Inside the Studio: Snask
By: Bill McCool
What inspired you as a child?
Think back to art class. The paints and jars full of murky used water. The thick, pulpy construction paper. Or better still, think back to Kindergarten and how there was magic tucked into every plastic bin full of costumes or markers, how just the simple act of play felt freeing.
Touring Snask’s studio in Stockholm, you half expect that you’ll end up on the floor with your hands covered in glue and glitter, except this time you’re a grown-ass adult and you can have a beer while you bedazzle the shit out of something.
Founded in 2007, Snask is Stockholm’s premier creative agency that specializes in branding, design, and stop-motion film that has created work for the likes of H&M and Samsung, all the while preaching the gospel behind their name.
“Snask is an old Swedish word,” founder and creative director Fredrik Ost says, ”for candy, filth, and gossip. So basically, it’s the three parts of life. From when you are born until you are 12-years old, you will do anything for candy. From 12 until you’re 70, you will do anything for filth. And from 70 up until you die, you’ll do anything for gossip.”
While at University, Fredrik found that he was going to be set loose upon an industry that was incredibly conservative and filled with meaningless hierarchies, a career that meant toiling away for the better part of a decade before making any meaningful contributions.
“We thought that if we had to start at zero,” Fredrik says, “let’s play it by our own rules and do what we want to do. Instead of learning from the industry we decided to make as many mistakes as we could and come up with our own solutions to those failures or problems.”
“There’s no year when you’re ready or not,” he adds. “It’s more important that you jump than not jump. It’s better to just do it.”
Last August, the wildling agency moved across town to their new home. “We were in a posh area in Stockholm,” Fredrik explains, “where the egos are big and the dogs are very small. But this area is nicer. We wanted to have a shop window on the street level so that we could have space in the window and this bar.”
You can hardly blame anyone passing by their storefront for wondering just what exactly is going on in there. Behind a window stained by grubby fingerprints, you’ll find a massive paper-crafted head designed by Snask’s Richard Gray that causes most children to stop dead in their tracks and drool all over the display.
Upon entering, you’re greeted by a neon Snask sign in a room painted entirely in pink with a tin bar made by Maldini Studios (and, yes, they have their shower beer there). “No one has seen a room that’s totally pink and has beer in it,” he says, “so people get very excited when they see us from the outside and they want to get in.”
Even for prospective clients, as soon as they step through the door, Fredrick wants them to say, “Holy shit, I want to work here but I can’t, so I want to work with them.” Nor is it uncommon for the occasional looky-loo to mistake the agency for a bar as most Fridays they’ll inevitably gather in the pink room.
“People also think is this a real bar, but we don’t have a license,” he says. “So when people come in and ask for a beer, we say sure, but they have to serve themselves. So they take a beer from the fridge and ask how much and we say it’s free because we don’t have a license. And they’re like ‘oh my god, this is the best bar I've ever found.’ Normally they are tourists so they don’t understand. And we’re working or having a meeting and there are people standing here having a beer at our bar.”
“The pink room is my favorite part,” Fredrik adds. “This is everything that Snask is as a brand. That’s my heart, this room.
“It's pink. And pink has been our color since the very first day. First and foremost pink is an amazing color that we love. Secondly it's a color that conservative people would see as feminine, even though it used to be a manly color back in the days. And as you know, we can't stand conservatism.”
A conference room with a two-way mirror also sits on the ground floor and faces the street. One trip to Snask’s Instagram and you’ll find them mischievously posting videos of people checking themselves out in the mirror, completely unaware that they're being recorded. Once the fitting room for a Swedish fashion brand, folks were to change their clothes and think that they were exposing themselves to the entire world. That same fitting room has now been conquered by gleeful delinquents who will bang on the glass when someone checks their makeup for just a little too long.
And then there’s the basement.
It was essential that Snask have enough open space to create and they needed a fully-functioning and adaptable space for all of their photography and film work. After all, 80% of their stop-motion work is made within their studio. Their basement does all of that and more.
In one corner you’ll find a karaoke machine and acoustic guitars, flanked by a massive black and pink sign that reads “WE DO COMPUTER STUFF.” There are work spaces and comfortable couches, nothing to austere or modern (a refreshing novelty for a design office). Shelf after shelf bursts with plastic bins that have labels like “shapes and objects,” “masks,” and, “fireworks.” A skateboard tattooed with their credo, “make enemies, gain fans.” An upside down parrot. A painting that looks like it’s from the 18th century that the Snask crew painted themselves into. Wigs. Furs. You name it. It’s the ultimate design cave. Or in other words, heaven.
For Snask, the ideal design space is one that is open and friendly, a studio where one has all of the tools they need to have in order to be creative. ”It needs to have an open mind,” Fredrik says, “because you can’t create with too many rules or boundaries. You should set limits to projects, but the workspace and studio should not have it. It should be creative”
It’s an inspiring space. Gone are the cold trappings of the typical design office and Snask's hand-crafted style permeates every inch of the basement workshop. “You should see when we have children visit our studio,” Fredrik says. “They go ‘woah’ and they get fucked up because they think that’s where mom and dad go to work every day and it’s not because normally they go to a boring office whereas when they come to our place and see what we work with they say, oh my god, this is the ultimate playroom.”
Play and work are deeply interwoven into the fabric of their agency, “A lot of people act like grownups in meetings and in their everyday professional life,” he says, “and I think that acting grownup is the most childish thing you can do. In a way, playing is not childish, it’s just natural and society unlearns that behavior by forcing you to be boring. That’s when people start to say, you know, I’m not a very creative person. But that’s just bullshit because everyone is born creative, otherwise, the human species would not survive. But during the years you were brought up, society told you to only raise your hand if you knew the right answer, not to answer what you thought. Stuff like that. In the end, you don’t think you’re a creative person but we think everyone can go back into their own self and can become creative again.”
As for the new studio, Fredrik is immensely satisfied. There’s less space then there was before, but they’re in a neighborhood that they can call their own, one that heavily influences their work and where they feel comfortable in their own skin. Most of their friends are located in this part of Stockholm, and they often stop in for a drink.
“Everyone who knows us says ‘this space is much more you,’” Fredrik says.
Image credits: Per Björklund for Intern Magazine and Snask
Bill McCool is a freelance writer based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he's not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.