Behind the Brand: m.a.d. Furniture Design
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Matt Cole and Dan Given established m.a.d Furniture Design in 2010 with the desire to create design that enhances people’s lives. We spoke to Matt and m.a.d.’s Creative Director, Mark Daniel, about their approach to furniture design and manufacturing, and how the objects we interact with can contribute to our quality of life.
Image source: m.a.d. Instagram
Having spent seven years in furniture design and production in Asia, Matt and Dan wanted to forge their own path in the industry, rather than making products for other brands. “We wanted to create products we believed in and that mixed great original design, comfort and performance with accessible pricing,” says Matt. They named the company m.a.d. for their first initials (M and D), and Mark joined soon afterwards as their third partner and Creative Director.
Matt and Dan are based in Southern China, while Mark lives in the States, where he also heads up his own studio, Slate Design. As a trained architect, Mark appreciates that what goes into a space is as important as the walls that enclose it, and his furniture designs for m.a.d. consequently seek to bring good design into people’s lives. “I believe the environment in which you work and live has a direct effect on your state of mind. Everything from the space you inhabit to the objects you interact with contributes to your quality of life,” Mark explains.
m.a.d.’s furniture designs are visually light but structurally strong. They are characterised by minimal, refined and accessible forms that endure both physically and stylistically. “Our designs are deceptively simple, as we put a lot of work into refining designs to their most essential elements,” says Mark. “In order to do this, it is critical that our designers have a good feel for proportion and an understanding of material and structure. We spend a lot of time getting our hands dirty at the factory, working through multiple generations of samples to get all of the details just right.”
m.a.d. regularly introduces new designs to its range, inspired by the materials and manufacturing processes in close proximity to its Southern China production facility. “We have a huge palette of materials to work with and we draw inspiration from exploring ways to work with all of these options,” Mark says. “This ties in with our appreciation for early modern design of the Bauhaus and mid-century masters from Scandinavia, both of which celebrated expression of material and structure as their defining aesthetic.”
The location also enables m.a.d. to tap into a relatively undiscovered resource of craftsmen and manufacturers, which, like progressive studios Bentu Design and Buzao, are helping to change the perception of Chinese production. “We are extremely fortunate to be located in such a vibrant, resourceful and dynamic environment. This means we have access to many different processes and materials, which makes product design and development great fun,” says Matt. It also means m.a.d. can capitalise on the cost efficiencies, while still producing high-quality, original and durable design. “Being in a cost-efficient environment, means we can spend more on attention to details and quality,” Matt says.
Indeed, exceptional quality is paramount to m.a.d. and all furniture designs undergo rigorous testing during development and production to ensure long-term durability and compliance with contract furniture requirements. “Two years ago, m.a.d. invested in its own testing facility, which we call the m.a.d. lab. The facility is run by a technician and includes all the machines and rigs that we need to test our products to the BIFMA x5.1/5.4 contract standards,” Matt explains. “We also test at third-party laboratories and have recently also tested our materials to the BIFMA 7.1 standard for VOC emissions,” says Matt.
Testing to these standards, along with the modern, timeless and accessible designs, has made m.a.d. furniture a popular choice for hospitality, institutional and workplace environments, as well as being well suited to residential settings.