IAMMI: Arousing Emotions in Design with Fun and Functionality

Before you experience IAMMI at the isola Design Festival, have a look at their friendly pink Monster Cabinet. Crafted with a firm attention to detail, the humour behind the design and the love for the unconventional makes an impact as it engages with all the senses of the user. This perhaps describes the design ethos of the designers Nicolau dos Santos and Stephanie Blanchard behind IAMMI, of blurring the lines between classic and contemporary design. They are all about exploration of the new and unconventional while challenging traditional notions, arousing emotions with irony and provocation.

Cuteness cloaked in leather. The Friendly Monster Cabinet is distinguished by its elegant leather upholstery, offering a unique fusion of luxury and playful design.

The Leather Monster Cabinet is handcrafted with meticulous attention to detail, with its exterior showcasing a blend of finesse and functional design features.

Functionality in collectable design.

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.

Designed to mimic the gentle curves and softness of clouds, the recycled foam rubber construction not only ensures a light and airy feel, but also leaves a minimal ecological footprint.

The Cloud collection is a vision of serenity and sustainability through recycled foam rubber. Here, the boundaries between design and nature blur effortlessly, while embracing the principles of sustainability.

The Cloud Collection

Crafted with utmost care and using recycled foam rubber, each piece in this collection seamlessly merges whimsical aesthetics with eco-conscious materials. Both these collectable designs are borne from IAMMI’s design journey.

IAMMI is a design studio founded in 2020 by Portuguese designer Nicolau dos Santos and French-Italian art director Stephanie Blanchard. Passionate about design and creating, the duo believe that creativity is an ongoing journey with no beginning, or destination. “It is a perpetual discovery, it’s fun, it is a always feeling like children at heart,” says Stephanie.

This year, isola’s (the 8th edition of Isola Design Festival organized by the digital and physical design platform Isola, during Milan Design Week) annual theme for 2024 is a statement aimed at provoking action: This future is currently unavailable.

The Tofu Collection that is part of the Like a Rock Installation at isola is inspired by the nature of rocka and are surprisingly soft to the touch designs that offer a unique and engaging tactile experience.

And participating within isola’s theme is IAMMI’s “Like a Rock” an installation that seamlessly aligns with this year’s theme of Fuorisalone, “Materia Natura,” dedicated to celebrating the profound connection between matter and nature. This setup offers a unique sensory experience, transporting visitors on a dreamlike and tactile journey. The interactive landscape consists of a selection of designs from the “Tofu” collection, each characterised by variations in size, shapes, and colours, carefully handcrafted with focus on details.

Variants from the Tofu Collection.

The rocky-looking seats surprisingly reveal a soft touch, thanks to their artisanal crafting in upcycled foam rubber. To complete the ambiance, fabrics and drapes delicately envelop the space, creating a candid and light atmosphere.

Through the use of sustainable materials, IAMMI emphasises the importance of sustainability as a fundamental guide in the creative process.

This combination of craftsmanship, sustainable materials, and a welcoming atmosphere makes “Like a Rock” not only an aesthetic experience but also an expression of environmental responsibility and creativity. Providing a space for contemplation and reflection, “Like a Rock” transforms into a place where human connections strengthen, and shared experiences become precious.

We speak to this design duo who created this experience in isola as they navigate design very carefully, meticulously even, but always with humour and fun guiding their creative endeavours.

The design duo, Nicolau and Stephanie form IAMMI.

SCALE: If there was one thing that you would do other than design, what would it be?

IAMMI: If there was one thing other than design that we would pursue, it would be cooking. We enjoy the art of blending ingredients, whether sweet or tangy, together. The secret lies in matching colours harmoniously: if colours create a harmonious palette, then the food is surely exquisite. Just look at flowers; no matter how many colours they possess, sometimes they’re truly wild, but they always strike the right balance, daring without fear. Nature provides us with everything we need, and just as it holds true with flowers, the same applies to design or food: by listening to our innate instinct and creating combinations that balance themselves.

First Chair by Stephaine The starting basis for First Chair is an iron frame from an old seat, scraps of foam rubber mattresses (PU) and a ratchet strap.

SCALE: What is it you love most about the designing process? Is it the collaboration between both of you, the humour that takes its shape into curious objects?

