By: Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

BROOKINGS – The power of visuals is at an all-time high in this digital era, and with it comes the need to harness it in marketing.

For more than a year, the crew at Johnson Design & Video has been busy helping businesses in and out of Brookings market themselves, bringing with them a personable and collaborative approach to their work.

Johnson Design & Video is co-owned by Josh Johnson and Zeke Richter. Richter was raised on his family’s sheep farm in Colman, and he attended Colman-Egan High School before coming to Brookings to attend South Dakota State University. He earned his degree in media production.

Johnson is a Rock Valley, Iowa, native, but he went to Canton High School. He’s also an SDSU grad but got his degree in graphic design.

They met at SDSU and even back then, Johnson had the idea for this business.

In college, “we had a lot of people that we hung out with that were very creative, whether it was video, musical or animation or graphic design. I’m like, wouldn’t it be fun to get us all together and just create a company?” Johnson said. “They thought that was silly at the time.”

He began doing freelance work, and Richter went on his own work path, too.

Johnson’s first marketing job was with Rainbow Play Systems, where he worked on the company’s catalogues and other marketing. After a few years, he began work for the Alumni Association at SDSU. For four years, he handled its website, social media and design needs.

Richter has worked at Brookings Radio and TV Productions. For four years, he worked at McQuillen Creative Group, a creative agency in Aberdeen. He’s also worked on recording area bands and short movies.

The duo got their start putting together material for Craft Italian-American Fusion two years ago as a side gig apart from their day jobs, with Johnson as the marketing and communications specialist at the Alumni Association and Richter as a video producer at the McQuillen Creative Group. On an informal basis, they worked together on a few things before deciding in the fall of 2015 to go into business for themselves. It was January 2016 when Johnson Design & Video came to be.

Since then, it’s been a lot of learning for the two, from accounting and managing business finances to being involved within the community and networking.

In starting their business, they’ve been able to learn the stories behind local businesses that not everyone gets to hear, and it’s one of the things they enjoy most about their work.

“You can spend four or five years in the Brookings community and only see a small part of what Brookings has to offer,” Richter said.

Johnson Design & Video functions as a one-stop marketing and branding shop for businesses new and established. A full-service creative agency, they produce marketing materials for print, web, radio and television. They even create logos.

They also teach their clients how to put these materials to use, maximizing their investment in these marketing materials by targeting the right people that need to see the material.

That new businesses are common clients for them is natural given what they do, Richter said. “If you are a new business, you need all these materials.”

And there is a convenience in being able to get all those materials from one source, rather than relying on one company to handle the website, another to produce videos, yet another to create print materials, and so on.

“If you want marketing help, you want someone to help you with marketing; you don’t want to coordinate between all your different people,” Richter said.

The hope is that by offering all these different aspects of branding and marketing in one place, there will be a unity in the final product, a cohesion and consistency that’s much harder to come by if it was pieced together by several different groups. It’s also less stressful for the client.

But there are established businesses in and out of Brookings that might need to make them to create a video or another particular marketing item. With those businesses, they strive to create material that’s in keeping with that business’s existing brand.

Regardless of how new a client’s business is, the process always begins the same: with a simple conversation. Johnson and Richter know that in order to do their jobs, they need to understand thoroughly the business their work will represent.

It’s no wonder then that the pair consider this starting conversation to be the most important step.

“We don’t present anything. We don’t say this is what you should do or not do. We just want them to talk,” Johnson said. “We want to hear what their business is, where they’re coming from, what they see as their needs. There have been times where we met with clients multiple times before we even touch a proposal.”

“That’s kind of our modus operandi. We want to tell authentic brand stories. If you have a business, you want to say this is who I am, what I am all about, this is what I offer and this is what sets me apart,” Richter added.

Once the work on creating marketing materials begin, Johnson and Richter keep clients informed of progress through a series of benchmarks to ensure the products are still in line with the client’s vision.

They encouraged any interested businesses to schedule a conversation with them.

“The conversation is free. We want to get to know you, and we want you to get to know us. If after that conversation or a couple of conversations it seems like the right fit, then let’s keep talking. If not, if it doesn’t feel like the right fit, that’s OK,” Johnson said.

Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, although they can meet interested clients at other times as well.

Johnson can be reached at 605-359-1398 or

Contact Eric Sandbulte at


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