For those who have tried Phillipe Starck’s Parrot Zik headphones, you might be familiar with the up/down swiping for adjusting the volume—among other touch-sensitive controls on the headphones themselves. While some non-audiophiles may scoff at a pair of $400 headphones, the design is truly a step forward in how we interact with our audio devices. Perhaps inspired by the non-tactile controls of the Parrot Zik headphones, Korean industrial designer Eun Hee Jo has translated that same experience to a minimal desktop speaker system that replaces plodding buttons with gentle sweeps of the speaker fabric—just remember to wipe your hands after eating your Cheetos.

Surface Matters

“The role of the surface is changing radically, according to how it’s designed and incorporated with objects. (I want to) re-define the role of the surface in future lifestyle, exploring how surfaces can be an integrated as part of a product or environment.”
-Designer Eun Hee Jo

Developed during her stay at the ‘Designers in Residence’ program at the Design Museum London, the Surface Matters speaker system replaces traditional playback controls with various finger swiping actions to control tracks, volume, and equalizer settings. As part of the 2013 Designer in Residence program, all of the young designers who took part were told to ‘explore how design in any field can be used to convey, to create, or to reflect a sense of identity’. As opposed to filling the requirement with a simple ‘skin’ a la smartphone covers, Eun made ‘reflecting a sense of identity’ an afterthought to an otherwise innovative concept.






Created with help from professional design engineer Seitaro Taniguchi, the concept counts future-forward Phillips OLEDs and Kvadrat fabrics among its materials. The ability to swap speaker skins is surely a nice touch, but the ability to eliminate all controls from the eye while still communicating what does what with simple glowing OLEDs is perhaps the most impressive of all. Did you see how that equalizer was adjusted? Holy cow!

A second concept the pair developed recreates the experience as a sort of modular, interactive wallpaper for larger spaces:




Be sure to check out more of Eun’s impressive portfolio where she excels at adding subtle interactive touches to otherwise monolithic forms.

(Images via Eun Hee Jo)


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.