The Shape of Things

The Third Coast

I stand at the edge of the ocean, cool saltwater soaks the skin of my feet. My hands shield the glare of the sun as I look out towards the horizon – endless, vast, calling. I sense the thousands of miles of unforgiving waters between me and the far-off shores of foreign coasts. The personality of this ocean can be felt with each crashing wave, at times playfully. A flirtation that beckons me to enter, a tempting that urges me forth.

I grew up surrounded by the ocean, in her protected harbors and coves and inlets. I learned to sail in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Nantucket Sound, from Maine to Florida. I’ve sailed through hurricanes and Nor’Easters. I’ve seen enough to know that what exists in the twisted, dark clouds is a fury that few have escaped to talk about. It was the ocean that shaped me and inspired me with an insatiable curiosity and the hope that something is always beyond what we can see.

In 2006 I moved to Chicago. It took a while to understand that the Great Lakes aren’t lakes, they are the waters of The Third Coast. These lakes contain 95% of the freshwater of North America, and 21% of the planet’s fresh water. If these waters were to spill over their shores, the surface of the entire United States would be submerged under five feet of water. The total surface area of this inland ocean is 94,250 square miles. Still, these numbers can’t describe the cruel and punishing power of Lake Michigan’s waves, the furious tempest that comes with the changing winds of the fall or the ferocity of the spring, breaking free from the steely grip of winter. These numbers can’t describe the twisting uncertainty you feel, faced with waters that not only demand respect, but collect your dignity. The oceans find their rhythm in long, languid scales, thousands of miles wide. Their waves rise and fall with measured grace – building and expending their energy over great distances – powerful but tempered, methodical. The lakes, loudly blast their notes in short staccato bursts, slamming up against anything that steps in their way – rambunctiously powerful and unpredictable, abruptly changing.

MADE in Chicago. We wear the right to call The Third Coast our home. Our boards and spirit will be tested in the hungry waters of Lake Michigan. Tested in the short days of late fall and early spring – with the remnant ice flows of the winter piled up on the hardened shore. Frozen beards and steely eyes pierce the cold – staring back into the biting winds. We sail and surf with Vikings. It is among these brave sailors and surfers that we learn, developing and refining our boards. It is among the ice and wind that we will perfect our craft – and when all is said and done it will be only because the waters of these Great Lakes have allowed us to do so. Our mission is to inspire a generation of sailors and surfers, and to remind all that the water you’re closest to is the most important. Est mare in sanguine tuo.

The Engine of Innovation

Technology is our evolutionary advantage.

Our species is defined by its unique ability to shape the physical, emotional, and environmental conditions in which we live. This, more than all other evolutionary advantages, defines us. The development of new technology, driven by new ideas allow us to continually evolve and improve our condition.

But with the new comes, the skeptic. It is in the careful evaluation and consideration of skepticism that ideas are refined, improved, and realized. Skepticism, met with open arms and an open mind, becomes inspiration for improvement and a fire that lights the engine of innovation.

As MADE represents a new way of thinking, it finds skepticism along the way. As the unconvinced, they encourage us to share, educate, and inspire. We have found our calling in the new ideas that MADE champions. A call to improve industrial stagnation, help push manufacturing in a direction that uses less raw materials, and create more usable products that have greater intrinsic value. We know that the future of our world depends on dialogue, community, the exchange of information and experience. MADE will always be committed to improvement of the human condition through technology and a relentless examination of the status quo.

Recently, we were asked if our design and performance journaling application, VOLUME, can replace the role of the board-shaper and their practiced expertise. Craft is a measurement of proficiency, an accumulated skill that requires thousands of hours to perfect. Board-shapers are craftsmen. So are carpenters, and painters, and surgeons. Where was your chair made? Did you make it? Do you know who did? Perhaps you are among the very skilled or lucky, perhaps you can say yes. The chair serves a purpose regardless of where or how the chair was made. MADE’s approach to customization and data-driven design is a better way to close the gap between the carpenter and the mass produced. Leveraging the knowledge of skill and craft and allowing it to scale to meet the needs of many.

I don’t think the artistry of the human mind can be replicated. I come from a creative background where the combination of analytical and creative thinking is put to the test every day. I appreciate the nuance of the shapers hand, the understanding and language of experience, and the intimate understanding she, or he, has with the materials. With that said, I believe that technology has demonstrated repeatedly the ability to democratize information for the benefit of all. Consider the profound effect the internet has had on the ability to communicate, educate, and distribute information. Our lives are effected by the exponential increase in access devices – we have the entirety of human knowledge at our fingertips – always. Medicine, physics, astronomy, engineering, manufacturing have all improved at an incredible rate because of our ability to communicate and share information. This is where we see VOLUME, and our approach coming into focus. VOLUME isn’t intended to replace the skilled hand of the shaper for those lucky enough to have one; but it can allow that benefit to scale to meet the needs of the vast majority of riders who don’t have a shaper, giving access to customization and delivering a better board and a better experience to all that participate.

