Interview by Noah Davis (@noahedavis). A freelance writer living in Brooklyn, Davis has written for The Wall Street Journal, New York, and Sports Illustrated.
Todd St. John is a master of many trades. At his HunterGatherer studio, the Oahu-born, Brooklyn-based designer/animator/filmmaker effortlessly jumps between mediums for clients including MTV, The New York Times, and Nike. In addition to the film and design work, there are beautiful products such as a stunning wood grain skateboard and the mind-bending Dali-esque Pink Floyd tee shirt.
In his Gowanus studio, St. John talked to Complex about balancing it all, how his unusual business model became trendy, and his recent focus on product.
In high school, I was actually more interested in music. But I think design appealed to me because you could contain a lot of these different mediums within it.
You do all kinds of things. How do you label yourself? A designer? An animator? A filmmaker? Or maybe just a creative person?
I always struggle to have a short answer for that. I don't worry about it too much. I tend to think that there are some ideas that run through all of my work. Instead of doing a lot of different thematic things all within one medium, I'm actually fairly focused on some of the ideas I deal with but I try to extend them across many mediums. Instead of slicing it thinly one way, I'm slicing it thinly the other way.
Like vertical integration vs. horizontal integration?
Yeah, that's kind of the thought. A lot of times, I'll finish something, look at it, and think of other ways that it manifest itself elsewhere.
Did you focus on any discipline first?
I'm trained as a graphic designer, but it wasn't the first thing. When I was a kid, I did a lot of animation. My parents sent me to camps. In high school, I was actually more interested in music. But I think design appealed to me because you could contain a lot of these different mediums within it. Once I started working in design for a couple years, I tried to add on to it here and there. I started with a wide variety of interests, narrowed down to design, and then slowly started to expand out again. When I first started, we did a lot of products like tee shirts and pillows as well.
HunterGatherer has been around for about 10 years. Why did you start it?
Before this, I had been working at MTV as an art director, and I had also been doing a lot of product stuff. They were almost two different worlds. When I left MTV and went full-time on my own, I wanted some place where all that stuff could exist together. It was going to be partially client and video and partially product.