August 9, 2017
The Team Behind m.a.d. Talks Design
m.a.d. Furniture Design was founded with the goal of democratizing high-quality furniture and lighting—bringing well-designed products to the masses at an accessible price-point.
by New York Spaces
NYS: What led you both to found m.a.d.?
Matt Cole, Managing Director: For years, both Dan and I worked for "big box" retailers exporting furniture to the US and Europe. We got tired of shipping low quality, high volume product, and knew we could do better. We wanted to produce furniture on our own terms, to meet our own high standards, and be proud enough of our designs to put them in our own homes.
NYS: Tell us about your designs! What inspired them?
Mark Daniel, Creative Director: We strive for honesty, simplicity, and clean lines in all of our designs. Our aim is to produce classically modern pieces, which stand the test of time because they aren't trend based. We believe this is what makes our designs so versatile—they are able to work in both the home and workspace, and stylistically mix with a variety of interiors.
We are inspired by the early modern work of the Bauhaus, where the form is a result of celebrating the structure and material of the design. We are also inspired by the manufacturing process itself, going to the factory and understanding their capabilities and talents helps shape the final form of our designs. It's a very hands on process, but we love getting our hands dirty! Ultimately we believe this process driven design results in a higher quality, more well thought out product.
NYS: Why did you decide to manufacture your designs in Asia?
Matt: Dan and I have been based and living in southern China for the last 10+ years. China gets a bad reputation for high volume, low quality exports, but, in fact, there is an incredible resource of talented craftsmen and manufacturers who are relatively undiscovered. Because we're "on the ground," speak the language, and understand the culture of business here, we're able to source the best manufacturers to make our designs.
NYS: Are there certain materials that you have happily incorporated into your designs due to manufacturing in Asia?
Mark: Definitely! We love exploring, going to new factories, and experimenting with new materials and manufacturing processes. Because it's such a manufacturing center, within a 50 mile radius of our facility we have access to metal fabrication, moulded plywood, solid and veneered woods, plastics, concrete, leather and fabric upholstery—almost any material or process you can imagine. We draw from this wide palette of materials and source components from the best manufacturers, bringing them together in our facility (what we call the m.a.d. lab)! This plays into one of our key strengths, which is mixing materials—not something many people can do well in China.
NYS: Considering you have the design team in Chicago and two of you in South China, what is a day in the life like at m.a.d.?
Mark: We definitely don't keep regular office hours! Because there is a 13 hour time difference, there are a lot of early morning or late night Skype calls. Typically while the design team are sleeping in Chicago, Matt and Dan are out all day driving from factory to factory, reviewing samples or discussing new development. We speak at least 3-4 times a week to discuss issues, but of course a lot of emails happen in between. That being said, the best and most productive work gets done when I visit China, which happens 4-6 times a year.
NYS: How do your respective U.S., UK, and New Zealand heritages influence what you want to create or
how you approach design in general?
Matt: We think it's this international mix of influence and talents that really is the soul of what we do. It creates an exciting mix of points of view, but ultimately we're all trying to accomplish the same goal; produce well-designed, high quality furniture at an accessible price point.
NYS: What is a favorite design of each and why?
Mark: My favorite collection is actually our latest collection, Trace. I think it really embodies our goal of creating something new but at the same time familiar (classic modern), minimal but comfortable, and honest in its expression of material and structure. It has been well received; it has won an A'design award and was a finalist at the HiP award at Neocon this year.
Matt: My favorite has been the Transit collection which has been our best-selling collection until this year. I like the strength of the design profile that has made it, in our minds, a modern classic which fits well in many settings —from the office, to cafes/restaurants, to homes. However, I think one of the ranges we are launching in September this year is quickly going to come my new favorite—y'all will have to wait though!
NYS: Where can our readers find your designs?
Matt: Right now, we're shipping product to over 25 countries worldwide, so the exposure we've gotten has been amazing, in both the retail and contract markets. In the US, we've been lucky enough to have our work specified in offices for high profile clients like Airbnb, Dropbox and Wework. You can also find most of our products on retail sites like Industry West and Y Living.
NYS: What are you working on now?
Mark: We're excited to be debuting three new seating collections and one new table/casegood collection in September at the Shanghai furniture fair. For the first time we'll be introducing seating in moulded plastic, which opens up lots of possibilities for color. Also, they'll be suitable for indoor and outdoor use, at a great price point!
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