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In Conversation with IAMMI: Creative Studio

Frankenstein Bench and Chair, Image is courtesy of IAMMI

We talked with the IAMMI team, a Milan based design studio founded by designer Nicolau dos Santos and art director Stephanie Blanchard.

Who is Nicolau dos Santos and Stephanie Blanchard? Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

We are Nicolau and Stephanie from IAMMI. Nicolau is a Portuguese product designer, relocated to Italy with his family at a young age. Raised in a highly creative family where leisure time was dedicated to experiments in photography, cinema, set design, sculpture, and painting, his passion for creativity was cultivated from childhood. In 2015, he completed his studies in industrial product design at NABA Milano. Nicolau has always shown a great interest in psychology, which greatly influences his approach to IAMMI projects. 

Stephanie is a self-taught French-Italian creative director and maker, initially delved into the realms of film and advertising as she embarked on her creative journey. Here, she took her first steps, refining her expertise in photography, art direction, and interior design. Over the years, she evolved into an independent creative director, collaborating with prominent companies within the Swedish and Milanese scenes.

In 2020, we joined forces to found IAMMI, a studio dedicated to contemporary design. IAMMI stands out for its distinctive bold design and the compelling communicative prowess of its media content. The studio has exhibited at events such as Milan Design Week, Tanween, Dubai Design Week. It has been published by leading magazines and platforms such as Interni, Design Wanted, Vogue, Hypebeast, AD, Stir, Monocle. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your award-winning work “Friendly Monster Cabinet” at Isola Design Awards?

Inspired by the famous ‘monster in the closet’, the Friendly Monster Cabinet shows its appearance and playful features. The monster, no longer hiding in the closet, finally reveals itself, and is super cute, no longer frightening: we welcome and face our fears until we can live with them in a light-hearted way. Handcrafted with precise attention to detail, its exterior showcases a masterful blend of artistic finesse and functional design features. Behind its charming façade is a large storage compartment and a practical drawer. When opened, the belly transforms into a comfortable table, making the Friendly Monster Cabinet perfect for use as a cabinet.

The Friendly Monster Cabinet is distinguished by its elegant leather upholstery, offering a unique fusion of luxury and playful design. The choice of using smooth, soft leather in a bold pink color, combined with a contemporary aesthetic, has given a modern touch to a material often associated with a more traditional style.

What factors do you consider when researching materials or choosing materials for your new projects? Can you tell us a bit about the material choices in your work?

We embrace a highly flexible approach towards utilizing a diverse range of materials, reveling in the joy of experimenting to create unexpected pairings. Take, for instance, our Clouds collection, handcrafted entirely from Ecofoam, a new material made from industrial foam waste created by re-Mat, a young Italian startup. The delight on people's faces when they sit on the design and discover its surprisingly soft texture, despite its sculptural appearance, is truly captivating. Crafting dissonant tactile experiences is a distinct focus for us, a realm we delight in playing within.

For small-scale productions and unique pieces, we collaborate with local artisans who work with traditional materials such as ceramic, glass or leather. It's always intriguing to forge contemporary experimental designs using these age-old materials. Our material selection process lacks a rigid method, yet sustainability remains a key focus for us.

In addition to diversifying our processing techniques and materials, we strive to contribute to environmental sustainability. Like others in this field, our choices are shaped by emerging opportunities, customer preferences, and the capabilities of our partner companies. We maintain a level of adaptability to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of available resources and environmental considerations.

How do you balance aesthetics and functionality in your product designs? Which factors lead you to find this balance?

Aesthetic allure and practical functionality, though inherently distinct, are both indispensable facets in this field, each exerting a profound influence on the success of a product.

In our early design endeavors, aesthetic considerations often took precedence, garnering significant attention from the global market and media. Let's take our B-fora vase as an example, 'the B-side of an amphora.'

As time passed and our experience deepened, we redirected our focus to intricately study the ergonomics, functionality, and production processes of our designs. Presently, our paramount objective is to strike a flawless balance between aesthetics and functionality, implementing efficient and environmentally conscious production methods, whether on a small or large scale, to minimize waste and environmental impact.


“Engaged in the realm of contemporary design, it is imperative for us that our products are not only visually appealing but also highly functional.”


What advice would you give to young designers? What tips would you give those wanting to start a creative career?

Our advice consists of two essential principles, the same we apply to our own process. Firstly, it's crucial to continuously hone both digital design skills and manual dexterity. Only a robust and active proficiency in both realms enables the creation of something iconic. Secondly, always strive to engage in meaningful projects.

Take, for instance, our San Nicola Arcella sofa—a testament to these principles. After a digital study, the initial prototype was handcrafted, collecting discarded mattresses and foam from the streets of Nice, which were then manually sculpted and bonded together. This prototype allowed us to conduct a thorough study of form and comfort, refining the project. Today, two years since its inception, it still attracts interest due to its innovative design, showcasing its enduring design appeal.

Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your work?

While it may sound like a cliché, inspiration tends to strike when we least expect it, often stemming from entirely unrelated sources to our initial plans. Our projects undeniably capture a snapshot of our experiences at the moment of conception, resulting in a varied spectrum of inspirations each time. This can range from the yearning for a sense of lightness and bliss, exemplified in the 'Clouds' seating collection, to the sheer pursuit of material beauty, showcased in 'Columns'.

What adds an intriguing layer to our work is that we've received messages from people who've purchased our designed products. They express how they were drawn to these pieces because they were going through something remarkably similar to what inspired us during the design phase. It's almost as if the same inspiration that struck us has, through our products, infected others, motivating them to experience something new or step outside their comfort zones. And this is the greatest satisfaction for us!

Are you excited about the future? What are your plans?

Absolutely! We have high expectations for the upcoming year. New designs, collaborations, and exhibitions are on the horizon, but we prefer to keep things surprising: seeing is believing! We're also emphasizing the importance of leisure time, well-being in daily life, family, and more. We firmly believe that happiness in everyday life positively influences and enhances the outcomes of our work.


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