Todd St. John Talks About His Unusually Trendy Business Model

Todd St. John Talks About His Unusually Trendy Business Model

Has that plan worked? It seems like HunterGatherer is your public-facing brand, while you say that your personal site is for more experimental stuff. But really, it's all you.
It's kind of evolved. When it first started, I put it all under HunterGatherer. The studio is still small but it was really small, so it made sense for it all to be there. Then it got bigger and things fit less well, so I broke it off a few years back. Initially, there was a lot more product, and I feel like it lurches over the years. For a few years, I might concentrate more on animation and not do as much product, and then it will switch back.

 

You just do your thing and it's automatic. Teaching forces you to articulate what you're doing, why, and how you're doing it.

 

Did you see yourself as a businessman?
I haven't ever though of myself quite that way, but inevitably that's a big part of what you do. You are running a business. But I also like that. I intentionally ended up with a studio where I come into work. I actually really like working with people. I wouldn't like it if it was just me doing my thing, and every few months I would put on a show. That really wouldn't be that much fun for me. It's designed in a way that works for me.

Does dealing with the non-creative side get frustrating?
Whenever we've done product stuff, in your head it's like you get the idea, you get it made, you sell it, and it's great. In reality, 5% is designing it and the rest is getting it made and dealing with logistics. It takes a lot of drive to get it done after that first little creative part is finished.

What stuff have you done recently that you're particularly jazzed about?
There have been a couple of animations that are coming out in a few months that have been fun. I actually have been gearing a lot more back toward products. There are a few projects I can't go into because they are not fleshed out, but basically, I've been working a lot more on product designs. Some are with other people, and some are on my own. It's about getting enough of those things to a point where we can put something together.

Will that be a store or a website?
Probably somewhere in between the two. There are a couple things right now that I'm working on with other people where they will have a hand in producing or something else. I'm also working on some other stuff that will be more handcrafted. 

What's one way that the design world has changed in the past 10 years?
When I first started the studio, the idea of having something that was partially client and partially product-based seemed like a bit of a strange thing to do. I would have to explain it to people. I think now it's not strange to people.

Are you still teaching as a graduate critic at the Yale School of Art?
I'm not still doing it. I did it up until a year and a half or two years ago. I taught video and film to grad students. It was something that I never thought about doing, but that I fell into largely by accident. It was interesting. One thing that happens when you work with yourself is that you don't always have to articulate what you're thinking about. You just do your thing and it's automatic. Teaching forces you to articulate what you're doing, why, and how you're doing it. That was really good. You step back not just from what you're doing but what the whole world is doing. 

Did that make you a better designer?
Yeah. It knocks you out of your rut. You have to be in a conversation. 

Portrait of Todd St. John by Scott Albrecht.

Tags: todd-st-john, design, interview, artist
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