Sonos Sound Object: Interviews with the RCA’s John Fass and student Tom Gayler

Celine Vignes, CORD London.

Following the launch of several Sonos Studios around the world, the electronics brand is about to open a new space in the UK capital, right in its lively and arty heart: Shoreditch. The space, that will open its doors mid-September, will be a social and collaborative space, aiming to connect artists and their public through experiences in music, art and technology.

While the two-story warehouse will be soon revealed to the public, Sonos organized a first event to launch the second volume of its quarterly publication, the Sonos Studio’s magazine. The brand took over Protein Studios for a day-long programme of innovative experiences, live music and an art exhibition, teasing the East London creative crowd with a taster of the creative possibilities that will be on offer in the future.



« There are long established links

between design and music »


Sonos sponsored the RCA Sound Object project, allowing young talent to innovate and express their creativity, by giving them a carte blanche to explore how social interaction can be mediated through sound. We interviewed the project founder John Fass, PhD researcher, and visiting lecturer on the Information Experience Design (IED) MA at the RCA.

John Fass

Picture @RCA


What is the relation between design and music ?

« There are long established links between design and music, primarily in the form of graphics and photography i.e. how music is communicated, but also of course in the design of instruments and playback technologies for the home and studio. I’m particularly interested in what the design implications are for networked devices and music streaming. »

Is Sound Object a brand new project for the Royal College of Art ?

« In collaboration with my colleague Yuri Suzuki, we ran the first version of Sound Object in 2013. The latest iteration was with the support of Sonos, and was the second time I ran the brief, this time in collaboration with Rob Phillips Senior Tutor, Design Products. »

Did you partner with brands like Sonos in the past ?

« The RCA has a long history of collaborating with external partners, it allows us to expose the students to commercial design practice, and develop their skills in a real world environment. In IED we have worked with many external partners including; Deltarail, The Science Museum, and Imperial College. Sonos were interested in working with us and we established a good working relationship and common curiosity for how sound can work to connect people. »


« There is a lot to be explored about

how we listen to digital music

and how it combines with the physical »


Tom Gayler, a Master’s student at RCA shared his experiences with us. « Sound Object is a collaboration between two different courses within the RCA: Information Experience Design, and Design Product. The brief we were given was to explore how social interaction can be mediated through sound. We worked with a few other external people, such as John Richard from Dirty Electronics. »

« The Sonos sponsorship allowed us to make everything happen. Several projects were created in order to answer the original brief. Me an my team created the Dial Player, a music player for parties. We wanted to highlight and challenge people at parties who stare at their phones constantly, looking for songs to play through the PA. »

dial player

The Dial player

« We designed this big dish. Each person has their music on a little dial, and they can throw the dial on the player to get it played. It introduces an element of gaming into what music gets played at parties. Other students created a drum machine called the SOXX composer, which uses magnets to trigger sounds. There were also musical kettle bells called Sonicbells, and another project called The Translation of Sound, which used speakers connected to strings to produce vibrations, lights and beautiful shapes. There was also a musical bamboo playground, that creates sound as you move inside. We took our projects to Sonar Festival, in Barcelona. »


The SOXX composer

How did people interact with the Sound Objects at Sonar Festival ?

« Taking our projects to the festival was very useful for product development. As soon as people started to use the Dial Player, we learned a lot about how we could improve it. For example, we expected people to shove other peoples’ dials aside to get their music played first. What actually happened was that people stacked their dials up – essentially queueing their music. It created this new dimension, making playlists through stacking. »

What about the future of the project ?

« This collaboration with Sonos has been very positive. The project will be ran again with next year’s students, with the same partnership. They want to do more, and do it bigger. All the projects from this year are still going on, and we will be at the launch of the Sonos Studio London in September as well.»

Sound Object will be presented at Sonos Studios London launch mid-September. At the image of this exciting work, the Studios will aim to explore possibilities in music, art an technology – an inspiring space to watch out.

Many thanks to John Fass and Tom Gayler from RCA.


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