Hype & Hyper | Conscious planning, on paper

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May 3, 2021 9:12 PM
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The Slovak madebythe: may seem like a minimalist stationary brand, but it is far from (being just) that. The purpose of the company is to supply users with products allowing them to plan their day-to-day life consciously and in a focused manner. After four years and ten thousand sold products, they keep developing, educating and building a community to this day—they are out to change Slovakia.

We probably don’t have to introduce the Moleskine brand and its legendary notebooks, which started out in Milan, but actually originated from France, to anyone: the soft, creme-colored sheets, the rounded edges, the soft or hard black cover, the simple rubber band for closing and of course the legend built around the notebook all helped this simple and ordinary object become an iconic product. The notebook encouraging creativity also caught the attention of Ivan Zatko and Juraj Zamborsky, the young Slovak entrepreneurs: so much so that they ended up creating the “Slovak version” of the Moleskine, if we may say so, with a few partners.

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Žurnál (journal) launched under the madebythe: brand in 2016 is not a simple replica of the original: the true added value lies in the content of the notebook. While reading several books on motivation and self-improvement, Ivan Zatko decided that he wanted to release a product that help the users embrace their creative potential and, last but not least, also brings joy.

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Ivan met Jurajin college, with whom they laid down the foundations for the madebythe brand—according to them, they started the business without actually knowing how it should be done properly. They simply wanted to offer a hand to those who struggle with effective time management. They envisioned an honest, lovable, hand-crafted and sustainable brand. They were not satisfied with the structure of the planners, notebooks and journals available on the market, thus they figured it was better to start product development from zero. They started the processes of product development complemented by Matej Binka, who joined their team as a third member. In the first version of Žurnál, they incorporated the know-how of the literature on conscious and effective planning, including David Allen’s „Getting Things Done”, and complemented it with their own tried-and-tested methods and experiences. This was back in 2016.

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The 1.0 version turned out to be of biblical thickness, they only manufactured ten items on an experimental basis, and then they tested it for three months with their close friends and acquaintances, hoping to get direct feedback resulting from actual use. It became obvious that no matter how practical this gigantic notebook may be, it will not be a favorite for customers: it is way too heavy and chunky to fit into a women’s purse—warned them Monika, Ivan’s wife.

Based on the feedback gathered in the course of testing, they further developed the notebook and owing to a successful crowdfunding campaign, they sold several hundreds of products, while in 2018 they introduced three additional items, which have been available in their repertoire ever since. In addition to the 12-month Ročník they also released the 6-month planner (Polročník), the undated notebook (Nedatovník) and the notebook suitable for jotting down ideas (Nápadník). In 2019, they expanded their repertoire with additional products: the existing, thicker notebooks were complemented by the workbook designed for athletes (Športovec), entrepreneurs and businessmen (Firemník), creatives (Kreatívec), and those looking for a stress-free and balanced life (Pohoďák).

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In the meantime, their clientele keeps growing: most of the time their buyers are private individuals, but they have also received a few orders from companies over the years. They manufacture their notebooks in Brno, using FSC certified paper produced by Fedrigoni.

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And how is Žurnál designed by madebythe: different from a Moleskine notebook? Madebythe: journals are divided into several parts: they are not only broken down to days, weeks and months as classic journals, the goal is rather to outline a 10 and a 5-year vision, where setting out morning routine tasks is just as important as filling out the pages summarizing the experiences of the previous week and month. But the notebooks do not only have room for to-do lists and tasks: we can always jot down the things we were grateful for on every day of the week. One of the “superpowers” of Moleskine notebooks users tend to cherish, the pocket installed on the inner side of the back cover, can also be found in Žurnál, and it also comes with extra notepaper and a manual in case we are not sure how to use it—even though fundamentally the user can use the pages freely, in their own pace and to fit their own ideas.

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Today, they have sold tens of thousands of items: their products are primarily available on their own website, but the largest Slovak online book distributor Martinus also incorporated madebythe: stationary items into their repertoire. They continuously rely on customer feedback: they have also created a public Facebook group under the name Žurnálisti, where not only the happy owners of madebythe: products are welcome to join, but also those who are not afraid of challenges and would like to take control when it comes to everyday time management in their lives (this is also echoed by the slogan of the product: “A diary for the heroes of everyday life”).

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In the meantime, they don’t forget about supporting good causes either. As passionate nature-lovers, it was more than evident for the team to also feature Slovakia’s natural treasures in their product selection: they team up with graphic designers to call the „Mountains” (Hory) and the „Routes” (Trasy) print collections to life, and they have already donated more than 20,000 euros to various environmental organizations. One can also find letterpress printed posters featuring quotes from famous books including “The Little Prince” or “The Hobbit” in their selection.

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The socks collection born as a further development of the prints calls our attention to the beauty of Slovak national parks and also serves a good cause: in this project, they collaborated with the Slovak Fusakle brand (whom we have already introduced in a previous V4PLUS article – the Ed.).

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Their only flaw, if we may say so, is that madebythe: products are only available in Slovak language, and unfortunately their international release is still a bit further down the road. Or is it? The team of madebythe: has no ambitions to take over the world, it’s enough if they can help more people become heroes of everyday life all over Slovakia—and not only on paper.