MEET NINA CHO

When I was researching artist and designer Nina Cho I wasn’t sure exactly where to start, so the obvious choice was to start with her website. Seconds into my search it became very apparent that she is a very accomplished artist and designer featured in many publications around the globe, collecting awards and nominations along the way. Her work is very thoughtful with a simplified aesthetic; her work will definitely stand the test of time. Owning one of her pieces would be a pleasure and apiece you’ll keep forever.

I believe that my own personal background has naturally led me to a minimal and simplified aesthetic. My recent works have focused on reductive forms that blur the line between an art object and a functional product. I am practicing a strict rule in design: to create form by distilling it to its most essential structure and to its most basic function. By eliminating unnecessary factors and highlighting a singular material, I aim to simplify not only a form, but fabrication process as well. I pursue ideas of lightness and reduction in my work. Colors, shape, and material must be essential to the piece and complete the work. -Nina Cho

1. What was your first major interaction with art and design? 2. What affect did that have on you, and is that what drove you to choose design as your profession?

I studied painting when I was very little, so from early on I was exploring my creativity. I always enjoyed looking at photos of interior design magazine and liked to draw the floor plans for my future living space (without knowing what is the floor plan for architecture was supposed to look like). In my art high school years in Korea, I realized that I was more interested in three dimensional structures and space. I started to explore the relationship of all different scales between human bodies and furniture, fashion, objects and architecture. I grew especially interested in creating objects for people to live and interact with.

3. What is your design process?

My approach to design is intuitive and varies from project to project. A hands-on approach to design and fabrication is integral to my process; I believe that working with my hands at full scale is very helpful way to understand my design in depth. I avoid computer modeling (usually working on a computer model if I need to communicate with fabricators) and rather enjoy making physical mockups and models with my hands. I first like to produce a prototype by myself. For some of my work, I work with artists, designers and craftspeople specializing in various fabrication methods to develop the prototype further.

4. How do you balance creativity and business?

Honestly, I am constantly learning about how can I manage both sides well. My goal is always to have enough time to focus on my creative work while maintaining the business.

5. How do you get “unstuck” creatively?

The best way for me is to leave any place I've gotten used to and explore a new space. Sometimes, I feel stuck and not creative when I'm in the same circumstance day after day. I always enjoy exploring new places and new things. Traveling is always good remedy for creator's block.

6. Where do you find inspiration for a product/ design projects?

I always look for new sources of inspiration. Inspiration comes from all of my experiences and thoughts. I don’t like to define/limit my work in terms of what it is supposed to be used for or how it should function. I like the ambiguous space between art and design. I try to look at everything in a fresh way. This always inspires me to have new ideas.

7.What would you say is a great example of great design (digital/physical)? Not including your own

I think a great design provokes new idea/meaning/value at it’s given point in time and also has a long-lasting value and aesthetic that people respect, appreciate and love throughout time.

8. Are there books/ exhibits/ conferences or lectures that you tend to admire?

Designing design by Kenya Hara. I read this book when I began undergraduate studies in Korea. It was mind blowing mainly because of his unique approach and perspective on design. It was breathtaking to me as a student who just got into the world of design. It is still one of my favorite books.

Last year, I was impressed by the exhibition called Hippie Modernism: The struggle for Utopia. It was shown at Walker Art Center first. The exhibition includes art, design and architecture from the 1960s and early 1970s and the works still have very a important impact on design culture. The strange title for the exhibition was very interesting to me and the pieces shown were very inspiring.

9. As a designer, what is the most important aspect of you job (or your design)?

When you are working for yourself, I think you can easily feel unmotivated and hard to keep making good work. I try to consistently thinking and physically working on creation.

10. Is there a common theme in all of your pieces, or do you build each piece on a singular thought or theme?

I believe I have a common theme on my work. I would say that the common theme comes from my own personal background. Though I was born in the US, I was raised in Korea. I believe it has naturally led me to a minimal and simplified aesthetic. The aesthetic of emptiness is traditional to Korean art. In painting, the unpainted portion of the surface is as important as the portion that is painted; it’s about respecting the emptiness as much as the object. Through practicing the beauty of the void, I respect not only the object itself but also the negative space left by it. I believe an empty space poetically invites the air, users, surroundings, and spirit into itself. I am currently focused on the new ways of articulating this sentiment for negative space.

My recent work is focused on reductive forms that blur the line between an art object and a functional product. It’s about creating form by distilling it to its most essential structure and to its most ideal function. By eliminating unnecessary factors and highlighting a singular material, I aim to simplify not only a form but the fabrication process as well. I pursue ideas of lightness and reduction in my work. Color, shape, and material must be essential to the piece and complete the work.