Curious about the invisible world around us, Dutch product designer Ricky van Broekhoven developed Soundshapes – speakers entirely assembled from musically-generated drawings. With a passion for electronic music, he equates sound with material and composition with design. This fascination lead van Broekhoven through a unique production process ­­– translating 2D experiments into 3D form.

While studying at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, the young designer came across a Chladni plate. Pure frequencies vibrated through a thin piece of metal. When salt was poured onto its surface, elaborate motives were created. While experimenting with this tool, van Broekhoven discovered that tonal pitch determined the patterns’ complexities. The higher the tone, the more intricate drawings became. Chladni plates are normally used to test sound resonance when assembling musical instruments.

Looking into how these ephemeral 2D drawings could translate into 3D constructions, the designer built his own devise. Filming the process, he began to notice a certain blurriness between different static states. While reviewing the video, van Broekhoven took a series of screenshots. He translated these images into computer renderings that were then 3D printed.

Analyzing his first coral-like prototype, the designer questioned how this new material process could be applied. Traditional speakers are famous for inefficiently diffusing sound and so the answer was obvious. Each iteration comprises 16 hand-cut MDF layers. Stacked and glued together, these speaker encasements were coated with rubber-like polyurethane.

During Dutch Design Week – 19 to 27 October – van Broekhoven displayed his entire process as part of the Convoi Exceptionnel exhibition in Eindhoven’s Strijp T. The SoundshapeLab included a working Chladni devise and finished prototypes.

Photos Liselotte de Groot