Approaching this project, I decided to start with the basic
“what is a speaker?” and build up from
there. I looked at current and historical speaker designs from
which I acquired a sense of what I wanted my design to be.
I modelled forms, experimented by fabricating them, then returned to the drawing board to make refinements based on what I had learned. My final product represents what I believe makes a good speaker design: an all-inclusive design which sits balanced on any flat surface, and works just by plugging it in and hitting play. In this case, hitting play means flicking an on a switch and hearing a sound. I did not find it necessary to design the sound which came out of this speaker, but instead on the form and experience of using it.
From the beginning, I wanted to work with plywood, and so I
researched a variety of hinge, bending and closure mechanisms.
I particularly liked the lattice hinge technique, as it allows for bending the wood in organic ways to form consistent and geometric curves in the forms. I found the finger joint method to be a very common construction technique for assembling 3D forms with plywood, and so it stuck in my mind as a method which I would use.
In searching for inspiring forms, my immediate intuition was
to look up all the modern speakers I’ve seen in stores and
online, which have caught my attention.
Sonos has particularly caught my attention in their product design. I like their simplistic and geometric approach. Their products all have a very distinct look that separates them from the rest of the industry. The next speaker I was drawn to was HomePod, for a similar reason. It feels like a perfect and natural shape, which was very minimally designed. I came across a Sony speaker set, which piqued my interest in its grille design. By having circles cut into rectangles, the surround- sound tweeters suggest the driver is bigger than the enclosure, which I found to be an interesting visual effect.
I didn’t want to limit my inspiration to just one era and
discipline of speaker design, and so I explored much earlier
forms from the past.
I came across some old radio designs which I found very charming and homogenous. I found it interesting how they ranged from simplistic to much more extravagant and detailed. While looking at physical forms, I came across an app called Piezo, which features an icon representing this era of audio equipment. On top of speakers and other products, I found some abstract patterns etched into wooden disks. They reminded me of speaker grilles and made me think of the mind of pattern I would like to incorporate into my own.
Designing the Circuit
I began with the hardware of the speaker, designing the circuit. Given the requirement of having a switch which turns the speaker on and off, I incorporated an SPDT Switch into my circuit. I then prototyped this configuration using a breadboard and alligator clips.
I started with a fairly simple polygonal form. I started with
a square, which I angled upwards and extruded tapering down in
size. This left me with what resembled an industrial-type
speaker you might find in a concert hall or sports stadium. To
me, it gives off a strong presence which suggests that it’s a
powerful and loud speaker.
I liked the direction I was heading in, but wasn’t quite satisfied with what I had. I thought about how the speaker would balance since it leans backwards, and that it would require additional support to balance properly. Instead of adding more components and risking overcomplicating the design, I opted to iterate on this design and explore more interesting properties instead.
Hardware and Form
Before looking at how to close off the form, I measured and
created 1:1 scale models of the Arduino board and the speaker
driver, since I wanted to shape the speaker around the
hardware first and foremost.
This led me to define the dimensions of the form based on the fixed dimensions of the hardware. What I came up with was a relatively simple yet elegant shape which would accommodate the hardware perfectly.
I wanted to make sure that my design was feasible to fabricate
and make real, so I unrolled the curve of the form and flattened
the remaining walls to print simply on paper, disregarding scale
for the time being.
Constructing the form, I got a better sense of it being able to hold and observe it in the real world. I then went back to the drawing board to finalize the design and begin the finished piece.
I exported the flattened assets out from Rhino and into
Illustrator where I fine-tuned and prepared them for laser
cutting. At this point I had to determine the materials and
methods I’d use to construct this object. I figured the flat
walls of the speaker could be done using plywood, as each panel
would have the same 3mm Z-dimension.
For the arc, I initially thought to use a lattice hinge to curve it over the shape, however, I realized that the curve is multi-dimensional since it tapers along the z-axis of the shape. Instead, I stuck to Clairefontaine Maya Paper, which would easy contort to the outlined shape I had in Illustrator.
Additionally, I decided to experiment and cut both a smooth arc, as well as one with scored lines for it to curve in segments.
Once I had all of my assets laser cut, it was time to figure out
how to actually assemble the pieces. The first problem I ran
into due to oversight, was that plywood alone can’t be connected
at 90° angles with any adhesive that isn’t concealed. I realized
I forgot to use finger joints to support the structural
Second, I had no way of actually placing the speaker where I wanted, without using an exorbitant amount of hot glue. I figured out a way to redesign the internals to alleviate this.
Going back to the drawing board, I made the following changes.
I felt that the speaker grille need to better communicate what the device was, and so I designed what I believe is a familiar, yet unique and functional icon of a speaker driver. Next, I wanted the back of the form to better communicate what each port and function was, and so I added little icons and text to indicate each feature.
Additionally, I created a support structure for the speaker to be implemented into for more stability.
Finally assembling the speaker, I hot-glued together the front
two panels, then connected the piece to the baseplate using a
mixture of super glue and hot glue. Next, I used hot glue to
apply the Arduino board to the base of the interior.
From here, I had my foundation to build and integrate the circuit.
I soldered together the speaker and switch and twisted the wires to strengthen them for plugging into the Arduino. I hot-glued the speaker into the created cavity and the switch into the cut-out port such that it sits flush on the exterior.
To apply the paper arc, thus closing and finish the shape, I did
Using tape, I applied the sheet on the bottom left of the floor. Then using more tape, I secured the top of the arc to the front panel. Next, I taped the arc down to the bottom right of the floor, thereby closing shut the shape. As a final touch, I trimmed the back of the arc, which was sticking out further than the back panel, since I wanted it flush with the back panel.