Silvia Terhedebrügge, Neon, 2013

One way to get past sibling rivalry is through sibling collaboration, as demonstrated by Berlin-based sister design duo Terhedebrügge. The studio takes it name simply from the pair’s surname, and neatly forms a practice encompassing graphic and editorial design (Antonia), and product and furniture (Silvia).

While the sisters work towards very different final products, the collaborative nature of the studio means they share ideas, space, and even clients. “Since we were young we always drew together, built sandcastles and exchanged our ideas,” says the duo of their childhood. “When we began studying different disciplines, nothing changed. We talk about our projects, discuss them and therefore influence each other.”

Terhedebrügge officially formed two years ago, and was a natural step in their creative relationship. They say they work “more like a collective” when a project comes in: sometimes they work together, sometimes they work separately, sometimes they work alongside other designers or friends. Among the studio’s clients are cultural institutions like the International Design Center Berlin (IDZ), the Akademie Schloss Solitude, and the Association of German Architects (BDA) Baden-Württemberg; as well as brands and manufacturers like FEST Amsterdam, Woud, and Bartmann Berlin. 

Surely there must be occasional tensions, knowing each other as initimately as siblings and working together each day? Apparently not. “We’ve known each other since day one,” they counter. “We are completely honest with each other, which is good, but it can also be quite hard.

“We often share the same vision and we know what the other is talking about, even though that might be just shown through abstract hand drawings. And it’s always good to have a partner in crime.”

Studio life with the sisterhood certainly sounds idyllic. Based in Berlin Schöneberg, a typical day involves listening to music or podcasts and popping to a food market for lunch. Berlin life suits them. “We were born in Berlin. It has a special feeling of freedom, creativity, and individuality, as well as being dirty and sad simultaneously. It’s a perfect contrast that brings different perspectives to our work; Where are the boundaries of design? How can we bring together graphic and product design?”

This broader approach to design and making is what underpins Terhedebrügge’s thoughtful, clean, and clever approach. Instead of focusing on the differences between making a table and a book, they hone in on the similarities: design, as they say, is more wide-ranging than it is easily compartmentalized.

“We both have clear, conceptual, graphical sensibilities,” they say. “We like to bring character, form and concept into design and mix it up again. We like to experiment and work with analog materials, and then put it together digitally.”

Where their differences lie is more subtle: Silvia works with miniatures and paper models, and “thinks in material and volume”; while Antonia works more two-dimensionally, thinking in “paper, visual concepts and typography.”

Silvia Terhedebrügge, Table, 2016
Silvia and Antonia Terhedebrügge, Table, 2016

Terhedebrügge’s aesthetic is clean, minimal, and staunchly contemporary. There’s nothing extraneous: typefaces largely veer towards sans serifs and modernity, while furniture pieces favor block colors and mid-century confidence.

A 2016 side table, for instance, takes a form that “shifts between two-and three-dimensionality, with a focus on both surface and volume,” Silvia, who worked with Antonia on the project, explains. “For the base we used a bent, powder-coated metal sheet which opens sideways into space and a tabletop made of wood. It has a distinct graphical appearance; yet, is also soft in its form.”

From Antonia’s side of the studio, one of the projects that caught our eye was the bright, neon orange-and-white publication Yearbook 12 – Because of Solitude, created in collaboration with Berenike Mack for international artists’ residency program Akademie Schloss Solitude. “The institution’s diversity is largely rooted in its scholarship program,” Antonia explains. “This is why we wanted to place the scholarship holder at the center of attention. We printed and stamped their names on the book cover, and on the back the names are printed and stamped mirror-inverted. The names leave their imprint on the whole book.” 

Terhedebrügge’s mature, considered approach is all the more impressive considering that Silvia only graduated three years ago, and Antonia has just finished her diploma at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. Her final project, Fact Factory, looked at untruth, and how design can effectively “lie” to us. It’s a counterpoint to the honesty and quiet rigor of the studio’s own work, which favors concept over complexity and solid design principles over superfluity. Unless, of course, these sisters are very good liars indeed.