M.A.D. Furniture Design: The Ins & Outs of Global Design in the Time of COVID

This press release is submitted and shown here in its original form, unedited by Furniture Today.

A decade ago, furniture and design businesses around the globe never imagined that they’d be learning to navigate their business during a pandemic that quite literally has brought the world to a standstill. I know that when long-time friend, Dan Given, and I started m.a.d. furniture design in 2010, we never once thought that we’d be operating a global design business across multiple continents in a time of supply chain woes, high tariffs, lack of resources, global travel restrictions, and virtual cross-continental relationships between designers and developers.


From the perspective of a design brand that builds modern, timeless furniture pieces that are seen in the best modern office and F&B environments across the world, the pandemic has forced us to evolve and be creative in ways we didn’t imagine were possible. While it’s been challenging, we’ve found ways to operate that have allowed the business not just to survive, but thrive. For all those young entrepreneurs, enjoying a cross-continental drink over Zoom while debating the merits of starting a new venture in a pandemic, I’m here to tell you a global design business is possible and to share the challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve successfully pivoted over the last two years.


We consider m.a.d. furniture design to be a global brand in every sense of the word. All of our furniture pieces are designed by our design team in Chicago, Illinois, manufactured in Southern China, and sold to markets around the world. Before the product is shipped to the US, it is tested independently at the m.a.d. labTM, which is our company’s product development and testing facility.


In the face of many challenges, we’ve pivoted in a few key areas over the past two years, which have been instrumental to our success:


  • Team Collaboration: In a normal non-pandemic year, the design team would travel to Southern China four to five times a year to develop new products and be inspired by new materials and processes. Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Asia, our design team hasn’t been able to visit our a.d. labTM in Southern China. Now, like most, we utilize Zoom. We are constantly holding late night and early morning calls to review samples via video and do 360 walkthroughs while relying on messaging services and email to remain in constant communication. We made the strategic decision to rely more heavily on our product engineers to communicate concerns and development progress, making them an even more integral part of the design process.
  • Product Development and Design: We’ve created a simple improved studio set up in the a.d. labTM that uses simultaneous 3D printing of new designs in Asia and the U.S., all while using full-scale mockups created in cardboard and wood to confirm scale before sampling. Additionally, as raw materials become more expensive, we’re constantly problem-solving to reduce impact at the customer level. Luckily, based on years of experience and knowledge with our supply chain partners, we’ve been able to keep our supply chain moving despite the challenges that most are facing.
  • New Evolving Products: We swiftly adjusted product assortment to respond to current demands and used new tools, like Qarma, to ensure continuity of quality control even during the highest restrictions. The home office was not previously a space we played in and we worked quickly to develop new, innovative products that are perfect for work from home spaces.
  • Marketing Tactics: While we previously relied heavily on trade shows to launch new products and engage with customers, we swiftly realized that would not be possible for the foreseeable future and pivoted to doing robust video presentations, while also investing in the creation of informational brand videos. We also launched all of our products in 3D/VR format and have plans to create a virtual showroom in the next few months to highlight new and existing designs. Additionally, recognizing the demand for design was quickly outpacing supply in North America, we made the decision in 2021 to establish a North American headquarters in Minneapolis, MN, allowing us to distribute the collection directly to customers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Not to mention, the building of our stock position in North America ensured quick ship supply of the market. This also allowed us to offer direct brand and product support and provided new marketing and awareness-building opportunities.


Overall, we believe it’s our global roots that have allowed us to thrive during this challenging time for the design industry. Not only can cross-continental collaboration be done successfully, if it can be done well, but it can also be a huge asset during a global pandemic. I hope to see more international brands arise from the wake of this era, with a realization that our world is more connected than ever.


Written by: Matt Cole, Managing Director of m.a.d. furniture design

M.A.D. Furniture Design: The Ins & Outs of Global Design in the Time of COVID

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