The famous psychologist Carl Jung was a fervent believer in the power of physical work to nourish the mind and provide inner peace. Nearly a century before today’s revolutionary technological advances began their relentless burrowing into our collective consciousness, Jung was already escaping to the countryside to build a house with his own hands and leave behind “the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us.”
Patricio Verdi Brusati likes to cite Jung’s pursuit of a simpler life when talking about 4humans, the Argentinian motion graphics studio he founded in 2014.
“Jung said that was one of the healthiest ways of being,” he told Daily Brief from his office in Buenos Aires. “You need to build things, to touch the earth. That’s one good way of balancing yourself.”
The first thought a name like 4humans evokes has something to do with the cosmos, with some sort of intelligent life making an offering to our little species from the far reaches of space. And this is indeed the interpretation the company plays up in its forward-facing materials: “We come in PEACE,” reads the literature on 4humans’ various platforms. “We want to create memorable audiovisual pieces that help humans reach other humans in a friendly and fun way. We believe that humour and beauty can go hand in hand. All that we create is made for humans. Welcome to our Mothership! Enjoy the ride!”
But 4humans is more than a handy thematic interpretation of a body of work packed with vibrant, imaginative, surreal and hilarious work for clients such as Fox, MTV, Nat Geo and Comedy Central. It’s an entire company ethos, one perhaps best encapsulated by Brusati’s decision to put a garden on the company terrace, a place where the employees can get their Jung on and “grow some vegetables, lemons, tangerines, lettuce,” he said, “as a way of working together as a human community.”
When he was 17, Brusati scored an internship at the former Argentinian variety channel Solo Tango, which lead to a job as a PA at MTV Latin America, where he got “the chance to see what a graphics package was about and how they made it” for “one of the most radical and innovative channels of that time.” By the age of 21 he was producing shows for the network, and by the age of 25 he had left MTV behind and was traveling the world.
“That’s a life-changing experience if you travel the world and see other cultures,” Brusati said. “I had many possibilities back then to go and work for other companies and stay in a bigger structure, but I understood it wasn’t for me. Traveling around the world was kind of a reflection of what I found out about myself. I understood that I didn’t want to have to do a 9 to 5, or at least I thought there was another way of making a living.”
Brusati wound up traveling for a couple years before returning home for good. Back in Argentina, he was able to find work producing music videos via connections he had made while at MTV. Eventually he teamed with director Tomi Dieguez to found the motion graphics studio Punga. With Dieguez directing and Brusati producing, the company proceeded to build a 10-year legacy of innovative, humorous and sometimes boldly bizarre work for brands ranging from IBM to the Red Cross.
“I was 26 when I started at Punga,” Brusati said. “I didn’t go to business school. I got to learn by experience and intuition, and when it felt good.”
Punga closed its doors in 2014 and three months later, Brusati would bring that well-honed intuition to the company he runs today. “First came the name,” he said. “Ideas have their own lives. They choose you. It’s not like you create something, it’s like you are a channel. [The name] came and it said, ‘I’m going to be called 4humans, so just work with it.’”
Working with the 4humans concept, at least internally, seems to have largely involved valuing the work second to the people whom you are doing it with. “I relate to humans and not employees, with collaborators instead of people I say, ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ to,” Brusati said. “When I call this a company, that doesn’t quite reflect what this is. This is a human experience that allows us to travel through life doing what we love and what we do best “That was the basis of what is today 4humans. It’s not only the product that is for humans, but the company.”
Today, Brusati exudes the relaxed demeanor of someone who has figured some things out. His desk contains both a photo of George Harrison (“my favorite Beatle”) and, on the other end of the celebrity personality spectrum, an action figure of Albert Einstein. As a counterbalance to the terrace garden, Brusati is a boxing fanatic and owns a gym in downtown Buenos Aires, where he trains six days a week. (“Working out every day is like magic.”) 4humans employees enjoy free access to the gym, where they sometimes find themselves duking it out in the ring with Brusati himself. “It’s so open here, the guys can come to the gym and they can spar with me,” he said. “You get to hit your own boss at 4humans – in a very fun way, but that’s the spirit. It’s the same with our creative process. We all get together and they all throw in ideas, and it’s the best idea that wins.”
How Brusati’s holistic yet competitive approach manifests in terms of his company’s output seems to be a kind of openness that encourages risk-taking. On a recent campaign for Sony’s AXN channel, for instance, 4humans took a simple idea – zooming in on an otherwise normal, even boring scene to reveal its teeming underbelly – and turned it into a kind of living museum of interlocking dioramas, which the team hand-painted using digital tools.
Blending the hand-painted close-up models with CGI was “crazy work” that “took forever,” Brusati said. But for 4humans director Facu Labo, the exertion was worth it.
“It was something we always wanted to do,” Labo said. “We really like that technique. It’s really time-consuming, but it has that really expressive feeling. It was the perfect project to try it on.”
Labo joined Brusati’s team at Punga fresh out of college, and has worked with the executive producer for nearly his entire career. “I grew up here,” he said. “There was always something new that happened. First I started animating and trying stuff, then a script would come in and they would be like, ‘hey, do this. I know you can do it,” and then it all started to grow by itself. I really like that about working here with [Brusati]. He trusts us a lot.”
Loyalty like Labo’s is not unusual for Brusati, who values his staff profoundly but also understands the importance of venturing out, both creatively and personally.
“I barely use email,” he said. “I don’t know how to use After Effects. Without my people, I would have nothing. I’m a channel. I get work and I give them a platform to grow and develop. Sometimes they go and do their own thing and I encourage them to do it. I never try to keep them with me. When you work with younger people and you know the processes that come in life, you just try to let them grow, or stay until they feel like it. For me, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to do that.”