2020 GFD 🏆 Awards

Special Mention: Aurelian – Luxury Headphones by TG Design Studio

Aurelian is a luxury headset system designed to break both fashion and consumer electronic trends,

The brief by Victoria University of Wellington and Zhejiang Haosheng Electronic Technology Company tasked me with designing a revolutionary sound system. My lecturers were resolute in only one thing: they wanted something that challenged design conventions whilst also being commercially competitive.

Special Mention- Global Future Design Awards 2020
Firm | TG Design Studio
Architect/Designer | Tiger ChongSheng Guo

Category | Product Design Built
Team | Tiger Chongsheng Guo, Anton Raymond
Country | New Zealand
Photographer/Copyright | ©ChongSheng Guo

©ChongSheng Guo

After thorough sample groups, consultations, and market research, we arrived at a unique set of conclusions: a growing demand for affordable luxuries, an absence of status classing in headphones, and a growing discontent for “design cloning” culture. With an ever-growing middle class, affordable luxuries are a simple means to increasing social status, something sorely missed in the headphone market; which we also concluded was a result of design cloning culture.

Design cloning is a trend coined by my lecturers and myself: All products look the same: smartphones, glasses, bottles, and so forth. Without labelling and logos, most consumers are unable to distinguish most products apart from their competitors. Each of these items all looked vastly different fifty years ago, and sixty, and seventy, and so on. But why have they looked so similar for so long now? Because no-one has challenged their aesthetic, or their function. Stagnation comes not from our desires not evolving, but from neglect to adopt change. Classes of status are notable between the average Toyota sedan compared to a Bugatti Veyron, with respect to the connotations behind one driving each. However, this is nearly non-existent in a world where $12 headphones could be mistaken for $600 Beats by Dre by simply removing branding. This lack of distinction creates a void for social status, and in a world where consumers crave affordable luxuries to elevate their status or present a social statement, Aurelian was born.

Our design process was traditional in many aspects for an unconventional product. After we concluded market research and analysis, we began conceptual work. This comprised primarily of sketches and both marker and computer renders. We undertook this process for over a month, churning through hundreds of concepts and several iterations once some beachhead was made. Throughout this process we also conducted prototyping via 3D printing to resolve ergonomics and fitting. At an early point we concluded that we did not want this headset to be overhead, and that created a multitude of design challenges such as how to fit it to one’s forehead, chin, or neck.

After several iterations, the 3-axis system was completed and could fit a majority of heads. Our consultants at Zhejiang Haosheng, as well as Shapeways were very supportive in giving technical assistance in circuitry and electronics design, and manufacturing respectively.

Aurelian comprises of 8mm driver earbuds, with a Bluetooth 4.0 module, and a miniaturized control board coupled with potentiometers triggered by the main golden arch. The frontal ‘crown’ of the design is 3D printed at Shapeways in precious metals such as Gold or Brass. The main housing of the earbuds and electronics is printed in PA12 industrial nylon plastic.