Svenska / English

 About MMS

MMS is a Stockholm-based 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

Talks & Workshops
Natural Enemies of Books – book (2020)
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)
The History Book – seminar (2012)

Back to top

 Talks & Workshops

18 August 2022
Counter Sessions #1 “Ever since the days of Mrs. Gutenberg …”
A–Z Presents, Berlin
Panel talk and street marbling workshop

This evening is dedicated to a collegial conversation about experiences from attempts made to contribute to graphic design history with names and stories that can allow for more accurate ways of understanding the past, present and future of the field. Invited guests are design historian and writer Gerda Breuer, co-author of “Women in Graphic Design, 1890–2012”, and design writer Madeleine Morley, for a discussion on women and labor histories of graphic design, collective struggles, research strategies, and history writing today and tomorrow. The panel will be followed by a workshop where copies of “Natural Enemies of Books – A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography” can be coloured along the edges using the traditional technique of marbling paper.

10 June 2022 Network meeting with NAP Nordic Art Press about art book distribution, Oslo with Karen Grønneberg, Lotte Grønneberg, Torpedo Press, MMS, Ragnhild Aamås

27 April 2022
“Mess, Organizing and Un(der)told Histories”
Typo Club / Bern University of the Arts
Lecture / Book presentation (on zoom)

8 March 2022
“Self-publishing, graphic design and typography from a feminist perspective”
Workshop and talk at Grafikskolan (The college of Printmaking arts) in collaboration with Mossutställningar

The paper marbling workshop as part of the course “Self-publishing, fanzines and public letter” organized by curator, researcher and art pedagogue Alen Ksoll.

8 December 2021
Workshop and talk at Stockholms Typografiska gille (Stockholm typographic Guild)

Paper marbling workshop and talk about the book The Natural Enemies of Books: A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography. For the members of the Guild Christmas gathering.

1 April 2021
Workshop and lecture at Konstfack University of Crafts and Design, Stockholm

Paper marbling workshop and talk about the book The Natural Enemies of Books: A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography. Part of a book design course for BA1 students organized by lecturer Jens Schildt.

27 February 2021
Panel discussion at (the virtual) Printed Matter New York Art Book Fair The Natural Enemies of Books: A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography, with Maryam Fanni, Matilda Flodmark, Sara Kaaman, Haytham Nawar, Danielle Aubert, and Madeleine Morley

Departing from their book (Occasional Papers, 2020), feminist graphic design research collective MMS (Maryam Fanni, Matilda Flodmark, and Sara Kaaman) invite colleagues to discuss projects aiming to expand graphic design history beyond the canon, looking into the "messy" histories of BIPOC, womxn, and laborers. The conversation includes graphic designers and educators Haytham Nawar (co-author of A History of Arab Graphic Design together with Bahia Shehab) and Danielle Aubert (initiator and editor of exhibition and book The Detroit Printing Co-op: The Politics of the Joy of Printing). The conversation will be moderated by design writer and Futuress co-founder Madeleine Morley. Presented by Occasional Papers

22 October 2020
Press On!
Book presentation & panel
Göteborgs Litteraturhus, Gothenburg House of Literature

Design research collective MMS invites you to an evening at Göteborgs Litteraturhus, exploring counter-narratives to conventional book history writing, and the possibilities of collectivity in publishing practices, historically and today. The program departs from the newly published book "Natural Enemies of Books – A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography" (Occasional Papers, 2020), collecting responses to, and partly republishing the experimental feminist account of American printing industry "Bookmaking on the Distaff Side" (1937). Artist and PhD candidate at HDK-Valand Eva Weinmayr will present parts of her dissertation project "Noun to Verb: an investigation into the micro-politics of publishing through artistic practice" exploring the act(s) of publishing as intersectional feminist practice. Nils Olsson will facilitate as moderator throughout the evening.

Funded by Pronto, Gothenburg City Council

18 September 2020
Book release: Natural Enemies of Books – A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography
Index Foundation, Stockholm

Nominated for VOLUMES Book Award 2020

8 June 2019
Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, Tallinn, Estonia

Feminist Publishing and Publications. Moderator: Marge Monko. Panelists: Maryam Fanni and Matilda Flodmark (MMS), Sara Kaaman (MMS/Girls Like Us), Jessica Gysel (Girls Like Us), Liz Allan (Tender Center/AtCS)

31 October 2018
Lecture+Workshop KHiO Design,Oslo (The National Academy of the Arts)

Paper marbling workshop and talk about the project The Natural Enemies of Books: A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography. Part of a book design course for MA1 students organized by lecturer Lotte Gronneberg

19 October 2018
One Day About Typographic Histories
Seminar at Konstfack organized by Rikard Heberling
MMS contributed with “Natural Enemies of Books: A choir”

12 November 2015
Seminar “Forms of Politics # 3 Gothenburg” organized by Erling Björgvinsson, Kristina Ketola Bore, Johanne Aarup Hansen
A-venue, Göteborg

In this talk we will present findings and preliminary outcomes of the project “The Name of the Game”. “The Name of the Game” is an investigation into the design competition format – the currently dominating forum for gathering and presenting graphic design and its practitioners. Design competitions and awards function as a “seal of quality” towards public and clients, but on what terms? The study “The Name of the Game” investigate competitions as meeting places. Who participate in and benefit from competitions? What kind of work is promoted? Are there other ways to meet? How are design competitions deepening and expanding the graphic design discourse?

