Material Bank Wants Designers to Specify Differently

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The world of building materials and architectural products has a new disruptor. Material Bank has entered the scene, aiming to become the singular source for material specification research and memo sample fulfillment.

Material Bank is a new venture by visionary Adam Sandow’s company, Sandow Media, a business fueled entirely by innovation, beauty, and design. The secret behind Sandow’s brands lies in its ability to inspire a fanatical engagement with its customers. A few standout brands in their portfolio include high-end design publications Interior Design and Luxe Interiors + Design; the global lifestyle brand Fred Segal; and Material ConneXion, a materials consultancy helping world-renowned brands source high-design, high-performance, and sustainable materials. Given Sandow’s keen expertise in the mindset of interior designers, material innovation, and the industry at large, there are few organizations more suitable to reimagine how architects and designers specify products.

Why Should Specifiers Care?

For architects and designers, here’s how it works: they register and get approved to use the service, use the Material Bank website to search for products they are specifying across multiple manufacturers and categories in seconds, and receive their curated sample box by 10:30 am the following day at no cost. Oh, and designers have no excuse for having a pile of unwanted samples cluttering up their desk because returning samples is a cinch. Bam.

Material Bank gets to the point even quicker than we did with this message front and center on their website:

“Request any sample by midnight (EST). Get everything in one box, shipped FedEx Priority Overnight. Always Free.”

It’s probably not necessary for us to spell out why this is so compelling, but we’ll go ahead and do it anyway.

  • With a delivery speed that rivals even Amazon Prime, this service is a game changer, allowing specifiers to be able to truly move on a dime as client demands and project needs continue to evolve.

  • Designers easily spend over a third of their day sourcing and researching products and materials, so the ability to use a single search box to pore through multiple brands simultaneously offers a whole new world in terms of design-time efficiency.

  • The Material Bank digital platform also helps designers discover new products in the specification process, by featuring the latest product launch information, showcasing project photography that links to available products, and providing built-in functionality that gives designers the ability to create project boards like so many of us love to do on Pinterest.

  • Last but not least, there’s less waste. You see, specifiers are in a no-win situation. They are constantly on a treadmill of needing to specify more products, while also plagued with guilt because they know that inevitably, despite every good intention, the pile of samples and packaging amassed in each hunt will end up in a landfill.

Why Should Material and Product Manufacturers Care?

For manufacturers, it works like this: connect with Material Bank to become a Brand Partner, provide a library of samples, pay Material Bank for each sample sent, and get notifications with lead contact information within minutes of delivery for each sample that’s been shipped.

Material Bank is a service that could potentially offer an incredible benefit for both specifiers and manufacturers alike. Let’s face it, if you’re in the business of selling architectural products or building materials, it’s no secret – the current state of sampling is resource intensive, expensive, and outdated. And if you’re really being honest, your company’s effort in this realm probably has room for improvement.

To be successful, Material Bank requires both a robust, streamlined digital platform for specifiers and an automated distribution facility housing thousands upon thousands of material samples that’s been engineered to allow delivery of those materials in as little as ten and a half hours. Phew. Can your website and facility match that? We know of more than a few product companies that have a hard time getting samples out even within a week’s time. And make no mistake: as days pass, sales are lost. Specifiers make a mental note when a manufacturer can deliver a sample quickly for when they’re tasked with a similar hunt down the road. When deadlines are fast approaching, those are the companies they turn to first.

We can’t dismiss the reality that Material Bank has arrived in the era of shrinking material libraries, too. Manufacturers have been pressed to whittle down their lines to conserve shelf space across every category. Sometimes as the office purges, your samples will remain, but your brand and selling points don’t. Wood flooring manufacturers know this reality well, as their samples are most typically found mixed in with all of their competitors in clear plastic bins. It’s hard to reinforce product benefits when designers can’t tell companies apart and entire collections are reduced to sticks in a box. On the Material Bank website, your key benefits aren’t tossed aside.

Another point is that Material Bank could democratize the sales experience. Every company has spotty sales coverage due to weak or nonexistent reps. Material Bank, on the other hand, could eventually serve all designers equally, even if you don’t have a hungry rep in the area.

For us, the real opportunity for Material Bank is that it could bring new lines to specifiers who normally would not see them. Just as YouTube opened the door for amateur stars to get noticed, a platform like Material Bank could help lesser-known companies springboard into a larger audience. So, for example, if a designer searches for “orange flooring” they may come across a type of flooring that had primarily been used in healthcare but applies beautifully to hospitality.  

What do the Tea Leaves Say?

From what we’ve heard, designers are sold. As Material Bank is ramping up, it has provided access to a beta group of a thousand or so architects and designers, and the wait list is sizable. Given that it’s a free service, that should be no surprise. And manufacturers are also taking note. Consider the fact that a big player like Benjamin Moore has signed on, a company with 22 distribution facilities and roughly 4,000 independent retail locations of its own. The word from early participants is that the large volume of leads generated by Material Bank requires additional staff to follow up. Sounds like a good problem to have. So this could be big. How big? It’s anyone’s guess.

A Virtual Lunch and Learn



Susan Milne


If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or would like to find out more about how Epiphany can help get you specified, give me a call: 803.377.0106