IAMMI: This question is a bit tricky because we genuinely love every aspect of the designing process. When you’re passionate about something, it feels like playing, and whoever gets tired of playing? From daydreaming to prototyping through the night, from experimenting and meeting a plethora of people to making mistakes and experiencing the thrill of seeing a design come to life — it’s all part of the joy. Imagining objects or spaces that may never exist in reality, or perhaps they will, and witnessing people’s reactions to our creations, engaging in photo shoots and the crazy post-production to narrate the story behind an object, stepping out of our comfort zone to speak in front of curious audiences — it’s truly everything. Creativity is an ongoing journey with no beginning, or destination. It’s perpetual discovery, it’s fun, it’s always feeling like children at heart.

B-fora: A vase with feminine features, a combination of beauty, perfection and harmony of the statuesque body represented in Greek art, and the graceful silhouette of the contemporary female body.

SCALE: Where do you find  your inspiration to design?

IAMMI: We find inspiration from various sources, including nature, culture, and everyday life. Our fascination with good design stems from its ability to enhance experiences, evoke emotions, and solve problems in provocative ways. The intention is to challenge traditional notions and arouse emotions through irony and provocation. At IAMMI, we believe in the timelessness of ideas, and our approach focuses on capturing the essence of an idea rather than conforming to fleeting trends. By embracing this philosophy, we aim to create designs that resonate deeply with individuals and endure beyond passing fads.

B-fora: An iconic piece reinterpreted in a contemporary and ironic way, winner of the “A’ Design Award 2021”.

SCALE: Tell us about your collaborations with isola Festival and your various installations for it.

IAMMI: Our collaboration with isola Festival has deep roots, dating back to our first participation in the Milan Design Week in 2021, where we showcased our inaugural design, “B-fora.” It was during this event that we initially connected with the founders, Gabriele and Elif, and what began as a friendship quickly evolved into a close working relationship. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of collaborating closely with isola on various installations and projects. For instance, we’ve frequently collaborated on designing exhibition spaces for international fairs where isola participates. Last year, alongside Elif, we designed the Gallery in Milan, Eindhoven, and London, culminating in the creation of “Materialised” in Dubai. This year, our involvement with isola took a different direction as we took charge of the “Talks” area with our installation “Like a Rock.” Additionally, we’re honoured to be designing the trophy for the Isola Design Awards. Throughout our collaborations, our aim has always been to create installations that are impactful and unconventional, utilizing recycled materials with minimal environmental footprint, both in terms of production and exhibition setup and dismantling.

Tofu: Inspired by the nature of rocks, these surprisingly soft to the touch designs offer a unique and engaging tactile experience, thanks to their artisanal crafting in upcycled foam rubber.

SCALE: What are your material preferences? Do you always experiment with new material for each of your creations?

IAMMI: We believe in the versatility of materials and often experiment with new ones to push the boundaries of our designs. Our preferences vary depending on the project, but sustainability and functionality are always key considerations. Recently, we have been collaborating closely with ReMat, an Italian startup that recycles industrial foam rubber. This partnership allows us to explore innovative ways of incorporating recycled materials into our creations, aligning with our commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.

SCALE: Tell us more about the innovative materials used and how they shape your creations.

IAMMI: Innovative materials play a crucial role in shaping our creations by enabling us to explore new forms, textures, and functionalities. Whether it’s biodegradable plastics or recycled metals, we strive to incorporate sustainable materials that align with our values. For example, for the installation “Like a Rock” in addition to utilising the upcycled foam rubber from ReMat, we forged connections with two other Italian companies – Elastopol and Poliart – renowned for their decades of expertise in the production and application of innovative polyurethane coatings. This collaboration allowed us to enhance the durability and aesthetic appeal of our installation while minimizing environmental impact, showcasing how strategic partnerships can drive innovation and sustainability in design.

The idea of the First Chair is to conceive an organic, free chair that dialogues between the experimental approach and contemporary design.

SCALE: Is it necessary for your products to be functional? Do you always make sure to bring in functionality as well as aesthetics in your products?

IAMMI: Functionality is paramount in our designs, as we believe that good design should seamlessly integrate form and function. We prioritise usability and user experience while ensuring that our products maintain a strong aesthetic appeal.

SCALE: Is the design world getting too crowded? How does your work cut above the rest?

IAMMI: While the design world is indeed competitive, we differentiate ourselves through our commitment to innovation, sustainability, and meaningful storytelling. By continuously pushing boundaries and staying true to our values, we strive to make a lasting impact in the industry. Additionally, our close collaboration with companies and artisans is definitely a strength, allowing us to create impactful projects that can make a significant difference. This collaborative approach enables us to leverage diverse expertise and resources, resulting in the development of meaningful and influential designs