Mon: Eva! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat, maybe we can start by having you tell us a little about yourself and maude?
Éva: I was born in New Mexico, a state that is disparate and lacks access to healthcare, to an arts educator mother. From an early age, I knew that I wanted to do something in the design world that also made a difference for people—then I thought perhaps I'd end up an architect. Having been interested in public health in college—I was a legislative aide in healthcare then and after graduation— and later coming from a product background as a brand and social media strategist for mission-driven companies like Everlane, I decided to pursue creating a consumer goods company that solved for everyday wellness. To me, sexual health was such a critically overlooked part of this and ultimately, I believe that it’s the foundation for how we feel about ourselves and others. If you look at the typical consumer experience around sexual health, it’s the last frontier in personal care. Realizing that the industry was outdated and with no sign of it changing, I decided to create maude, an inclusive modern intimacy company.
Mon: The 3 brand pillars for maude are; Quality, Inclusivity and Simplicity', how did the team come up with these and why are they important for maude?
Éva: I felt that it was imperative to change the conversation around sex and bridge the gap between male-focused incumbents and female-focused newer brands since sex is such a human experience. To do this, we focus on these three core principles: making products you can trust (quality), that are easy to understand (simplicity), and that are age- and gender-agnostic (inclusivity). These also inform how we do things internally and become the lenses by which we measure everything—content, messaging, etc.
Mon: An ethos of the company is to have 'design dismantle stigma'. How do you think design achieves this?
Éva: Inspired by modernist movements like Bauhaus which approached product design with equal measures of form and function, I wanted to create a line that destigmatized the category through a beautiful-meets-everyday approach. The result is products that have muted, universal colors, easy-to-use packaging, and simple shapes. The vibe was inspired by Brâncuși's sculptures and the lightbulb for the shape went off when I visited MoMA, actually. As I'm married to a mechanical engineer, he was able to help me design and bring the product to life.
Mon: I always think the mark of a good designer is knowing what to take away, not what to add. You've mentioned that initially, maude's identity was far more expansive. What led you to pare back the identity visually?
Éva: Originally, the idea was to create a range of colors in consideration of inclusion, but what we realized, beyond how complex and expensive it is to make many colors of packaging, is that ultimately, to be universal, it had to be simple. I know it’s cliche, but I often go back to Dieter Rams'10 Principles for Good Design especially that good design should be unobtrusive, long-lasting, understandable, and as little design as possible. In a category that is historically loud and busy, this pared-down, human approach has resonated far beyond the reaches of what we thought in terms of customer.
Mon: What's the product design process like for maude, how long does a product take to go from a concept to the shelf?
Éva: Because we manage all product development in-house or directly with the factory, our timelines are usually between 3-6 months. We’ll go through market research, customer surveys, prototyping (we have an in-house 3D printer), testing, iterations and improvements, and finally, bring a product to market.
Mon: Trojan owns 70%+ of the market right now, from a design perspective, do you think this gave maude a great opportunity to differentiate?
Éva: The sexual wellness industry has been monopolized for 100+ years by the same tired giants (Trojan, Lifestyles, Durex) which has given rise to hyper-feminine, trend-focused newer brands. Modern consumers view intimacy as an important part of everyday health, but the sexual wellness industry is fractured, focusing on speaking to one gender (and age) and positioning sex as clinical, a novelty, or a taboo. This left a wide-open lane for maude to be for all.
Mon: Similar copycats have cropped up since maude's inception, is this something you actively combat? Or prefer to take it in your stride and accept it as the best form of flattery?
Éva: Absolutely. The visibility and success of the brand has led to many copycats which I tend to think is erasure and not flattering—at all. While some of them have been female-founded brands, it’s mostly male-founded copycat products (that only focus on women) cropping up in what can only be described as money grab moves. While they can keep trying to speak to women, the reality is that female consumers are smart and they don't want to be pandered to and overcharged by men. I’ll continue to defend our work as it’s the right thing to do and hopefully signals to others to defend their work, too.
Mon: maude produces a lot of content with its blog. Segmented into 'The Maudern', 'The Essentials' and 'The Golden'. Do you feel it's important for brands nowadays to lead with content?
Éva: The modern customer doesn’t want a commoditized, transactional experience and as a brand, it’s critical to stay top-of-mind in a hyper-crowded online world. When maude launched, it was critical to provide our audience an extension of the brand that wasn't product-focused and that gave an entire ecosystem of information so the maudern was born. It now has even more traffic than the ecommerce side of the site.
Mon: Any new products or news coming for maude that you want to talk about?
Éva: After launching in 33 countries internationally and partnering with Sephora.com for the launch of their intimate care category. maude is also launching a new category on March 1st.
Mon: Any designers, books or great sources of inspiration you've been looking at that we should check out?
Éva: I’m an avid vintage design book collector so rather than one book, I’d recommend checking out Mast Books and Dashwood in NYC for incredible finds. I do a book shopping trip about once a month around the city. See my favorites here.
Mon: What's better, New Mexico summer or New York winter?
Éva: Neither. I love both of them. New Mexico has incredible summers. The thunderclouds roll in and the sky goes on as far as the eye can see.
Mon: Favorite article on the Maudern?
Éva: How Astronauts Masturbate in Space.
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