We wish to talk about how competition organizers – consciously or unconsciously – create standards for the type of design that is judged, and how the desire to compete could be related to for example class and gender. "The Name of the Game" aims to discuss competitions as an occupational health and safety issue by documenting how the well-being of designers relates to the podium. Which bodies and experiences are allowed to be "successful"?

By looking closely at design competitions, we wish to bring up questions about professionalism vs. amateurism, design vs. crafts, and competition in relation to quality.

Matilda Flodmark, Sara Kaaman and Maryam Fanni – all practising graphic designers – are a collective working with writing, teaching and research with a desire to expand the field of design critique and explore the relationships between word, image and society.

October 11, 2016
Association of Women Typographers
Lecture by Maryam Fanni and Sara Kaaman based on the work of Inger Humlesjö (1945–2016)
ABF-huset, Stockholm

The typographers are known to have been militant throughout the ages, but what did it look like for the women in the profession? Inger Humlesjö researched the typographers' union struggle at the turn of the last century. Sara Kaaman and Maryam Fanni share a presentation based on Inger's work about the Association of Women Typographers and the working conditions of their members.

November 3, 2015
Feministisk Formbar #2, Stockholm
Panel discussion with MMS, Samira Bouabana & Angela Tillman Sperandio (Hall of Femmes) and Linda Nilsson on "Conditions and responsibilities of an equal industry". Moderator: Sara Teleman

Back to top


Interview with MMS in "Beyond Walls – Grafikens Hus the Mobile Years 2014–2021"
Editor: Anna Henriksson
Published by Grafikens Hus, 2022
ISBN: 978-91-527-1925-1

“Press On! – Feminist Historiography of Print Culture and Collective Organizing”
Chapter in Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History, pp120-127
Editor: Briar Levit
Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2021
ISBN 9781648960062

“MMS – Open Archive & Interview”
Featuring an interview with MMS by Madeleine Morley and materials from our printmaking processes and archival research.
GRAPHIC Magazine, “Current issue” #47, 2021 South Korea

05 juli 2019 Sirp Eesti Kultuurileht
“Kirjastamise korratu ajalugu”
Interview with MMS and Liz Allan by Keiu Krikmann

“Press on!”
Essay in Tecknaren #6, 2017

Back to top

 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.

Gerda Breuer, Gesellschaft für Designgeschichte, 16 September 2022
Lisa Rosowsky, “Feminist pot-luck”, Eye Magazine no. 102 vol. 26, 2021
Briar Levit, Alphabettes, 1 May 2020
Robyn Pitts, People of Print, 23 March 2020
Charlie Filmer-Court, “MMS provides a window into an inspiring period of pre-war female graphic design”, It's Nice That, 12 March 2020

Read also "Anger is my Motto", interview with our Brazilian publisher Tereza Bettinardi (Clube do Livro do Design) in Futuress, 30 May 2022

Back to top

 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

Back to top

“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

Back to top

 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.

September 13, 2016
The A4-sheet – what hides in the most mundane
Emma Kihl

The artist Emma Kihl speaks about her artistic research project in which she investigated various aspects of the A4 sheet and the history of standardization.

September 27, 2016
Red Impressions
Carina Broman

Carina Broman, librarian at the Royal Library's unit for ephemeral prints speaks about the collection and shows a selection of printed matter that arose out of political organization. What did the print culture of socialist and feminist organizations look like? How did one organized oneself with the help of printed matter, and how can the ephemeral print collection be used today? Carina shares a selection of images of material in the archive.

October 11, 2016
Association of Women Typographers
Maryam Fanni and Sara Kaaman based on the work of Inger Humlesjö (1945–2016)

The typographers are known to have been militant throughout the ages, but what did it look like for the women in the profession? Inger Humlesjö researched the typographers' union struggle at the turn of the last century. Sara Kaaman and Maryam Fanni share a presentation based on Inger's work about the Association of Women Typographers and the working conditions of their members.

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

Back to top

 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.

Back to top

 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

Back to top

 Historieboken (The History Book) – seminar

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

Back to top