Interview with SNASK studio (OFFF Festival Barcelona)
Interviews are our favourite content. Basically because they allow us to delve into the thoughts and the professional, and sometimes personal, lives of people we admire. With this in mind, in this case we had the pleasure of interviewing SNASK, one of our favourite studios, on occasion of the OFFF Festival Barcelona, for which we are Media Partners.
As you will see for yourselves, SNASK is one of a kind. We wish there were more studios with the same attitude, principles, honesty and good practices. You only have to dive a little into any of their projects to realise that they have courage, a lot of feeling, absolutely no desire to conform, tons of creativity, large doses of humour and an unmistakable personal stamp.
We’ll say no more, as well as inviting you to read the interview, we remind you that they will be giving a talk at the OFFF Festival Barcelona on the 23rd March at 18.45h. Don’t miss it!
What are the 3 things we should know about Snask?
a) We challenge conservative frameworks.
b) We are doctors of disturbance, wizards of disruption and spokesmen of disobedience.
c) We take on the responsibility to stay engaged, give a damn and strive for empathy.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started with your studio?
“We all had music backgrounds from either playing in bands, booking artists, organizing club nights and DJ-ing.”
Music brought us into design and made us completely fall in love, head over heels. We made flyers, posters, websites, record sleeves etc. This was our funnel into our industry and once we found ourselves there we thought it was very conservative, often misogynist and run by old white men. This caused a fire to start burning, a fire of rebellion and a demand for change. That’s the core of why Snask was started.
You have the courage to do things the way you think is right in a unique way. Is it difficult for you to convince your clients? What are your main fears (if you have any)?
“One of our mottos is to be very honest, transparent, direct and have a clear way of communication with our clients. We believe this is the best way for any type of relationship.”
So when we convince our clients to do things the “right way” we do it with our backs straight. We don’t think we’re fooling them in any way or leading them astray. We are honest and we tell them what we think is correct. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed. It hurts when we fail but we know that we did it in a way that felt right for us and so we can heal our wounds in a healthy way.
“We have many fears. A big one is that the client will fuck up the process as well as the end result.”
It’s our responsibility to try and make sure they don’t. We are the experts and it’s on us to make sure they understand and sign off on the process and it’s on us to hold their hand during the entire journey and present our findings and solutions in such a way that the project ends up in success and champagne.
What three naughty things have you done in your career to get ahead?
a) We created “pink lies”, a lie that you can “return like a book to a library” when you made the lie into a reality. For example in order to be booked to present at conferences you describe yourself as “a great speaker”, even though you’re not. Then you take classes in public speaking and rehearse your keynote 100 times. Once you’re a great speaker your “pink lie” is no longer a lie and you are allowed to return it. We used this ourselves 14 years ago when we had zero experience from doing talks.
b) From the very beginning we aimed to produce work of the highest quality that would end up in the history books. But besides that, we also had the ambition to create a brand that would challenge the conservative world and break new grounds. For us this was a way to “get ahead” since most agencies are either pretentious or extremely boring and minimalistic in both their tone of voice as well as their own visual branding. This is not naughty, just something that every brand should care about. The reason why more agencies don’t brand themselves is a mystery. Do they want to come across as professional and believe that personal is the opposite? Do they want to secretly be architects and see design as something “higher” than normal humans can understand? We don’t know and we don’t care too much. We just hope more designers would take out the stick up their ass.
c) We started up with zero experience from the industry. Naughty indeed, since the people in the industry that we talked to before told us that you need 10 years of experience in order to start your own agency. We also read an interview with a design legend(old white man) who said that students these days were ignorant to believe they could start their own studios straight out of uni. We emailed him and told him that he sat on a throne spitting and kicking downwards but that those days would soon be over and no one would gently lift him down but rather throw him off and take his seat along with a much more positive and uplifting morale. We used our naivety and inexperience to create our own way of doing things, meaning making lots of mistakes and try and learn from them.
You call yourselves the “agency of misfit geniuses”. How do you stay that way?
It’s very easy for us.
“We simply can’t be that popular kid from high school because we never were and never will be. We celebrate imperfection and real emotions and we can’t fake our true ugly selves.”
The only way we could not stay this way would be if we tried to put on a façade, but we know we would be horrible at it so staying misfit geniuses is much better for all of us.
Furthemore, on your website you say that you are “our future romance”. Why? What should we expect from you?
We believe that any relationship should have the possibility of turning into a lifelong romance. With romance we mean family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, pets etc.
“We can start a project with clients and then end up being friends. We can begin working with a new freelancer and after a while hanging out. Always expect us to be friendly and positive.”
Some view us as arrogant, cocky and misbehaving. Only the last one is true to our hearts, the rest is either misconception or said by an enemy.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned over the years while running Snask?
“The most important lessons we’ve learned is that people is the most important thing in life.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s in your professional life or your private. People around you and people you meet will be where you find energy, inspiration, meaning and love. We believe that the meaning of life is NOT what we leave behind, nor do we believe in God. To us the meaning of life is to relieve suffering by creating more empathy towards yourself as well as others. In small as well as big. In everyday life as well as a global initiative. So the conclusion is that without people (and dogs) the purpose of running a studio as well as leading a meaningful life will to us, be lost.
How many people are at your studio?