VOLUME is a tool that examines performance, conditions, and progress over time. We use historical averages and the aggregate of your performance, and the performance of riders like you. We frame the question in terms of averages, capturing a wide-range and large sets of data to create the basis of the board you need. Once the recommendation has been made you will be able to customize every aspect of the board on our site. VOULME is one, very important part of the process, but it is a part, not the entire process. Volume is your third-eye, watching what you do to create a database of performance behaviors and conditions. This helps the rider determine volume, length, width and style – so that the customization process is a rewarding and easy one to understand. A big part of the experience will be on the site – speaking to both new and experienced riders in clear, simple terms, educating and explaining along the way.

It is not enough to maintain the status quo. MADE will invest its resources into the never-ending improvement of our SmartBoards while inspiring a new generation of riders, in a language they can understand. Our world is increasingly a digital existence where technology plays a beneficial role in almost every aspect of our lives. Our approach meets our audience on those terms.

MADE to move

I walk down the streets of my bustling neighborhood, passing by a vivid tapestry of cultures, races, economic diversity, and stories. I imagine the story of each person I pass – the unique set of experiences that defines them. I wonder where she grew up, where he might work, which far off place they might be traveling towards. Their bags in tow, so well put together, so physically near me – but living in an entirely different universe. Each of us carries an incredible set of stories, memories, experiences, and knowledge. There are relatively few instances in which we share these stories outside of our social networks in the untamed landscapes of our complex and intricate lives.

At MADE, we set out to solve a problem and in doing so created a new way to share stories. Nine auspicious months ago an idea was born, a mysterious answer to questions that we were only learning to ask, giving way to a story that has evolved and grown and thrived with each of you. MADE is the form of our answer, a company built around an idea. We exist to create, to explore, and to discover. In our search we’ll find new ways to design, experience and construct the sail, surf, kite, and paddle boards of the future. We will redefine everything that was ever known about these sports in ways not yet imagined, changing the way each of us ride upon the waves and the breezes of the sea.

MADE is no longer an idea, it is a force for change and like all forces it must be directed. We charted our course as would a tactician – we plotted careful paths, avoiding the piercing rocks and hidden shoals that can sink an unsuspecting business. Kickstarter became a lighthouse in the distance – offering safe harbor and a more inclusive way to fund our business. We chose this path to train our focus on quality and deliver the absolute best in everything we build and create. MADE hasn’t set out to make money by selling boards – it has set out to use money to create things not yet imagined. It is through Kickstarter‘s inherently social platform that we find safe harbor.

Our most essential tool is influence; as your mind absorbs each word, you form an opinion of what we say, do, and promise. We have enjoyed a great deal of success in the universe of social networks and wonder where our young business would be without the profound reach of Facebook. How would we connect with so many friends in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Egypt, Portugal, Spain, and France? How could we participate in a conversation that has spread across the globe?

MADE is an approach to design that is built upon sharing the quantified moments of individual experiences, a democratization of product design driven by your body, your movement. VOLUME, our performance journaling and design app, will be deeply tied to Facebook, enabling you to share and examine your experiences, and compare them to a global community where learning occurs in a vast ocean of shared interests.

We’re inspired by the possibilities. The ability to create connections with people we never would have met, to find meaning in the experiences of sailors and surfers across vast geographic distances, and to tell a richer, longer, and more detailed story about the sea. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you. Together we will take a step away from the traditional, a step towards the future. You are made to move, find the sea and step in.

Powers of Ten

One of my favorite films is the Ray and Charles Eames “Powers of Ten.” It is a short film that takes its audience on a voyage where each distance covered is a multiple of 10. The distances covered are vast and inspire one to think of the possibility of seeing the edge of our galaxy, if not beyond. Like many of the Eames films it tells a complex story using a simple symbolic language. I wasn’t more than 5 the first time I saw it – it has influenced me more than any other book or film and continues to expand the bounds of my imagination.

Let’s take a short trip. Traveling through space and time, look to your wrist and notice the hands on your watch race through hours in a matter of seconds. Our planet’s graceful rotation mesmerizes as we cast one last look on what we’ve left behind. Planetary motions and circular patterns repeat as we rocket through great distances, Jovian moons racing by, the rings of Saturn encircling their massive planet. The solar system fades, blasting past the outer arms of our galaxy and, in this vast and incomprehensible space, we see the elegance of rotation once more. We’re left to ponder the noticeable replication of patterns across such massive scales of size and measure – that regardless of size these patterns of movement repeat.

