Svenska / English


MMS is a group of graphic designers (Maryam Fanni, Matilda Flodmark, Sara Kaaman) collaborating since 2012 on investigations and writings on visual culture, graphic design and historiography from feminist perspectives.

Contact us: hello [at] mms-arkiv [dot] se

Natural Enemies of Books – book (2018)
Natural Enemies of Books – exhibition (2017/2018)
The Distaff Side (2015–)
Graphic design, socialism and feminism (2015–)
The Name of the Game (2015–)
Guest-editors at Svenska Tecknare (2013 / 2014)
Historieboken (The History Book) (2012)

Natural Enemies of Books – book

Natural Enemies of Books – A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography is an anthology edited by MMS, published by Occasional Papers in Spring 2020. Contributors: Kathleen Walkup, Ida Börjel, Jess Baines, Ulla Wikander, Inger Humlesjö, Ingegärd Waaranperä, Gail Cartmail, Megan Dobney. Graphic design: Eller med a. The book is financed by Swedish Arts Grants Committee.

Alphabettes, 1 May 2020
People of Print, 23 March 2020
It's Nice That, 12 March 2020

Natural Enemies of Books – exhibition

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Tengbomhallen
The exhibition was inaugurated by Nina Beckmann, CEO of Grafikens Hus

Bookmaking on the Distaff Side was published in 1937 by the group The Distaff Side  – women working in the printing industry. The book has been described as a potluck in which some twenty bookbinders, printers, typographers, illustrators and authors have contributed with historical essays, satire, biographies, poems, manifestos and typographical experiments, proposing a takeover of the history of the book.

MMS has been using Bookmaking on the Distaff Side as a recipe book for a couple of years. The exhibition is a showcase of various graphic experiments. The project is financed by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee and an Artist-in-Residency at Grafikens Hus in collaboration with Kretsen Södertälje. Thank you Nina Beckmann – Grafikens hus, Olof Sandahl – Kretsen Södertälje, Ulla Wennberg, Ciara Phillips, Emmy Dijkstra, Katja Winkes, Jennifer Bergkvist.

Photographer: Johan Wahlgren

 The Distaff Side

“Ever since the days of Mrs. Gutenberg, women have been involved in the art of printing; and now, more than ever, they are to be found in the offices and factories concerned with the making of books. Yet never before have they been organized into a group for the express purpose of producing a book by, for, and concerning themselves. Bookmaking on the Distaff Side is the product of their writing, their designing, their type‐setting and their printing”
– from the preface of Bookmaking on the Distaff Side

The book Bookmaking on the Distaff Side was published in the USA in 1937 by a group called ”The Distaff Side” – women working in the printing industry. Female bookbinders, printers, typographers, illustrators and writers (among them Gertrude Stein) contributed to the book with historical essays, satire, biographies, poems, manifestos and typographical experiments. The contributions are printed separately in different designs and styles. The book is compiled, bound and published by Jumbo Press, a private press based in San Francisco and run by printer Jane Grabhorn. Jane also worked with her partner Robert Grabhorn on the Grabhorn Press, and later Colt Press. She kept the Jumbo Press active on the side, on which she printed children’s books and satirical reflections on the printing business.

In 2015–2017 we are in dialogue with Bookmaking on the Distaff Side, researching its contributors and content and making a series of contemporary responses.

Episode I: Punctuation Pets – A Tribute to Ruth
Screenprinting workshop with Ciara Phillips at Konsthall C, Stockholm, December 2015

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 Graphic design, socialism and feminism

"Graphic design, socialism and feminism" is a reading group and lecture series arranged in collaboration with ABF Stockholm (The Worker's Educational Association) and Konstfrämjandet. In 2015 the reading group was held twice, and invited lecturers were Margareta Ståhl, Berit Sahlström and Olivia Plender. Video documentation of the lectures can be found below.

“In this reading group we will look at the graphic design history in relation to socialist and feminist ideology. Through six thematic moments we approach the rise of the labour movement, the womens rights movements and anti-colonial movements. How has visual communication historically taken different forms, what has been captured in the history books and the collective memory, and how? How can we today understand and practice graphic design from a socialist and feminist standpoint? The reading group welcome students, professionals, and others interested in the field of image and graphic design.”

