Jaime Salm and the Simplicity of Sustainable Design
Creative Director Jaime Salm of MIO, a sustainable design lab based in Philadelphia, is living proof that the “trend” of green living is more factually a deeply rooted lifestyle. As designer, researcher, and manufacturer, he fills his days inventing feasible ways to merge the concepts of environmental utility to every day practicality. Jaime and his co-founder/brother, Isaac, focus on projects that develop wares which are easily recycled, shipped, disposed, and dissembled. Some of these products to date include wallpaper, lighting, shelving, and flooring, with tables and seating in the pipeline of developed products. Growing up with a hankering to tinker with objects around the house, Jaime never really foresaw that this everyday past time would become his sustaining career; but with business booming monthly, the pieces are in place for many professional sucesses to come. For more information on Jaime Salm, read on in this week’s The Latin Connect to learn how MIO makes green design accessible, affordable, and fun!
MIO, also known as Mioculture or MIO Culture
University of the Arts
B.S. in Industrial Design
About the company
MIO is a design lab dedicated to creating the most sustainable, innovative and accessible design available today.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I am the creative director and lead designer, which means I develop the design briefs and work on them as well. This includes everything from sourcing manufacturers, to brainstorming, researching, sketching and testing designs out. It changes constantly and requires me to be on my toes all the time.
Most notable milestones
Having our PaperForms included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonians Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
Getting an Award for the Best Collection at the New York International Gift Fair.
What’s the niche?
We have the most affordable and progressive collection of sustainable contemporary wares in the market and we are constantly re-thinking how sustainability can positively affect the market. We are leaders and we lead by example.
What’s the biggest challenge as a sustainable designer?
I don’t believe being sustainable is a challenge. I think sustainability is one of the most productive constraints imaginable in design. I guess the challenge is achieving simple, elegant, practical and lasting solutions within this incredible framework of human and natural interdependence.
What’s in store for the future?
We are rapidly growing in offerings and expanding our presence beyond the US. We will keep growing and re-defining sustainability and sustainable design.
What are some projects you are working on?
We are working on some furniture pieces at the moment. They will be introduced soon. This is a very important category that we have been investigating for a while now.
What inspires a new idea or the creation of a new product?
New ideas are generated from research into materials, processes and behaviors primarily. I research materials and processes constantly but more recently we have been looking at our customers as a road map to success. The best questions and answers can be found in our customers. All we have to do is ask the right questions and observe.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Never stop asking “Why?”
Never get too comfortable. I believe too much comfort will hamper creativity.
Guiding principle in life
Live and enjoy one day at a time.
Yardstick of success
Happiness is what motivates me. What I do and believe makes me very happy.
Goal yet to be achieved
I don’t keep a list of goals, this way I can constantly dream and explore. I want MIO to become a very respected and well-known company for its commitment to the environment, society and for its design.
Best practical advice
Be very persistent and truly love what you do. Don’t let the doubts of others discourage you.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
They have always been encouraging and supporting so it is hard to just pick a few words. I think that their patience and love speaks louder than any words they have ever spoken. I am very lucky and am grateful to know it.
Mentors?When I was younger I had a mentor in Colombia. His name is Gabriel Jaime Londono. He is truly a renaissance man and possesses a very open and generous mind. Artistically speaking, I learned a lot from him.
All of my teachers and my parents have also been quite influential. I believe that a good education both at home and in school is really something life-changing. The important thing is to really be willing to learn, that way everything and everyone has something to teach.
What motivated you to get started designing, and ultimately starting your own company?
I have always been a “tinkerer” in one form or another. I started when I was very young with art classes of all sorts and it slowly progressed into a passion for the arts and more informal training before college. Right before college, I was interested in abstract sculpture. I was working with materials found in junkyards. I was looking at the work of David Smith back then and was fascinated with finding my own method of producing art. When I went to school all these ideas and training came into focus as I was beginning to deal with the “human” constraints of design. I have always been very independent, passionate and persistent and all of those years working as an artist made me into the designer that I am today.
Like best about what you do?
Having to re-consider what I do often. I like to ask questions and solve problems. Even when a design is complete I am already thinking of what we can do to improve it in some way. I am very concerned with the “other part of design”, the part that takes place in the customers home or office, once something has been purchased. How is it assembled, used, discarded, recycled, handed down, etc, the part we rarely get to see as designers.
Like least about what you do?
I regard the more tedious parts of my job as necessary tasks that need to be accomplished in order to move towards important objectives. I don’t like cleaning up after people or organizing stuff, but if it is necessary I will do it.
Why did you choose to pursue a sustainable business philosophy?
Because it became clear to me that sustainability is about common sense. Reducing our impact and contributing to a balanced relationship between the environment and society is not a fashion statement or a trend. I see it as a rational social and economic investment in the long term. Those who see it as a trend do not understand that sustainability is a long term investment in our way of life.
What was the first product you designed and made? Who was it for?
The first product I designed, manufactured and sold was my thesis.
Here is the link: www.fibrid.com
We were interested in matching Philadelphia’s paper waste stream and infrastructure with students housing cycles and their transitional lifestyles.
Who or what has inspried you as a designer and an entrepreneur?
Every day I read about people and companies who are working towards sustainable goals and achieving a balance between business and ethics, nature and industry, technology and people and I realize that we are moving forward. I know that sometimes the world looks bleak and that the outcome is uncertain, but when I see what we are all capable of when we decide to change I am in awe and inspired.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t remember. I have good visual memory but that is about it.
What was your first job?
My first job was as an intern at Material ConneXion. It is a material research library in New York City. They like to describe themselves as “a material petting zoo” for creative people. It was an incredible opportunity and it fueled my interest in materials, processes and sustainability.
Biggest pastime outside of work
I like to jog and ride my road bike. I am also a big fan of the grill. Some of my bachelor specials are questionable but they are still fun culinary experiments.
Person most interested in meeting?
Noam Chomsky. I think it would be enriching to have a cup of coffee with him.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
I would love to meet Sir Richard Branson and Ingvar Kamprad. I think they are inspiring, daring, and I bet quite fun.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I ride my bicycle everywhere.
- I am a bit of a chocoholic. I try to eat at least two chocolate chip cookies a day or the equivalent in sugar.
- I have more energy than anybody I know even when I don’t eat the cookies.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I have lots of causes that I believe in and support. It would be hard to even make a list of favorites.
How are you and your compnay involved within your local community?
We are engaged with our community by helping keeping jobs local and by designing for the environment. We are also very involved in promoting the work of young local designers as a vehicle for change in our city.
On a personal level simple things like giving blood, buying local and recycling have a huge impact.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
– Andy Warhol
Who would you like to be contacted by?
We are open to everyone. We believe anyone who wants to contribute to our goals should at least be heard. Being open minded is very important in design.
Interview by Victor Corral
Introduction by Sara Ortega
Edited by Valerie Enriquez