We are all subject to these laws and to the subtle and influential patterns of physics that occur on scales that we can’t perceive. These patterns have created the planet we inhabit and every organism that lives upon it. They shape us, they are the blueprint for our bodies, our minds, our thoughts and ideas. We exist in our harsh and unforgiving environment because we have adapted to it, we are a response to our yellow sun, our salted seas, and our fertile lands.

MADE, too, is a response to its environment. I like to think of it as a living organism. Something nascent that requires light and nourishment and care. Each of you provides light – every time you share this idea, every time you read one of our articles or comment on our progress, you shed light on this ever-growing organism. We provide care, protecting and guiding MADE through each phase of development, ensuring that it has all of the necessary protections, that it has been given every chance to grow. The fruit of MADE’s growth will be measured in the experiences each of us have with it, the positive impact it will have on the industries it seeks to change, and the exponential benefit to the environment from a near zero-waste manufacturing methodology.

We launched our Kickstarter funding campaign this week, inviting everyone to participate in the growth of MADE. It is here that we return to the Powers of Ten – the simple and powerful exponential construct so beautifully articulated by the Eames. The concept of virality is experienced when we share an idea in a medium that is inherently networked. I share with you and you share with your network and your network shares, and so on. The great promise and power of Kickstarter is not measured in the size of the contribution, but in the size of the participating audience.

There are so many reasons to spread the word on behalf of MADE. This is the forward push of a disruptive and innovative technology. This is helping a small start-up succeed. This is protecting the oceans and environment we love, the energy we need to conserve, and seeing through the invigoration that additive manufacturing is already having on science, industry, and the economy.

Pause for a moment and think of the power you have to help us, the power of your influence – the reach of your network. In these nascent and fragile days, MADE relies on the power of your voice.

We are MADE for good. We are MADE for change. We are MADE for you. Please share our Kickstarter and join the movement.

Discovering New Languages

Drift. Moments pass under an endless, ink black sky. A vast sea of stars covers the darkness, thick bands of galactic dust reflect off of the indiscernible horizon of the still ocean. An aching, melancholy song emerges from the muted far-off depths. An unfamiliar language surrounds you, vibrating through the wood hull. Only inches separate you from the salt and the staggering depths of the ocean beneath you. Harmonic vibration courses through as a shadowy wake passes by, a large eye focuses on you as the shape of the migrant whale becomes visible. The song of the humpback whale lingers eerily in the still night.

What in the haunting song of a whale, calls to us so deeply? Our thoughtful minds identify complex patterns in the language of other species – but without context and, ultimately, without understanding. Hearing the tonal variations and the melodic incantations produces a visceral reaction, yet we do not know if the song has meaning. As sentient beings we understand the emotional language and experience a need to further understand the encoded information. Language is the capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication – and in that complexity is the essence of communication. Each word, each note, each…long…pause plays a role in a larger structure that condenses and simplifies the infinitely complex into understandable metaphors. The nature of communication is to share experience – possibly emerging as a function of survival, later evolving into nuanced systems of metaphor, song, and art. Consider the word “ocean,” allow your mind to drift and to explore all of the images that emerge. The context of water, the context of the heavens, the context of information, the power, the vastness, the infinite information – stored in a simple word. A beautifully understandable, immensely efficient container for fluctuating meaning. Ocean.

There is a collective voice without language. An ocean of information that remains disorganized and unintelligible. Data points that float aimlessly without purpose or use, experiences that remain isolated and unshared. We are creating a language to capture our shared experiences as surfers and sailors, told through the ambient sensors of a million riders, giving life to an encoded language found in the behaviors and actions of each of us. VOLUME™ is a mobile performance tracking application that will capture and encode environmental data and the physics of each session. The collected data points are the words in this ever-developing language, the riders are the narrative. What we do as individuals will be served back through understandable metaphors, giving us the ability to see patterns and to make decisions through simplified data. The language evolves from the interconnected nature of the application, built on a social platform. VOLUME™ will become a tool for social mapping, reporting, sensing, and design, giving rise to a narrative between board sports experiences and the sea and our interactions contained within.

We continue to develop VOLUME™ in the hopes that it will break free of the bounds of a mobile application, transcending the medium, becoming a place, a conversation, and a recollection of the stories and experience that define our shared love of the ocean. The products we make will always have purpose. VOLUME™, our SMARTBOARDS™, and the entire MADE experience is designed to use technology for your benefit, to push innovation, and to ensure a better future through smarter material use and a respect for our shared planet. We are excited by the unknown and VOLUME™ is truly the unknown. We look to it with the hope that it will become more than we can imagine.

Join us as we venture forth – discovering new languages in a future of connected experiences, no longer drifting alone in the sea.

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