By Jenny Rebholz   Published Dec 15, 2004 at 5:38 AM

{image1}They bend, mold and manipulate metals, plastics, composites, woods, glass and neon into different shapes and sizes. A little imagination combined with engineering, critical thinking and master craftsmanship results in products that you may see, or even feel, on a daily or nightly basis.

Ascend Design creates signage, retail displays, bars, lamps, furniture, mirrors and much, much more. They design numerous "custom" pieces, which in Ascend terms could be anything that exists in your imagination.

Companies like Flux Design call upon Ascend Design to help bring creative images to reality. "If I have an idea that we need help with, they can find a way to make it," says Jeremy Shamrowicz, president of Flux Design. "They have a clean, high-end aesthetic and even though they can mass produce, their work still has that personal touch."

Based in Muskego, Ascend does work all over Milwaukee, all over the nation and around the world. Products reach Canada, Europe and even the Middle East. Its client list includes such names as Ford, Daimler Chrysler and Harley-Davidson, but don't let that deter people from giving them a call. The small company of nine employees works with a variety of clients, budgets and project types.

"Just because we have some bigger name clients, don't think we won't work with you," says Jeff Hojnacki, co-owner of Ascend Design. "We work with all kinds of budgets. The quality is why people seek us out. We create the best possible products in the most cost-effective way."

Cieslik Celek, a small Milwaukee-based interior design team works with Ascend Design to transform interior spaces. Maria Cieslik says, "We collaborated with Ascend Design on a project that required some fairly complex custom work. Jeff Hojnacki worked with us to achieve our design goals and was extremely helpful in value engineering some of the more costly pieces. We are looking to bring him in on a few other projects we're currently working on."

{image2}Hojnacki has a background in industrial and graphic design. When he and Roy Rathke opened the doors of Ascend Design in 1998, they started crossing the two design disciplines. Signage and merchandising displays led to high-end light fixtures for interiors. Coffee tables, bars, lights, signs and displays still play a role in the business, but Ascend Design is always looking to stretch the imagination.

How does it operate and what purpose does it have? Does it look good? "We look at the functional side as well as the aesthetics," Hojnacki says. "It is a creative engineering process. How do you take the logo from a business card and translate it three dimensionally?"

Ascend Design analyzes and experiments with materials to challenge its capabilities and perfect its crafts. Watching an employee blow and bend glass is a daily occurrence in this working environment, and it is an art that is captivating to witness.

Hojnacki wants to continue to challenge his creativity. "I would like to move into areas I don't fully understand and apply our creative process. We want to challenge and further ourselves," he says. Multi-media environments and non-repetitive light and sound generation are just a few of the avenues he hopes to explore.

Whether it is the neon signage at Vucciria and Terrace, the bar at Fly Bar, a light fixture, an argon coffee table, a neon bubble mirror, a Dockers shoe display or a large Dodge Ram head, Ascend Design may have unknowingly touched your life. If you catch yourself asking is this a sign or a coat hook, then there is a good chance it was made by Ascend Design.