Interview with Jaime Salm

We sat down  with Jaime Salm, Creative Director and founder of MIOCulture, to talk all things design. 

1. What are your main design influences? 

I am mainly inspired by manufacturing technology, natural and industrial processes, materials and human behaviour. We are some pretty crazy organisms. I also love the work of lots of designers, artists and business people. Some artists that come to mind are David Smith, Antoni Gaudi, Ai Weiwei, Jasper Johns and Brancusi. On the design front I like the work of many including: The Campana Brothers, The Bouroullec Brothers, Barber and Osgerby, Ray and Charles Eames, Jasper Morrison, Tom Dixon and Paul Smith. On the business front I am a huge fan of market disruptors like Richard Branson, Ingvar Kamprad and Jake Nickell.

2. How heavily is the design influenced by the functionality of the products? 

We are more inspired by behaviour than functionality. With functionality you start with what is already known about a particular object. We prefer to look at behaviours and figure out how to support, encourage or discourage them. Design is a tool for social change and we use it as such. We prefer to use positive reinforcement and encouragement as well as flexible utility as a way to make customers change their behaviours so that they feel supported and at the same time have a positive impact.

3. Who are your favourite designers?

The list from question one has a few of them. I really admire the work of many designer for many reasons. All of them have a different ingredient, a take away if you will. I like to think of every designer as a story about what design is about. For instance if you look at the work of the Campana brothers there is a social message packaged for an audience completely disconnected with the social realities of Brazil and other developing countries. The work of Tom Dixon as I see it is a story about tradition, manufacturing and technology. It is fun to think about design as a way to improve life, but also as a way to educate ourselves, expand our horizons and get inspired.

4. Tell us a little bit about your design process. 

We generally start with either a material, a manufacturer or a behaviour to research for design opportunities. We then do traditional research to understand the topic, dive into related research, find comparable things in the “market”. Then we link materials and manufacturers to behaviour or the other way around. This is when the who, what where and why are answered. Then we start developing concepts around the points of entry (or links) we find between our topics. These then get evaluated and we then do the necessary secondary research to test them out. We then refine a few of the concepts and pick one direction to follow. At this point the design becomes more technical and we start figuring out how the product will be executed. We prototype a quickly and as cheaply as we can until we feel comfortable with the overall design. Then we prototype it with the manufacturer and figure out what has to be adjusted. We are also simultaneously figuring out how the product will be sold, packaged, stocked and dealt with internally and by our customers.

5. How does designing for cardboard differ from other furniture design? 

The process is exactly the same one as with any other material. The advantage is that prototyping comes quite close to production, which means we can get a sense of what the customer will experience fairly quickly. This is a tremendous advantage and it truly speeds up the process. On the other hand the implications of designing with cardboard are many. The most difficult part is breaking the value and durability perception that customers might have via structural integrity of the product, aesthetic choices and greater flexibility within the product. In the end what we do is challenge pre-conceptions and educate customers so that they understand that there is no such a thing as a bad material, but rather a bad application of a material.

6. What are the issues you face when designing with cardboard and how do you overcome them? 

Most technical issues can be resolved with an honest conversation with our vendors. The technology is very mature so almost everything has been invented for cardboard. It is viable to make unimaginable things out of cardboard. It is truly a beautiful and surprising material. It is more durable, structural and flexible than most would expect. In terms of design we simply prototype like crazy people. Since we are able to see the actual product with every prototype we find ourselves iterating more than with other more difficult (and costly) materials to prototype with. The secret is to keep trying different things and to learn from our customers feedback.

7. What's your favourite product from the range? 

Its very hard to pick favourites, but I am very proud of our PaperForms. They are a category shattering product. We were the first company to come up with this concept. The technology had been around for decades but the idea of using the material as a surface covering was really unique and beautiful. Taking trash and making it into something so desirable really summarises it. We were able to patent the product and it was included in the permanent collection of the Copper Hewitt National Design Museum, which is a real honour. I also like the emails we get and the calls from customers. They are so excited about it which is contagious.

Love what Jaime had to say? Check out NOMAD & the brand NEW PaperForms, both designed by MIOCulture!

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