CREATIVE MINDS 3: Meet the MAAD people

"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage."
- Georgia O'Keefe

It still runs clear in our head that Christmas was only 2 months ago. We intended to pay a short visit to MAAD's new work-space located at Toh Tuck then, to pass them a box of Christmas cookies. Minutes after stepping into their homely office, we were all caught up in a long conversation.

 We first knew them 2 years ago when they approached us on this same season to discuss on customizing a macaron for their clients. Meticulous, decisive, hardworking, patient and creative were the values that we remembered them for, and it is still the same for today. They were not afraid to pick up and try on new challenges. From the painting of the macaron to the designing and making of the packaging, they crafted them individually. As we recalled back, every piece of craft paper was cut using a penknife and hand folded into a box. To them, Christmas was not only a season of gifting, its also a season of remembrance & appreciation, and that explains the significant input. Its a beautiful way to conclude the year- every year.
During our visit, we had a better understanding about the works they do, and what they've been doing before 2017 end.  Max and Aster gave us a packet of ANG PAO which they have designed for the Year of the Dog. We can't help but ask the reason behind the choice of breed and those intricacy in the embossment, and how everything was placed together. From the designing to the placement and to the constant adjustments, it definitely takes more than just creativity alone. The degree of dedication and perfectionism they both possess in their own ways are all reflected in this red packet. 

So today, we are glad to be able to share with you more about MAAD from the people behind MAAD themselves. Let's take a moment and be inspired. 

Founded by husband-and-wife creative duo, Aster Foo and Max Chionh 3.5 years ago, this bootstrap start-up first operated out of a spare room at home with Olly the cat as its 3rd ‘sleeping’ partner, and swiftly moved into its first studio, a charming loft unit at Club Street 5 months later.
The studio prides itself in conceptualisation and digital image editing. Throughout its 3.5 years of operation, they have worked with some notable brands such as Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Audi, BreadTalk, ToastBox, UOB and Hong Kong Tourism Board in both print and digital design.

MAAD’s ethos? The team trusts in the value of simplicity, and yet, appreciates the intricacies that make a design powerful.

1. How did the name MAAD come about?

Aster: One night, over coffee at Holland Village Coffee Club. After an extended brainstorm and stupid suggestions, the idea of MAD (Max & Aster Design) came up. Although our industry can be described as such, Max felt that the word MAD was too literal and boring. So, we included the ‘A’ from the word ‘And’ which gave us MAAD (Max And Aster Design).

2. What is the turning point for both of you before you all decided to start MAAD? 

Aster: I came back to Singapore from a one year sabbatical in New Zealand and had a marketing job offer from Wildlife Reserves Singapore. It was one of my dream companies but it didn’t feel right and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue a marketing career for the next 10 years, especially when I don’t aspire to climb the corporate ladder to a #1 role.

Max: I had already set up a design agency with 2 other ex-colleagues. Due to some complications, our partner in charge of business development could not continue. My other partner and I continued the business, but later on he decided that he wanted more experience and work exposure.

This so happened to coincide with Aster’s desire to start an agency together with me, as she felt that it was a very good opportunity for us to combine our expertise (she being the left brain and me the right) to start something on our own.

3. What is the misconception people have about the creative industry? 

Max: That our job is to make things look good.

Our job is to create effective design, making it look good is part of that process. Doing that requires in-depth knowledge of human psychology.

4. There is so much intricacy in this year's Ang Bao design. Could you share with us the idea and process?
Max: Unlike most Zodiac animals, dogs have a significant breed pool and diverse looks and sizes. Just deciding on which breed to use was a challenge – all or just 1? Name a breed you love, and there will be 10 others who have no affection for it. We ended up deciding to use the Shiba Inu, as it has been social media’s favourite dog with its viral ‘Doge’ memes.

Regarding the thought process for the design – minimalism is at its peak, and I feel that some are taking it a bit too far. Designs have started to become boring, with minimalism as its justification. Thus, I decided to go with quasi-minimalism instead. Adding intricate elements to the overall design, but with an emboss effect. This adds subtle intricacy that doesn’t overpower, maintaining the values of minimalism without laziness as a reason.

Read more behind this year’s design concept :

*5. If you can describe your business in one colour, what would it be? (and why)

Max: Gold. Knowledge, or the lack of, may lead to perfection or disaster.

Aster: Black. There’s always an exciting sense of potential and possibility, as well as those dark moments when you feel like plotting a client’s death.

*6. If you are able to give 1 advise to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?

Aster: In retrospect, if I had to keep one thing from all the bittersweet life lessons I had from sweet 16 to now, it would be that success is deciding what it looks like for you, and not getting derailed by someone else’s version of it.

To me now, it’s asking myself: how often am I waking up and looking forward to my day?

So I’d like to say to my 16-year-old self: Success isn’t about getting into ACJC (which didn’t happen), it’s not about how much money I have or am going to have by doing something I didn’t have an interest/passion in, or by how many countries I have visited.

If I don’t wake up and feel like my day is a day that I want to have, with the people I want to be with, then what am I doing?

Currently, I feel hopeful (or mostly just happy) when I start my day every day. If it isn’t so, I’m pretty sure I would do something about it.

Max: Make the most of opportunities. I gave up too easily. It wasn’t always like this, I used to really enjoy finishing what I started, and spend time being good at whatever I did. Internet and instant gratification spoiled all that – so who says millennials started being self-entitled spoilt brats?

*7. Complete the sentence.

Max: My life is a maze without dead-ends, just multiple exits, and I am in the middle of it.

Aster: My life is busy, crazy, messy and wonderful.

MAAD'S ang pow design has been featured on Packaging of the World and on Toggle

Visit MAAD WEBSITE to find out more.

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