto be revised for the next edition of Make Enemies and Gain Fans?
Freddie: We’re planning a 3rd edition of the book but for now we don’t plan to add to the manifesto, but perhaps in a year. We're signing a contract for a new book that is planned to come out next spring. That will for sure make bigger changes within so probably we will revise some parts for that one.
Glen: I have always loved the opening statement on your website We are your Future Romance and the energy it creates, on the topic of love (we have covered life and death already), can you tell us what your past romance of 2020 was, and what you are looking to fall head over heels in love with, in 2021?
Freddie: Romance of 2020 was for sure moving out to the countryside like we’ve covered, but also moving into a house with friends of ours and their little daughter Maya. We’ve decided to not have kids of our own so Maya acts like our bonus child and we can play parents sometimes which is fun. A child really brings out the playfulness inside you and it’s very rewarding. For 2021 I hope to fall head over heels in love with the outdoors even more. Everything from skiing and ice-skating to walking in the forest or swimming. I also want to be able to travel again but that can’t be something I take for granted anymore so I’ll leave it out for now.
Glen: Thank you Freddie ❤️ it’s been a fun journey to talk to you 🌈 I am glad we bumped into each other all those years ago, in that forsaken place 😆.
‘Pee on yourself, it will set you free.’
The specific Snask projects we have featured in order of appearance are:
IDN - Heal the World
AIM by Mia
Hedveg – Nice Insurance for Nice people
OFFF Lille 2012
Cozy as Kittens film for Sneakernstuff+adidas
Klarna – Smooth Scenarios
Badminton another epic collaboration this time with Bild Gates and Darwood Music
Extremely Right? for Slanted Magazine
Malmö Festival, 2013
Klarna – Smooth Scenarios
Studio Images and Portraits of Freddie and Erik by Per Björklund
Malmö Festival 2014
Smooth Scenario this time a Long Haired Horse
Klarna – Culture Calendar
Washington Post Magazine