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Todd St. John on Hiring Good People, Getting Sawdust in the Computers, and Striving to Make Designs That Seem Inevitable


Core77 Questionnaire











ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-1.jpg

This is the latest installment of our Core77 Questionnaire. Previously, we talked to IKEA creative director Mia Lundström.

Name: Todd St. John

Occupation: Designer/illustrator/animator. Founder of HunterGatherer.

Location: Brooklyn

Current projects: We are doing some ongoing work with Pilgrim, which is a surf shop in Brooklyn run by a friend. We just finished up some animation for AM Labs, which is a cleaning-product company based in Denmark. And we’re working on our own product designs.

Mission: Striving to make designs that seem inevitable

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-2a.jpgFrom Photo-Graphics, an ongoing series of cameras rendered in wood

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-3.jpgCover images for a Money Mark LP and the New York Times Magazine

When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? When I was younger I was interested in too many things. At some point in school, when I understood what design could encompass, it really appealed to me. Since it was so expansive, you could do quite a number of things and still call them “design.”

Education: My degree is in graphic design, from the University of Arizona. Later I taught a design class for 10 years in Yale’s graduate program, and I feel like I learned quite a bit from the faculty and students there. I also absorbed a lot about woodworking and engineering from my father.

First design job: In school, my first “design” internship was in Hawaii, where I grew up. I worked for a small agency, doing illustrations for a local ice cream shop and coffee packaging and things like that. Out of school, it was for a small firm in San Diego, doing identities and packaging.

Who is your design hero? The answer to that question changes. But I recently read a Jim Henson biography, and I’ve always thought really highly of him and how he combined communication and fun and visual innovation in ways that do great things for the world.

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-4.jpgInside HunterGatherer’s studio in Brooklyn

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-5.jpgLeft: a skull model in HunterGatherer’s workshop. Right: a moose illustration created for a Toyota Prius campaign

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-6.jpgIdentity and design for Pilgrim, a Brooklyn surf and clothing shop

Describe your workspace: We have a studio split in two parts. One is what I’d call “the clean room” and the other is the shop. So all the desks and computers are in one room, and all the saws and that sort of thing are in the other. It used to be in one room, but then you get a lot of sawdust in the computers. Beside myself we have two full-time employees and one part-time, and then we work with a lot of freelancers based on projects.

Other than the computer, what is your most important tool? I draw constantly, so probably the mechanical pencil.

What is the best part of your job? I’ve always tried to pivot between collaborating with people and doing our own products. When I first started, I wasn’t sure if that was possible, but we’ve been doing it for 14 or 15 years now and that’s still been a model that’s worked. I feel really lucky to be able to do that.

What is the worst part of your job? Probably the really business-y side of the job—taxes and payroll and that sort of thing.

A video for REDU, with stop-motion animation using thousands of individually cut blocks

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-8.jpgAbove and below: some of St. John’s abstract illustrations

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-10.jpg

What time do you get up and go to bed? I usually get up when one of my kids wakes up, which is sometime around 6:30 a.m. And I try to be in bed by 11:00 p.m.

How do you procrastinate? Trying to teach myself new things, and buying a bunch of equipment for it

What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? Just having good people that work with me. One thing I’ve always done is try to hire somebody at least part-time who is working on projects other than client projects. Keeping them busy has always been very helpful for me in terms of moving forward those sorts of projects without a deadline.

What is the most important quality in a designer? Open-mindedness and never assuming you’re right

What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers? Probably the word “design” itself. Everybody says it, but no two people think it means the same thing.

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-9.jpgA folding chair and ottoman made from walnut, brass and nylon

ToddStJohn-HunterGatherer-11.jpgA hand-made tape dispenser and candleholder, both in solid walnut

What is your most prized design possession? I’ve got an old Hans Wegner paddle-arm chair that is my reading chair. It’s a little dinged up at this point, but I’d say that’s my most prized thing.

What is exciting you in design right now? Although I don’t do a lot of super high-tech things myself, I think a lot of what’s going on with algorithmic design and generative design is super interesting.

If you could redesign anything, what would you choose? Maybe designing a contemporary library, from the furniture to the way people interact with information, the books and the space. It would span a lot of things I’m interested in.

What do you hope to be doing in ten years? Hitting my stride, hopefully

Lastly, who’s more fun to have a drink with: architects, industrial designers or graphic designers? I think drinks are always better with as many different kinds of people as possible.

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We Asked Agencies to Share Their Oddest Decorations, and They Did Not Disappoint

AdFreak is your daily blog of the best and worst of creativity in advertising, media, marketing and design. Follow us as we celebrate (and skewer) the latest, greatest, quirkiest and freakiest commercials, promos, trailers, posters, billboards, logos and package designs around. Edited by Adweek’s Tim Nudd. Updated every weekday, with a weekly recap on Saturdays.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Adfreak/~3/EfDjYtgH_3k/story01.htm

 

Code School Founder on Creating a Diverse Tech Community

It’s hard to ignore the nationwide push to get more girls into coding – and you shouldn’t. According to research from the National Center for Women Information Technology, while women make up more than half of the workforce, they only hold around a quarter of technology jobs. Women earn 57% of undergrad degrees, but only 18% of undergrad computer and information sciences degrees. This disparity is what sparked Code School founder Gregg Pollack to ask the question – how can we cast a wider net?

Pollack took note that Google was actively encouraging more people to learn how to code – the Internet giant donated $50 million as part of its initiative Made With Code – the funds going towards creating more opportunities for women and minorities in computer science. Google is also collaborating with Science and Entertainment Exchange in an effort to televise more female engineer characters.

Now, Code School is partnering with Google to support women and minorities in tech. Google gave away thousands of vouchers for three free months of the online programming courses, marking a further investment in creating a more gender-balanced future in tech. But it’s not just about statistics and funding – creating a diverse and inclusive tech community is about the experience. That’s where Code School stands out. Pollack tells PSFK:

What makes us unique is how we combine so many disciplines for an optimal user experience – branding, UI, illustration, jingles, writing, gamification. Nobody does it quite like us.

Code School courses “take the risk of failing out of it” through gamification, Pollack says, with many users’ feedback being that it wasn’t as hard as they thought it was going to be. Aspiring programmers take part in interactive exercises, earning badges and unlocking levels as they go, with intermingled jingles, motion graphics, and amusing characters to take the tediousness out of learning a new technology.

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Code School is mindful of catering to both men and women, and this was evident in a modification to its Road Trip levels – all of the courses had featured a male animation – until about a year ago. Pollack said they didn’t notice because they had used an outside contracting firm to create the motion graphics. Once it was brought to his attention, they added in a female character to the level.

The Code School staff of 30 is comprised of about a third women, and Pollack tells PSFK that bridging the gender gap doesn’t stop short of these aforementioned initiatives – it’s also an effort that needs to be taken within existing companies. Studies prove that gender equality in the workplace creates better performing companies, among many other advantages.

While there are a range of reasons to explain this link, one factor is that diversity brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues an organisation faces and spurs greater effort, leading to improved decision-making.

Pollack says that in order to create an office environment equally appealing to all genders and backgrounds, Code School offers new amenities – such as Yoga Tuesdays and Wine and Whiskey Wednesdays. The site will also feature its first woman instructor, who will teach a JavaScript course online soon. But Pollack also recognizes that its just “the tip of the iceberg” in creating gender balanced companies, as well as in making learning how to code fun.

Money, initiatives, statistics, and policies aside, the bottom line comes down to – why code? Pollack says that’s like asking, ‘Why should I learn a second language?’

Article source: http://www.psfk.com/2014/07/code-school-founder-create-diverse-tech-community.html