Why do we listen to music? When a users puts on their headphones they escape the everyday into a world of their choosing, narrated by their favorite artists. In this respect the personal audio device is not merely a product, it is a conduit through which the user connects to their dreams and aspirations, a modern day reliquary of desire.
These headphones are big, they don't fold up and they are very conspicuous. They are not designed to be put in a pack or hidden away, they are designed to be seen, a bold visual statement attesting to the users authenticity and strength of character. Rather than hide the cord, in going with the theme of display I designed a thick two centimeter wide ribbon extending from both earpieces as a bold visual statement. At the end of the ribbon is an audio jack and a volume control, a riff on the second generation Ipod shuffle.
The earbud was where I began ideation, based around the interplay between two surfaces and the aesthetic, ergonomic, and utilitarian affordances created by this union. I 3d printed the bud and tried it with a number of foam tips to ensure that it not only looked good, but was also comfortable in different ear types.
Utilizing subtle affordances and relying on the golden ratio to create a coherent hierarchy of elements, the portable speaker was a simple twist top with a micro usb in the bottom to charge.
To create delight in the hole pattern for this speaker I used the interior of a sunflower as inspiration, which can be mathematically described using a fibonacci spiral. The fibonacci spiral is an approximation of the golden spiral created by drawing circular arcs connecting the opposite corners of squares in the Fibonacci tiling. I used a formula for the spiral to generate a spreadsheet of positions and plugged the results into Solidworks, after experimenting with different sizes and densities I settled on 499 1.1 mm holes, with the 500th becoming the tear drop shape which indicates volume on the front of the device.
Throughout the design process I looped iteratively through different types of research and ideation, during CAD refinement I went back into rough sketches repeatedly as a means of maintaining creative direction and ensuring that software was not dictating design considerations, here is what that looked like:
My process began with some divergent polygonal cad doodling, exploring different form, materials, and colors. I had no clear idea what I was looking to achieve, just had fun with it and did what felt right, I enjoy beginning a project in this type of unconstrained intuitive space. I began with earbuds, they are a quick problem space to iterate in thanks to their simple shape.
Once I had some initial forms there was a critique, the feedback was humorous (lickable) (I want to eat it) (feels like bubblegum) and so as a jumping off point and to get into a more directed space I assembled a mood board around the forms I and my peers were particularily partial to.
I took this initial doodling and tried to develop a user profile, after the profile was completed I realized that it constituted a somewhat edgy youth vibe, so while the vibrant hues still worked with the theme, the bubblegum aesthetic of the initial brainstorm was out.
The next step in form iteration was inspired by a design persona and a few precedents which I imagined this person would surround themselves with.
Form development began in earnest with hand sketching to capture some of the evocative qualities in the mood boards, and develop a design language based upon these elements.
After the initial sketching to flesh out some concepts, I developed and prototyped the earbud, as the simplest expression of the design language developed through the mood boards. after some tweaking informed by the physical prototype I began to iterate the larger forms of the speaker and headphones, first by sketching and then through SolidWorks, to refine the initial ideation.
I think of nature as the original aestheticist, and much of my form development is informed by shapes which can be found in the natural world. There are almost no straight lines in nature, it solves problems in a simple and beautiful way with curves.
Whats in a curve? I had the opportunity to speak with an extremely experienced designer and he turned me on to one of the more useful articles I have ever read "A Periodic Table of Form" by Gray Holland. It discusses the types of intersection between surfaces and how to evoke the sort of natural and appealing aesthetic in designed objects, the article had a profound effect on how I approach form development and has been informing my work ever since. In this project particular consideration was given to finding an overall curve that would unify the series, and then to expressing this unifying element harmoniously in each piece.
Thank you for your time.