November 1, 2012

Alumni Q&A: Bill Hilgendorf and Jason Horvath

Bill Hilgendorf and Jason Horvath

Ages: 33 and 34

Co-founders of

Uhuru Design

, Brooklyn, New York

Rhode Island School of Design

, Industrial Design, 2002


ID: How has the design field changed for grads since you began your careers?

BH & JH: The Web has changed the field a lot. You have access to so much more information now. It is so easy to make something or find someone to make it, take a photo of it and throw it on up a website or get it on a blog and get your product out there – at little or no cost. When we graduated, our work was still on slides and we had to look through the yellow pages to find vendors. There are a lot of new companies and a strong sense of entrepreneurship in design in general.

ID: How do you think “design” is viewed in popular culture today; is it more significant in daily life than it was 10 or 20 years ago? If so, how?

Bill Hilgendorf & Jason Horvath: Most people probably know design by the slew of reality shows that have sprung up in the last five years, but it is definitely more significant. Modern design has really been popularized in the last 10 years by big-box retailers like IKEA, CB2 and Restoration Hardware. They have done a great job making contemporary design more affordable and accessible to a larger audience, but part of good design is making products that last-something that larger retailers aren’t known for.


ID: What materials, techniques or fabrications are you most excited about?

BH & JH: We love materials with a story. For us, this often means reclaimed materials, and the chance to give them a second life. We feel with all the products out there, if you buy something with a story that is well made, it’s something you will keep and pass along. We love to mix traditional wood and metalworking techniques with cutting-edge technology like CNC laser-tubing cutters and water-jet cutters and five-axis routers.

ID: What personal career accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

BH & JH: Being selected for the “40 under 40 Craft Futures” show at the

Smithsonian Museum of American Art

was definitely pretty awesome, but the fact that we have been able to build a business that supports 10 people while still having crazy adventures all over the world (Jason) and raising a family (Bill) is definitely more of an accomplishment to us.

ID: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting your career?

BH& JH: To focus more on the business of design. Many young designers today end up starting their own businesses – having a better understanding about basic business principles coming out of school would have saved some bumps and bruises in the first few years.


Student Outlook, Part 1

Student Outlook, Part 2

Student Outlook, Part 3

Alumni Q&A: Todd Bracher

Alumni Q&A: Nathan Thomas

Alumni Q&A: Jonah Becker

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