It depends on how you count. We work with a vast number of freelancers and friends. But the number of currently employed is nine.
Where do you find inspiration? And who are your main references?
First of all our meaningful relationships with family, friends, loved ones, pets and colleagues. Secondly by our everyday life of creating, being part of and consuming popular culture in the form of TV-series, books, news, films, politics, sports etc. This is what fuel our mind to see briefs, projects and problems from another angle and perspective. Twisting and turning it upside down boy you turn me.
Looking at your work and listening to your talks, one gets the feeling that you are having a lot of fun. What is the secret? Could you ensure that humour is essential to work in this study? What other attributes are essential to work in your studio?
“Fun is naturally the foundation of our work, it’s one of the big reasons why we do this. But there’s also a serious aspect that is to also be professional. These two don’t compete but live in symbiosis. Each can’t exist without the other one.”
So only fun will be clowning, only professional will be boring. We need the balance, that’s our secret to make sure we can keep on having fun. We think humour, good and bad, high and low, is extremely important in our line of work but also in life. Laughing with the people we’ve chosen to have close to our hearts is one of the most important elements and one we value very highly. Comes off as cliché but we nurture this in everything we do, including client work and projects. Except for being able to laugh hysterically you also need to be able to deliver a project and press “answer all” on emails.
By the way, we are in love with your Manifesto and we are 100% with every single point. Did you write this Manifesto when you created the studio or have you been doing it as you have grown?
How great! You should come work with us. Yes, from the beginning it consisted of more than 100 points. After some years we cooked it down to 10. It’s a mix of rebellion towards the conservative world, a thorn in the side of the industry, a call for more empathy and a big strike for being nice.
How do you merge ethics with brand strategy?
“We believe that brands need to have opinions and stand up for them. In doing so they will get enemies but also real fans.”
Fans that share their values and beliefs. And walking the talk is essential, without it everything is meaningless. By challenging our clients reason to exist (except for money) we can push for much more ethical companies and brands that have something meaningful to talk, fight for and make the world a better place. We have failed many times when we’ve suggested that the client should become a better company, helping the world somehow. Sometimes clients agree with us, sometimes not. We’ve lost many big pitches and projects because of this. To us the merge comes not by washing anything, but by actually create change within the companies we work with, starting from the top, then trickling down.
You have created the world-famous shower beer, and you are also the proud owner of your own music band as well as running a design conference and your own studio. What else is left for you to do? what can you tell us?
Oh there are many, here’s a few:
– Branding a dictatorship that just turned into a democracy.
– Create our own initiative for more equality.
– Build better cemeteries to create improved ways of remembering, mourning and celebrating your past loved ones.
– Find a way to help minorities enter our industry.
– Initiate fun elderly homes where at the end of your life you can choose to binge drink wine, try a new drug or show that you’re open to date by turning on a lamp outside your residential care room.
– Opening a gallery of art made by completely non-trained normal people with everyday struggles.
– Build a dating experience where you match on type of humour rather than physical looks, photos standing in front of Machu Picchu and a list of 50 demands for a perfect person that doesn’t exist.
We could go on forever here. If you know someone that would want to invest in any of these, please have them call our mums, they get first pick on the project to start with.
What do you think about the metaverse and AI?
Both are in-evidently here to stay. Both makes us very turned off. The metaverse is as far away as you can go away from what we think we need more of, presence. Every metaverse room that Zuckerberg wants to be in, we don’t. A metaverse that wasn’t created from greed and maximizing profit for a few old white fat men, could have a meaning. But since that won’t happen please let us stay a bit negative towards this and let us come back in five years when we’ve learned that it’s great for everyone. As for ai it’s a great way to assist you in your work.
“The combination of a human working with an ai, we believe is a good solution. We don’t think it will replace us, just assist and do some of the things we used to do, but better and more efficiently.”
At the moment ai is a hype and in its infancy where it steals art without paying for it, writes articles that isn’t based on real facts but at the same time creates better ways of structures and processes, speeds up work and make things available to people that otherwise lack the skill. Like all change ai feels challenging but will become everyday life once you learn to use it the right way.
What are you working on right now?
We’re writing on this great and long interview for this independent magazine that refers to themselves as “inspiration for the soul”. We’ve never met them so we don’t know if they’re real, could be an ai that we’re writing to. Perhaps it’s actual humans(preferably libertarian socialists) behind this, a militia made of Spanish women and freedom fighters sharing red wine, planning rebellion while dancing to the song Highwomen, all while taxing the shit out of Messi, Shakira and Ronaldo. This would be sweet music to our ears.
What can you tell us about your participation in the OFFF Festival?
It will be so much fun to come back and stand on this stage. Our design director Minna Sakaria will join us on stage and we promise laughs.
“We can’t promise that Leonor and Infanta Sofía will approve our manifesto before our talk but surely they will straight after.”
We feel honoured to share it with the likes of Eva Cremers (our former intern, she’s amazing!), Mals (drunk memories), Gemma O’brien (Life is Life), James Victore (cursing genius), Kelly Anna (V), Timothy Goodman (Macaulay Culkin), Kessels Kramer (kiss on the lips), Gavin Strange (strange flying jam from the UK), Rizon Parein (ak.a Maaemo) and many more.
(*) Images provided by SNASK.
Beti-Jai: a beautiful historical fronton in the centre of the Chamberí district