Philips Sound Sphere was a high-end speaker project that Philps had near no market share. Philips only released this product after conducting multiple consumer tests in Europe.
My role was the category lead industrial designer and the lead industrial designer. The team had GUI designers, graphic designers, and communication designers.
What is a Sound Sphere
Philips had an acoustics lab in Europe, and the team at the acoustics lab invented a new speaker that uses the "point source" technology.
The brief was to design a high-end speaker that uses this technology.
The prototype the acoustic engineer brought us was a regular box speaker sitting on its back (i.e., speaker facing up) with a small tweeter mounted onto a thick piece of wire. Visually, it was an odd-looking thing.
The biggest challenge was making this a design that the consumers could accept. Some high-end speakers look odd, but we were unsure if the typical Philips consumers would take the strange looks, and the first consumer test proved us not. The first test was in the UK, and the result was devastating. Nearly all respondents thought it was a weird-looking speaker and would not expect a great sound from such a device. Part of this reason was the upward-facing speakers. Not seeing the speaker cone from where they were seated was not helping with the perceived sound quality.
We went for a more exclusive material, a 5mm thick solid aluminum housing for one concept and solid glossy paint wood for the other two ideas. A shorter floating tweeter mount was applied to reduce the polarizing feedback. The speaker was tilted slightly forward to make the speaker visible from the front and add a directional feel to the design.
The result was successful; from here on, on all consumer tests, the Sound Sphere scored significantly higher than the competitor's speakers on design and sound quality.
Due to the confidence gained, Philips launched two concepts instead of one.