Digital technology has transformed the listening experience. But there’s little in the way of physical artifacts of that act, and a diminished sense of humanized relationships to an individual being at the other end. From modern radio to Internet-streamed playlists, our listening world is DJed by automated robots in streams that flow through generic, mass-market speakers. The object and the content lack the design intention that imbued, for instance, the gorgeous radio sets of the early 20th Century and the personalities that narrated the programming.

Armed with a lasercutter, designer Matt Brown has a novel concept for how to redesign the act of listening. From the creator’s blog Real Tomato:

For this system, you would have a speaker with an rfid reader, and laser-cut paper radios with rfid chips inside. The radios themselves are designed by musicians, charities, brands, and designers. When the paper radio is placed over the speaker it changes the radio station to what the artist has chosen. Other noises and interactions can be programmed in too. Alec Baldwin’s radio for example could politely ask everyone to turn their lights off from time to time. People could have the paper radios around their house in different rooms. The supremes radio might be a better living room station. This system tries to add a little bit of fun to internet radio, and give people a connection with the artists they choose. The radios themselves would hopefully be cheap and collectible little sculptures, each one accessing unique stations.

The artist, D.A.R.Y.L., is a recent alumnus of Sweden’s Umea institute of Design.

I think we need a new, specialized Creative Commons license that describes “Great Concepts I Probably Won’t Get to Developer Further so Please Go Run with It With Some Credit to Me.” (Okay, maybe with a shorter name.) I love the possibilities this project suggests, if for no other reason than the beautiful sculptures created with the lasercutter.


The works themselves are printed out a single sheet and assembled. THat demonstrates some of the power lasercutters can provide, and the promise they hold for localized production of objects. (Use eco-friendly recycled paper and inks, and this is a consumer product that doesn’t deliver a dropkick to the planet.)

I just interviewed Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy, and he told me saw a survey that showed some 80% of music journalists listen through music via the built-in speakers in their laptops. That would be terrifying if true – I’m not certain that it is – but regardless, I think there is a clear need to rethink listening processes and objects.

Check out the post and the blog for more inspiring images. Via the wonderful Saturn Never Sleeps blog by Rucyl Mills and King Britt.