Based in San Francisco, principals Christina Cho Yoo and Ming Thompson founded Atelier Cho Thompson in January of 2014. Having been classmates at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and colleagues at the SF office of Bohlin Cywinsky Jackson, Cho Yoo and Thompson set out to build a firm that would engage their varied interests and test their numerous skills. With educational backgrounds in both Architecture and Structural Engineering and curiosity for all things ‘design,’ the pair has built up and impressive portfolio of projects with a wide range of typologies, clientele, and scale. Read below for their responses to our Neue Guild Feature Firm Q&A.
The Neue Guild [NG] What is your area of design expertise?
Atelier Cho Thompson [ACT] Architecture, Interiors, Graphics, Branding, Furniture Design.
NG How did your firm begin?
ACT We were both working at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson together & designed a Parking Day installation for the firm. The concept for our firm emerged during that intense time of working together when developing a concept & design, testing different materials, building the furniture pieces, and coming up with a marketing & branding plan. We started to talk about how it would be compelling for clients to be able to engage a single firm for a broad scope of services, creating a stronger concept to permeate through all scales of design. Both of us had worked in other fields before — structural engineering, museum exhibition design, graphic design — and we thought we could tap into our multidisciplinary backgrounds and offer an efficient, holistic approach to design for clients. Turns out many clients were looking for just this type of firm!
NG Do you have a favorite part or phase of the design process?
ACT We love the initial ideation phase with the client when we get to hear about their company’s story and dreams and to start to brainstorm how to take things to the next level.
NG What’s an area of design with which you’re unfamiliar but would like to be more familiar?
ACT We are starting to do more work in packaging design and love learning about new furniture making techniques from our maker friends.
NG What inspires your work?
ACT Travel, exploring the cities we live in (SF & Oakland), learning about new materials & fabrication techniques.
NG What has been your greatest design challenge to date?
ACT Creating and growing our own firm has been our greatest design challenge. We set out at the beginning with a somewhat unorthodox goal, especially as a small firm, to provide total design at multiple scales for clients. How to set up the legal and financial structure to make this approach work, how to create a formalized process for developing all these elements with the client, and how to select the right projects to allow us to grow in our holistic design approach.