Studio Visit: Anna Gutsch and Johann Rischau

Studio Visit: Anna Gutsch and Johann Rischau

Studio Visit is a Q&A with local artists. Here, a chat with Anna Gutsch, 30, and Johann Rischau, 31, of Urbana. They are the owners of Norden German Design Studio, the first tenant to sign up for space in [co][lab] in downtown Urbana.

Did both of you come here from Germany to get a master's degree in industrial design at the University of Illinois?

Gutsch: Yes, John came a little earlier than I did, six or so years ago. We both have master's degrees in industrial design from the School of Art + Design.

Rischau: I came here by accident.

Gutsch: I didn't. I looked at the UI campus and liked it. In Germany I studied color design but I wanted to educate myself further in color as well as industrial design because they go together. I chose this campus because it's so international. I was able to get to know people from different cultures and countries and engage with them about color and the different meanings of colors in their cultures.

Rischau: There's a huge difference in how color is perceived in different parts of the world. If I look at a certain color I associate certain values with it. These things can be interpreted differently.

Gutsch: The reality is we live and practice in a world where products are made to go around the world.

Tell me about Norden.

Gutsch: We take a holistic approach toward design. We have a philosophy that things should be simple, clear and refined, and we strive to design products, interior spaces and experiences exactly after that motto.

What kind of products do you design?

Gutsch: Purposely unspecified. We have designed kitchenware. We do all kinds of housewares and for spaces we work together with private individuals to re-design their living spaces. We recently designed an addition to a house in Champaign and we're currently working to transform room after room according to the concept of our design, which includes custom design of and the building of furniture for our clients.

Have you studied architecture?

Gutsch: We are not architects but we design interior spaces and facades and additions. We would work with a structural engineer to make those designs a reality.

Rischau: We also design consumer products. We are currently working on two consumer products for two other firms.

Do you design mass-produced objects?

Gutsch: Some of our products are mass-produced and some are prestige products that are not made in the millions for everybody.

Where do you fabricate your products?

Gutsch: We have several small workshops where we make the original parts and assemble the products. All of our products are made somehow to relate to our northern German background and our history. We definitely enjoy the "Haus + Home" pop-up shop here at [co][lab] over Christmas time. We're able to show the C-U community a part of what we're doing and who we are.

Norden means north in Germany. The northern German aesthetic is very simple and clean. It's often mistaken for Scandinavian design. Norden Design is part of that. It's just who we are.

Rischau: When we say north we're also helping our clients to find direction.

Do you use 3-D printers?

Rischau: We do use a 3-D printer when we build parts for some consumer products. With most 3-D printers, the output is not that good.

Gutsch: They're fairly expensive and we prefer materials that have more emotion built into them so we don't like to use plastic, for the most part. For each product we choose the appropriate materials so the product lasts the longest time possible. We try not to make products that follow trends because we believe in products that are classic, clearly understood and timeless. We don't like this culture of throwing things away, of things being designed to break after a certain period of time.

Editor's note: Haus + Home will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at [co][lab], 206 W. Main St., U.

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