Todd St. John: HunterGather and primitive design practices

Simple visuals bring complex ideas to life at Todd St. John’s studio, HunterGatherer.

He wears many hats, but designer, illustrator, and animator Todd St. John says his studio HunterGatherer plays on the simplicity in life, tapping into the idea that despite how far we’ve come, there are certain human conditions that stay persistent.

Based in Brooklyn, HunterGatherer functions like a traditional design studio in that the company uses animation and illustration to bring a client’s idea to life.

Illustration, animation and storytelling are at the centre of what St. John calls “narrative by design”. This approach sees the studio working closely with the client to discover the winning narrative. “Sometimes we work as writers alongside the client, other times things come to us more fully formed. But overall we just try to boil things down. Simplicity is obviously very big,” he says.

One such campaign, Prius Goes Plural, encouraged people to vote for what the plural of Prius should be. Using Sesame Street-style jingles and stop-motion animation, the campaign explored the humorous and complicated nature of plurals, seamlessly introducing three new Prius models to the public. The campaign won a Cannes Gold ‘Cyber Lion’ in 2011.

St. John’s studio strives to do with video what cannot be done in print. “Sometimes with written word there’s gaps, things that would better be explained visually,” he says, adding that it’s about looking for a simplicity that is relatable and customised for video because sometimes a picture tells a thousand words. 

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