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Intellect

Looks for tomorrow's computer speakers designed at BYU

  • Industrial design students worked with Logitech to propose new designs for computer speakers
  • Students were challenged to work within real-world constraints to make the designs feasible and sound great
  • One design features a hidden compartment for extra speaker cable; another can hang from the ceiling

Designs for the next generation of computer speakers just may have roots in a project between Logitech and the industrial design program at BYU.
Students in the program, housed in the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, partnered with Logitech’s designers and acoustic engineers to produce a series of speaker prototypes. Designs included desktop speakers as well as portable speakers and small home audio systems with iPod docks.

From the onset, the project was about more than flashy looks. Logitech’s acoustic and mechanical engineers charged the class with demands from the corporate design suite: make something that not only looks good, but is buildable and meets acoustic specifications.

Some of those specifications were that designs needed minimum sizes for sound resonance, stability control and space for electronics.

“This models how we work with our industrial design clients,” said Melissa Yale, a senior mechanical engineer at Logitech.

Through the semester, Yale said she and a colleague watched students incorporate their technical feedback, moving designs from concept to construction. “It’s been very impressive.”

One design that caught the eyes of Logitech’s marketing team was Bryant Klug’s Micro.

Klug’s design successfully wraps up a perennial issue Logitech faces: providing customers with a simple way to manage speaker cords. The hard outer shell of Klug’s speaker slides forward, revealing grooves to wrap the audio cable around.

Although this feature caught Logitech’s eye, it came after Klug flushed out secondary opportunities for his original concept — a design process Klug’s professors Paul Skaggs and Bryan Howell call ideation.

“Cord management was step two after I had shape,” Klug said. “You’re always looking for the next step to add more value to your design.”

Klug’s original design borrows elements from after-market protective cases that are popular for mobile phones and laptops: simple, durable surfaces available in bright colors. “I thought that would be a cue that would help people know my speaker was portable, and you could take it with you wherever you go,” Klug said.

Klug fancies himself more of a conceptual designer, so meeting the engineers’ specifications was an added challenge. But in the end, he said designing within constraints from a real client was a worthwhile learning experience.

Solving real-world problems and working with clients are critical elements of the students’ education.

“We don’t produce products; we produce students,” said Spencer Magleby, associate dean of the Fulton College of Engineering and Technology. “We’re grateful to all of the companies that work with us to help develop our students.”

Writer: Nat Harward

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