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Feb 13, 2009

A hot Philadelphia design firm aims to create a greener planet, one product at a time.

By Donna Sapolin

Jaime Salm, the co-founder and creative director of Philadelphia-based
home product design studio MIO, plucks a few squares of tawny paper
from a pile in his warehouse. Not quite chunky but not exactly thin,
the sheets sport geometric jut-outs and the pulpy look of an egg
carton. Several together form a three-dimensional, sustainable wall
“My goal is always to transform the material as little as possible and
yet have it wield the maximum effect on numerous fronts,” says Jaime.
And he also strives to give the consumer as much control as possible.
“The Bendant hanging lamp, for example, ships as a flat sheet of
perforated steel, but can be bent into myriad shapes; the aluminum XLX
Lamp can grow through the addition of a ring when someone wants to move
it into a larger space; the Naked Line of particleboard cabinets can be
stacked in any number of ways.”
Consumers are encouraged to customize the products, thereby putting
more of a personal stamp on their surroundings. “Our designs focus on
the relationship between object and owner after the purchase occurs,”
says Jaime.
Furthermore, eco-friendly, recyclable materials strut their true nature in all of MIO’s 22 minimalist product designs.
“As a starting point, we ask ourselves what we can create with an
already available sustainable material and small, local manufacturers’
methods that will have a low environmental impact,” Jaime says. He
points to MIO’s SoftBowls, Capsule Lights and Shroom Lights. To make
them, Salm turned to a nearby hat factory and their expertise in
manually steaming soft wools over wooden forms.  
The benefits to the environment that MIO is now seeking go beyond the
use of sustainable and recyclable materials and eco-friendly processes.
Instead, they are aiming to create “active sustainable products.” This
is Jaime’s description of objects that provide environmental dividends
every time they are used, rather than just at the beginning and end of
their life cycle.

MIO recently agreed to consult on a new eight-piece outdoor line for Target, which will start hitting the shelves this April.
Working with a mass retailer requires some compromises. Some pieces are
being made in Asia or India and have to be shipped long distance;
others are not made of sustainable materials. Yet each takes one or
more significant green steps forward. “Target sells in vast
quantities,” says Salm. Make any change for the better at this scale
and you’ll have a serious impact.”

Cutting back on obsolescence is something that Jaime has been thinking
about since his earliest days as a designer. A former sculptor and
graduate of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, the Columbian-born
designer formed the company in 2001 after his thesis project led a
commission from retailer Anthropologie.
Following this initial success, he enlisted his brother, Isaac, to help
run the business end of the fledgling operation. Isaac insisted that
all MIO products must be very affordable, in order to broaden their
impact. The brothers worked to make MIO’s designs economical both in
terms of cost and use of resources—from how they are made and packaged
to how they stored and distributed.
The Salms released their first collection in 2003, when, Isaac says,
“green was just a color.” Since that time, they have been adding about
three new products a year to their line.
They say that they have seen resistance to sustainable products
gradually give way to enthusiasm. This reflects larger shifts in
society but also, they believe, their own efforts to communicate their
ethos to retailers and customers.
“We don’t believe in using doom-and-gloom messages about the planet to
market our products,” says Jaime. “We prefer to change behavior by
creating beautiful things that meet real needs and desires. Beauty is
irresistible; guilt and fear make people turn away.”
Target wants in on the MIO ethos. A year ago, they commissioned the
firm to create an eight-piece outdoor collection that will be in stores
on April 12th. The line offers ongoing eco-benefits through such items
as a composter and solar light that can be transformed to go from floor
to table top.
Jaime believes that design has the potential to be a more potent tool for behavioral change than political action.
“Products and our use of them are among the things that define us as
humans,” he says. “They can therefore prompt us to act in a new way.”

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sounds like malcolm gladwell was right p.s. i do better at multiple choice tests when i tell my brain i know it knows the answers and i expect to do well, before the test, and simply read the question and clicktick during the test, as long as i don’t go back; because then i usually change a correct answer to an incorrect answer (it only works if i have made some effort to study/revise, other wise its deductive reasoning and dumb luck)

anupa nangla
Feb 22, 2009