RKS Sessions Featuring Sonos

Published on April 25, 2016

We hosted a captivating Spring RKS Session featuring guest speakers, Sonos Vice President of Design, Tad Toulis, and Senior UX Designer, Chris Bierbower. Their presentation and discussion was a huge success as new and experienced designers alike were given an inside look and new perspective on the creation of the Sonos PLAY:5 smart speaker.

Toulis spoke on the challenges the industrial design team faced while shifting controls away from the norm of push button interaction into new forms of interaction. The team set out to revolutionize the audio experience with all new intuitive controls that enhanced the minimalist design. This did not come easily, however, as there were many precedented, user experience driven rules and regulations of audio equipment to either follow or justify breaking. Toulis shared the highs and lows of the design process and encouraged the audience with details of his personal trials that were actually integral and eventually led to major successes.


Bierbower gave the crowd a peek into developing new User Experiences. He provided insights into how they use tools readily available to test conceptual interactions. Featuring prototype interfaces simulating different configurations for testing and tracking, the designers quickly identified preferences around tapping, pressure, and swiping gestures. Their challenge was how to lead a new user to comfortably control an audio device with no buttons or dials. Bierbower explained that users could intuitively and naturally know what areas to tap, how hard to tap them, what functions each triggers, and be assured that their inputs were accurately received. Details including the size and designs of visual cues to feelings and reactions stemming from various sound affirmations all played a vital role in their creation of an all new audio control system and bringing it to life.

The calculated steps that Toulis, Bierbower, and the Sonos team took have been qualified and rewarded by the astounding success of the PLAY:5. The state of the art smart speaker was released in late 2015 and has received a barrage of positive, raving reviews. RKS is honored to have partnered with Sonos to share this enlightening presentation encompassing insights into both industrial design and user experience with the community.

RKS CEO Ravi Sawhney commented to the audience on how fortunate we all were to see what it takes for companies to produce Apple quality design and interaction. “Many companies seek Apple quality but are not able to make the commitment to what it truly takes, Sonos is one that does.”   

Many companies seek Apple quality but are not able to make the commitment to what it truly takes, Sonos is one that does.

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