How Swedish Snask became ‘Favorites’ of the Washington Post
The Washington Post Magazine wanted something special for the cover of its ‘‘Readers’ Favorites Issue.’’ Snask gave them just that.
Instead of using a computer to create the cover image, the Swedish creative agency built every letter in the word favorite by hand and then took a photo of them. Every letter was constructed in a different material. For example, the ‘‘I’’ is made out of plywood whereas modeling clay was used to build the ‘‘hot dog E.’’
‘‘We do a lot of things by hand, mainly because our passion is there and we think it’s more fun to do it that way than doing it on the computer,’’ says Fredrik Öst, co-founder of Snask. ‘‘If I were to compare, it’s like creating a car in 3D that looks exactly like a car on the street. That’s much less fun than building the car yourself.’’
Snask was contacted directly by Washington Post earlier this year. The legacy paper had looked at over 40 agencies and chose the Stockholm-based company. No pitch necessary.
The entire project, from idea to execution, took Magdalena Czarnecki and Richard Gray about a week. But they worked on other projects as well, Öst says.
The Post ‘‘loved the cover image,’’ the paper writes on its web site.
Snask’s Washington Post project is, in a way, telling for the agency that’s growing faster internationally than in its native Sweden. Snask doesn’t fall in line with the often-cited Swedish ‘‘jantelagen’’, which basically means you shouldn’t stick out or try to go your own way.
But to go your own way is one of the pillars upon which Snask was founded. The agency launched back in 2007 when Öst and Magnus Berg met in university in the United Kingdom. Today, the staff has grown to eight people and the agency has some high-profile clients like Nickelodeon and Target.
‘‘We saw an industry that was really slow and very conservative. The clock that went ticking online all around the world was ticking much fast than that inside the agencies,’’ says Öst.
A creative place
Snask’s Stockholm offices give off a very creative vibe. For one thing, here’s a bar the agency has stocked with its favourite refreshments.
One of the staff members is lying down in a leather couch with an Apple laptop in his lap. On the wall behind him is a large painting that looks like it belongs in a museum. But on closer inspection, the painting features all the members of the team. Every time a new person joins Snask, the artwork gets updated, Öst says.
The ground-level office is a big, open space. Downstairs, Snask has got a workshop and a photo studio. Öst shows the ‘‘A’’ from the Washington Post project. It’s covered with the dried paint the agency poured over it for the cover photo.
But working with live materials can be a gamble. You oftentimes only have one chance to get it right or you have to redo the entire model.
In the case of the Washington Post project, had Snask missed pouring the paint over the ‘‘A’’ the way the wanted to, the agency would have had to start over from scratch with creating a new letter and then try the same thing again.
But Öst rather prefers to look at the positives with working with live materials.
‘‘When we, for example, do a stop-motion movie, people say we could have done it faster in 3D. But that’s not actually true anymore,’’ says Öst. ‘‘If we build something in paper, maybe they [other agencies] can create the model faster than we can build it by hand. But as soon as you start filming and we decide to tear up something or pour some water over it or whatever it will take them ages to do that [in the computer] and they’ll have to render all the time to see what’s happening.’’
Last year, Snask created a sculpture – which also acted as the poster – for Malmöfestivalen, a city festival in the Swedish town of Malmö. The installation was 15×9 meters and became a popular photo station for visitors to the festival.
The agency also did a complete brand platform for Swedish investment bank Nordea. The case quickly became popular online.
‘‘It’s been said that for the first time investment banks look sexy,’’ Öst says.
Snask has since the start become a well-known player in the field. Today, the creative agency get approached by clients 80 per cent of the time and have to pitch about 20 per cent of the time, Öst says.
The agency is a bigger name internationally than in Sweden (but the agency does have quite a few Swedish clients). Snask has a column in Computer Arts magazine and has lectured at Google, Dropbox and Stanford University.
But while one of the first dreams with Snask was to be flown all over the world and talk with and work for important people, the vision has since changed (which might not be strange since the agency has been flown all over the world).
‘‘Our vision is to have three projects every year that are pretty big and three clients a year that pay us $10 million SEK and we do everything they want for a year. And then that we have a three-year queue to work with us. That would be a privilege to be able to say yes or no and have a fixed price,’’ says Öst.SnaskWashington PostFredrik Öst