Bored of music? So why don’t you try some new speakers? American designer Joey Roth makes it easy for you: he has created some of the most amazing speakers ever, having managed to avoid all clichés and be really original. No pseudo futurist looks then, no plastic stuff and no predictability. Joey used materials like porcelain, cork, and Baltic birch wood -raw materials that show their natural beauty and aren't usually associated with electronics- and reduced the speaker system to its most simple form. Simple but surprisingly beautiful, Joey’s ceramic speakers make you wanna listen to your favorite records right away. Yatzer found him for an exclusive interview where he explained it all behind his work and he even gave us his top ten. We really hope you are all ears for him!
What was the initial inspiration behind the ceramic speakers?
Speakers are vessels for the work of other artists. Their eventual meaning will be a dialog between my design and the customer's taste in music. This shared responsibility for a product's meaning is one of the most exciting things about design, and speakers were the most direct way for me to explore this interaction.
What’s the importance of the materials for you? How did you decide to use porcelain and cork for your speakers?
I was inspired by the harmonious contrast between electronic components and simple materials. Most speaker systems are made from injection-molded plastics or metals that look sleek and futuristic, but do not convey the warmth and human feeling of good music. Since speakers must give music a physical form as well as make it sound good, I chose acoustically dead materials that are naturally beautiful, but don't draw too much attention.
You point out that you are especially interested in designing tools for ephemeral experiences that remain valuable for years. Is there a challenge or a contradiction hidden behind it?
It's certainly challenging to design objects that people will want to hold onto, but I don't think there's a contradiction when the objects are used to enjoy ephemeral experiences like tea and music. These tools facilitate appreciation of the experience, and act as persistent reminders once the song has ended or the tea has been finished. A user's memories of experiences enjoyed with these tools make the objects more individualized, and thus more valuable.
What kind of music were you listening to when designing the ceramic speakers? Could you share with us as an ideal top ten of all times?
While I was working on the speakers, I was listening to the Diplo/ Santogold album Top Ranking. I also listen to Ghostface, Nine Inch Nails, Dirty Projectors, and John Coltrane when I work.
Once it was time to dial in the sound by experimenting with different drivers, wires, and enclosure geometries, I listened to Sunn 0))). This is the heaviest, darkest music I have ever heard, and and might be the heaviest and darkest that can possibly be made. It did a very good job of testing the system's capabilities. My girlfriend introduced me to Shuggie Otis and Gil Scott-Heron while I was experimenting as well. I've grown to like them very much.
So that's eight; I also love traditional Huayno music from Peru and Grime music from the UK.
You say that both irony and beauty are crutches for bad design. Could you explain us this belief?
When I was starting as a designer in college around 2004, irony was dominant in the design world. These punchline-driven objects were always boring to me, but the more I got into design, the more I realized how negative they really were. A designer's ultimate job is to create culture. A design that riffs on the current moment does nothing to advance the conversation: it bleeds culture for meaning, whereas good design inspires the next cultural moment.
A design that relies on irony will stop being relevant once the cultural moment fades from memory. Physical materials like plastic and metal do not fade however, and after a year or so, the object is clearly dated.
I've recently started to realize that beauty is just as dependent as irony on the cultural moment. Opinions of what's beautiful generally last longer than opinions of what's funny, but they change just as surely. With each new design, I'm trying to bypass culture and interface directly with human perception. My goal is to achieve a kind of beauty, but one that could be appreciated in any cultural context. Perhaps it's impossible, but striving for this ideal helps me create better work.
Should we expect alternative colors of the speakers in the future?
Some of my favorite artists are creating limited-edition versions of the Ceramic Speakers, modifying not only the colors but the shapes and materials as well. I'm very excited to introduce their creations when completed. Stay tuned!
What are your future projects?
I'm currently working on a desk lamp and a computer mouse. I also have plans for a suitcase, another teapot, and some furniture pieces. Once I've learned more about design and production, I'd like to make cars. My future plans completely change with every product I release though.
The production of physical objects from raw materials is becoming less and less morally defensible, so I'm always thinking about how to evolve my practice of design beyond the use of materials.