Interwiew: Francesco Santilli – CEO of IDA – Italian Design Agency

Francesco Santilli CEO

IDA – Italian Design Agency is a relatively young project and yet, in a little over a year, it has become the internationally acknowledge go-to hub for Italian Design. It draws firms and corporate clients willing to incorporate Italian Design into their campaigns, private clients with a penchant for discovering new talent and students, intent on specialising in this particular style. IDA currently powers a magazine and an educational hub. From an entrepreneurial and a stylistic point of view, it is a remarkable feat for such a young firm to have achieved so much and to have matured into such a complex synergy of services and features. London-based and Italian-powered, this enterprise turns the spotlight once again onto the efficacy and success of the Italian Way. We interviewed the CEO Francesco Santilli.

IDA is a multi-faceted project, encompassing a variety of activities. How would you sum it up in one defining statement?

IDA promotes Made in Italy Design all over the World.

When was IDA born and what was your biggest challenge so far?

It was founded in May 2015 by myself and two fellow graduates from the LUISS University of Rome – Dario Martelli and Federico Baldelli. “Made in Italy” is an internationally recognised definition of style, but foreign markets often tend to associate Italian design exclusively with already established luxury brands, it’s a difficult task to engage with foreign markets in order to help them discover new and unknown Italian designers.

What were the key factors in IDA’s growth?

The high quality of our Italian Designers, a perfect team, our strong Ambassadors team and IDA’s site domain name ( It was a very fast journey. An investor in London supported us initially, helping us accelerating and improving our workflow and market research.

The core of your business involves matching designers to potential clients. How do you pick your designers

Initially I used to be involved directly in scouting them, now they just apply directly trough the site and we select them based on their experience and the quality of their work. It is a smooth process: a client selects the type of design they will be requiring for their project, they send us a brief and we find them a suitable designer. We also stay on as project managers to ensure the overall quality of the service we offer.

What’s the profile of your average client?

We go from luxury private clients to all manners of corporate clients. They might be wanting a new website or a promotional campaign, they might an interior design project for their own property or because they want to sell it to a private client, they might need to design a chair or a piece of electro medical equipment or a new line of sunglasses.

What characteristics make an excellent Italian designer?

Excellence of Italian Design is handicraft, quality, care, passion and a combination of tradition and innovation.

You are based in London, but your brand is represented worldwide. How does your ambassadors program work?

In order to empower young Italian designers and prepare them for the international scene, London is definitely the place to be. The Ambassadors are responsible locally to communicate the Design Made in Italy. They receive a fee any time they close a deal and they will be recognised as project manager to guarantee the respect of the deadlines.

You are currently helping young designers crowdfund their projects. What makes a designer’s crowdfunding campaign successful?

The idea, the ability to convert it into an appealing product, the fact that crowdfunding is an easy way of helping a designer set clear milestones for the growth of his or her product. We launched our “Venture” section when we realised, on top of our match-making activity, that several designers were not being selected, despite having potential, because they didn’t have enough experience to be assigned to our clients’ projects. We therefore decided to support them launch crowdfunding campaigns for new products, at the same time offering interesting prototypes for investors to consider. We will shortly be adding a widget with all of IDA’s supported campaigns, as we are entering a partnership with a well known crowdfunding platform.

You have expanded your original brief, branching out into education – by working with Italian Design schools all over the world – and communication – by launching a magazine. What’s next?

1. CoFounders Francesco Santilli CEO, Federico Baldelli CTO, Dario Martelli CMO

CoFounders of IDA: Francesco Santilli CEO, Federico Baldelli CTO, Dario Martelli CMO

Our “university” section was created because we felt the need to collaborate with Italian Design Schools. We noticed how design student willing to specialise in Italian Design, until recently, had no other option but go through a maze of google results. We created a hub and made it easy for an aspiring student to find the right course and apply for it. All the schools we contacted were delighted to work with us. Our magazine was born because we felt that we had plenty of stories to tell about what was going on in our company and about crowdfunding campaigns and about our designers. We were astonished to find that there was no international magazine focusing exclusively on Italian Design. Soon we will finish launching the e-commerce page. I think this is enough to cover and promote properly the Design Made in Italy. Actually everywhere you are in the world, if you type “Italian design” into Google you will find us in first page.


Photo credit: Italian Kingdom / Phocus Collectiv

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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