The Reader – Table of Contents:

Årsbok för Typografiska kvinnoklubben 1904–1939 (utdrag), Elin Johansson
Vår enighets fana (utdrag), Margareta Ståhl
Wages for Facebook, Laurel Ptak
Design and Reflexivity, Jan van Toorn
The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem
Messy History, Martha Scotford
Rör inte mitt bokomslag, Jesper Weithz
Nyttigt arbete kontra onyttigt slit, William Morris
Hur jag blev socialist, William Morris
Anarkism, konst, arbetsdelning och medeltid, Rasmus Fleischer
A comment by Kleines Postfordisches Drama
Den endimensionella kvinnan (utdrag), Nina Power
Some aspects of design from the perspective of a woman designer, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Manövrera runt och slå sönder, MYCKET & Alexandra Falagara & Brita Lindvall
Affischer – Reklam, konst, politiska verktyg, handelsvara, Susan Sontag

Margareta Ståhl
The Message of the Red Banner

The red banner is the main symbol of the labor movements. The banners convey a message both internally within the organization but also externally to the public. It is not only the motif on the cloth that is significant, but also the color, form, material and technique. And how it is employed. In the 1880s, when the Swedish labor movement began to design their red banners the international labor movement served as role models. But why is the banner red? And how did imagery and symbolism develop over time? Lecture held in Swedish

Margareta Ståhl holds a PhD in Visual Communication with the dissertation The message of the red banner – Banners as means of visual communication of the early Swedish labour movement until 1890 (1999)

Berit Sahlström
Political Posters in Ethiopia and Mozambique: Visual Imagery in a Revolutionary Context

When the Ethiopian Emperor fell and the Portuguese lost control of Mozambique, socialist military leaders took over in both countries. But there the comparison ends. Visual rhetoric showed that the two countries faced completely different political, cultural, social, and hence aesthetic challenges. Berit Sahlström will talk about these challenges, which also relate to women's and artists' role in Ethiopia and Mozambique in the 1970s and 80s.

Berit Sahlström's weaver/artist and holds a PhD in Art History with the thesis Political Posters in Ethiopia and Mozambique: Visual Imagery in a Revolutionary Context (1990).

Olivia Plender
The Suffragette as Militant Artist

Sylvia Pankhurst is recognized in the British context as a political activist and is most famous for her role in winning votes for women in the early 20th century. Along with her mother and sisters, she was part of founding the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903, which was the militant wing of the campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain. She was also a socialist, establishing the first communist party in England, and a campaigner against fascism and racism. However less well known is that she was an artist in addition to all this. In 2013 the first solo exhibition of her art works opened in at Tate Britain, curated by the Emily Davison Lodge (Olivia Plender and Hester Reeve). At ABF Olivia Plender will talk about the relation between art and politics in her work; focusing on the Northern Workers series of paintings, from 1907, which document women’s working conditions in the industrial north of England, along with her designs for visual propaganda for the suffragette movement.

Olivia Plender is an artist and researcher at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm.

Interview with MMS about ”Graphic design, socialism and feminism” in magazine Cap&Design 6.2015.

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 The Name of the Game

The Name of the Game is a study of graphic design competitions and awards as an issue for the working environment of freelancing designers. The study is made in two parts; 1) a quantitative research through statistics of geography and gender among winners, and 2) a qualitative part with interviews with practicing designers. For more information check the project website.

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 Guest-editors at Svenska Tecknare

During the winter months of 2013 / 2014 we were guest editors at Svenska Tecknare (The Association of Swedish Illustrators and Graphic Designers) and their online platform for cultural debates. Below you can find the published interviews and articles (all of them are in Swedish).

April 30, 2014
The Red Ghost – Interview with Margareta Ståhl
On the history and legacy of the socialist red banner
by MMS

March 8, 2014
No animal’s paws or old men’s hands! – Interview with Anne Lidén
A talk with the maker of the first Swedish “feminist symbol”
by MMS

February 12, 2014
“It would be amazing if there were more of us”– Interview with Emma Rendel
On artistic research within illustration
by MMS

January 31, 2014
“It’s never too late, never ever” – Interview with Tobias Hübinette
On fighting racist stereotypes in children’s books and computer games
by MMS

January 24, 2014
What’s stopping us from illustrating collectively?
On the need for collective creativity and drawing
by Karin Hagen

January 9, 2014
Drop Shadows and Filter Bubbles
On the filters and algorithms that are enclosing visual labourers
in visual sameness
by Hanna Nilsson & Rasmus Svensson (PWR Studio)

December 20, 2013
Writing designers – Where are you?
A call to action by a recently graduated design student
by Louise Kelpe

December 12, 2013
Planning, sorting, cleaning, organizing, calculating – Interview with Ruthel Eksell
On the life and work of Ruthel Eksell, partner of Swedish 1950’s designer Olle Eksell
by Matilda Flodmark och Michelle Hammenfeldt

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 Historieboken (The History Book)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 16:00
Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts & Design, Stockholm

Panel conversation with Gittan Jönsson, Annika Elmqvist, Pål Rydberg, AnnMari Langemar

In the 1970s, four students at the Konstfack’s department of ”Advertising” created ”The History Book", telling the history of capitalism and colonialism through comics and narrative visuals. The book was a reaction to the distortion of history in mainstream history books. But also towards the expectations on students studying ”Advertising” at the time, and how they should make use of their skills. Now, 40 years later, the creators will return to Konstfack to tell us why and how the book came about, and we will discuss why the book is still relevant today.

”The History Book" was reprinted by Ordfront publishing in 2009 and is available for purchase

Poster by Matilda Flodmark

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