2 Minutes With … Emma Eriksson of Forsman & Bodenfors NY
Emma Eriksson, previously art director at Forsman & Bodenfors' Swedish headquarters and now co-head of creative (with Matt Creamer) at F&B New York, is looking to add the best of Sweden's creative culture to an atmosphere that is unabashedly New York.
With more than 20 years of creative experience, Emma has developed award-winning work for brands like Häagen-Dazs Global and Åhléns, Sweden's biggest chain of department stores. She firmly believes in creative that shows a brand's true potential and while making a difference for humanity and society.
Prior to joining F&B in 2017, Emma co-founded the agency Le Bureau in Stockholm, where she spent 12 years heading up creative. Clients included H&M, Filippa K and Nationella Hivrådet. Prior to that, she spent six years at TBWA Stockholm, working with clients like Absolut Vodka and MTV.
We spent two minutes with Emma to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.
Emma, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up outside of Skellefteå, a small town north of Sweden. Now, I live in Stockholm, but I'm moving to New York with my family as soon as the pandemic allows.
What you wanted to be when you grew up.
I was a dreamer and lost myself in the worlds of music and fashion magazines—drawing, reading and scrapbooking. The goals kept changing within the field of creativity.
How you discovered you were creative.
I had my mind set on academic studies and started a degree in media and communication. It became so clear to me that I didn't want to research and analyze the media. I wanted to make stuff. That's where the fun was. I had the craftiness from art school but couldn't decide what I loved the most—photography, film, fashion, graphic design or illustration. I got into Beckmans College of Design and discovered advertising. Here, everything that made me feel different in the theoretical world was now an asset. And I didn't have to decide or choose. I could do a bit of everything I loved.
A person you idolized creatively growing up.
I was super impressed by Kim Gordon and how she shaped the visual world around Sonic Youth and X-Girl.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
When I graduated from high school, I couldn't wait to get out of there and for my life to start. I wasn't a bad student, but I was very impatient and bored.
The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.
The first concert that meant something to me was with a local band called The Wannadies, who I saw as a kid in Skellefteå. The radio recorded the concert and you could hear me and my friends screaming in the background since the space was tiny. I'm a big fan of music, and I listen to indie rock, pop, old hip-hop, and new stuff with my tweenies. I also love soft '70s and Americana.
Your favorite visual artist.
Cindy Sherman, Marie-Louise Ekman, Melina Matsoukas, Martin Parr, Hilma af Klint, Tyler Mitchell, David Hockney, Luis Barragán, Harley Weir, Sara-Vide Ericson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Alessandro Michele. I could keep going.
Your favorite fictional character.
Arya Stark in Game of Thrones.
The best book you've read lately.
I only read when I'm on vacation, and the latest thing was Karin Smirnoff's striking debut trilogy. She's also from the north of Sweden, which made it even more interesting to me. The first one, My Brother, has been translated into English.
A movie, TV show or podcast you've found inspiring.
I've seen Good Will Hunting multiple times, and I love to cry to it. Sofia Coppola, Tarantino and Wes Anderson are also big sources of inspiration, but nowadays, I find TV shows more interesting. Lately, Mare of Easttown, I May Destroy You and Call My Agent. I also listen to many great Swedish podcasts.
Your favorite Instagram follow.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
Professionally, I started working remotely with Forsman & Bodenfors New York. It was hard for me to onboard a new job without meeting people in real life. I learned not to take human connections for granted and understood just how vital social life is for creativity. Personally, I couldn't see my parents for over a year, and I miss them in a way I didn't think was possible for a grownup to miss people.
Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.
I have many favorites. One of them is a very old project called The Sex Tree for the HIV Council. It was a digital test where you could find out how many people you really had sex with, championed by a beautiful film by Mikael Marcimain. We had outstanding actors and artists who all were quite famous in Sweden. It got banned from YouTube and got a lot of attention and awards at the time.
A recent project you're proud of.
I worked with Häagen-Dazs and a genius team. The dynamic in the group and its energy were extraordinary. We'd have fun and fight a lot for our ideas, and even if it wasn't always working, I think that's what's made me proud of the work we've done.
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.
I always had a big heart for ambient campaigns, and I remember Bing's Decode Jay-Z made me excited back in the day. That Gucci jacket, Caddy, and the Delano pool.
Someone else's creative project that you admired lately.
There's great ideas like "True Name" and "Moldy Whopper." But this year, I leaned toward strong emotional stories like "You Love Me" and the hope in "The Show Must Go On," directed by Melina Matsoukas. Or to laugh with Jason Alexander's hoodie for Tide. I'm also impressed with Burger King's new graphic identity.
Your main strength as a creative person.
I often felt like the least talented one on my team and compensated by working hard. But I'm a true believer in collaboration, and if you just speak your mind, you also help move the work forward. Even if you say stupid things, stupid is sometimes better than smart. The collaborative work process is Forsman & Bodenfors's secret recipe for success and one of the reasons I feel at home here.
I know now that I'm good at spotting talent, whether it's agency creatives or who to work with. To find the best creatives and make them flourish is very rewarding.
Your biggest weakness.
I'm not sure if it's my most prominent, but I'm a time optimist and have difficulty saying no. Unfortunately, it gets me in trouble sometimes.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Other people. I'm a shy but very extroverted person, and it's how I collect all my energy.
One thing that always makes you sad.
When talent goes to waste. I wish there was more room for the rebels, weirdos, and dreamers in the industry. Many exciting people get lost.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
Be lost, poor and struggling, haha. I'm very interested in culture and visual expressions, and it would be interesting to dive into that more in a different way at some point.