The Secrets of Superior Sound

The Secrets of Superior Sound


What goes into designing state-of-the art wireless speakers? We spoke to Dana Krieger, head of design and hardware at Sonos.

What’s your personal design philosophy or approach?

Our products are complex systems and, in my view, good design is the process of organising that complexity into a clear visual story that describes the purpose of the product. Design should make a product accessible, understandable and ultimately desirable without demanding attention.

What’s the starting point for you: “It needs to sound like X”, or “It needs to look like X?”

Our design process begins with an understanding of the experience we’d like our customers to have when using the final product. This experience definition will cover a wide range of properties, including sound attributes (bass performance, soundstage, dialogue clarity) and key elements of the use case (portability, wall mounting, price point). All these criteria combine to inform the industrial design choices. A critical part of the Sonos process is that no individual discipline dictates outcomes to any other. In the interest of making the best product, we are all working to use our expertise to enable other disciplines, rather than constrain them.

Which design details in the Sonos speakers are you most proud of?

Our design team is proud of the attention we pay to each element of the product experience. A packaging label, a regulatory marking and the rubber feet on the base of a speaker are considered with equal attention to the primary silhouette and shape of the product itself. Each contributes to the feeling a customer has when using our product.

Recently, we received an email from a customer who was excited to share that they had noticed how the small perforations in the speaker’s grille (the holes which allow sound to escape) were centred in both Os of the Sonos logo. Investing this kind of care into the product, and then building a relationship with customers who appreciate the outcome, is tremendously motivating.

As an industrial designer, which areas of engineering (aside from a thorough understanding of acoustics) do you have an excellent working knowledge of?

Our design team regularly participates in conversations that involve acoustics, tooling and manufacturability, radios and antennas, thermal management, sustainability, even finance. The best products balance all of these criteria, so our designers must be able to have a detailed and collaborative conversation with experts in any of these fields.

What are the challenges of designing a speaker?

We incorporate state-of-the-art technology into our products, but our customers are passionate about audio, not technology, so our primary challenge is to deliver a technically complex piece of equipment in a way that feels human, emotional and welcome in any part of the home.

What music is currently streaming on your personal Sonos system?

Recently, I have been listening (again!) to Sublime and Weezer, after hearing them playing in my daughter’s room. Connections like this are the real joy of listening to music out loud.

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