Behind the Design Process: Talking Hyper Sonic with Michael DiTullo

Behind the Design Process: Talking Hyper Sonic with Michael DiTullo

By Alexis Wagman

Recently we got the opportunity to speak to Michael DiTullo, Head of Product Innovations at Carnegie Acoustic Solutions about the latest launch. Designing a collection of products is certainly always a challenge, but Michael and his team revolutionized acoustic design with the first ever launch from CAS, consisting of nine new acoustic offerings from both Xorel Artform and Kirei. In this three part interview, we get a deeper look into the process of designing the Hyper Sonic collection from the viewpoint of the creator, as well as special industry insights.

As a designer, how do you approach the process of designing a collection of products? How do you incorporate innovative ideas while balancing what might be the most well-received by the target market?

When I'm working on a product collection like this (this collection contains nine products) what I want to do is kind of two things simultaneously… I want to bring in as much input from the outside as possible. We look at what's selling out in the marketplace and collect feedback from our design services team about projects they're working on where they’re collaborating with architects and designers. I also want to push the boundaries of what we can do on the manufacturing side because we have two really unique production lines. On one hand we have Kirei, which is all about this kind of additive technique of building products out of PET sheets, and then a very different approach that's all about stretching Xorel over three-dimensional shapes. With that said, we have to consider two very different production techniques that have to come together to create a unified aesthetic and launch. As a designer, the first important way I approach designing a collection is to honestly just trust the process.

I don't think any of us could have seen something like this coming. It's aesthetically super different, it's all based on function and performance. From our Contour Tiles to some of our new Xorel Artform shapes, we have a new more three-dimensional shape and more light play, pushing the boundary of what can be done. We even had to develop new ways to internally build these products for this to come to fruition. So while that process is happening, I'm also maintaining kind of a 30,000-square-foot view in order to figure out how to pull it together into a continuous vision and aesthetic.

In terms of the collection name, I developed the concept of Hyper Sonic because what all these products have in common is that they’re pushing the boundaries of what these products can do, both aesthetically and from a performance standpoint. We want to respond to what happens in the marketplace and also push what's expected from an acoustic product.

What role does diversity of thought play in each design stage of designing a collection?

It is really important for me to bring as many viewpoints as possible into the early part of the design process. In a way I think of myself as a chef. I want to bring the freshest, newest ingredients into my kitchen. So before we kick off a new collection, sales will present what is selling well and why, marketing will present what products have the most interest online, we will talk about what products are getting the most sample requests, we’ll take a look at any new manufacturing techniques we have developed, look at trends we are seeing across interior design and other design categories. Only after we collect all these new ingredients do we start even asking ourselves what kind of meal we are going to make.

In terms of inspiration, does your process look any different when designing a single product versus a collection of acoustic products?

When I develop our collection themes I let it happen organically. I usually start with double to triple the amount of products. My goal is to create a surplus of good ideas that make each other stronger. Some don’t work out, they take longer than expected or they are combined into other product concepts. As we progress through the design and development process the strongest products remain and I let them start to inform each other and a cohesive theme emerges. I’ve been doing this long enough that I can trust in the process and know that I have super knowledgeable and talented people all around me to bounce ideas off of as we evolve the collection. By the end of the process the collection is tight and cohesive. Sometimes I call it a journey, sometimes it feels more like a dance, but I think the key thing is to go with it as much as you guide it.

In this industry specifically, there’s a lot of technical information that specifiers need for a successful project. From a designers POV, can you touch upon misinformation and the lack of easily accessible information in acoustics and how designers can cut through the noise?

Well, first I need to mention Carnegie Design Services who can really help designers to get the right products into a space. I’m really proud that we have acoustic specialists that can do the hard math if there is a really tight acoustic spec that needs to be hit. That said, if I could get designers to remember one thing about acoustics it is simply that putting more material into the space will help. If you have a big open space with hard flooring, lots of table tops, right angles, like an atrium or a large cafeteria for example. That is going to be the perfect scenario for a lot of echoes and reverberations that will make it hard to understand people. And what do we do when it is hard to understand people? We talk louder and that just makes the echoes worse. So having more material than you probably initially think is important. Really treating the ceiling and at least two of the walls with enough tiles and baffles makes a massive difference in the sound of a space. And think about the rest of the room, like adding acoustic drapery and soft upholstered chairs. All these things will work together to break down the sound waves.

Designers have 40 times the specification power compared to average consumer purchasing power. What would you say to a designer who wants to advocate for the most sustainable choice when specifying an acoustic product?

What we are hearing a lot from designers in our focus groups is that it has shifted in the last few years from them pushing hard for sustainable materials to their clients expecting it. So the first thing I would say is to not be shy about presenting more sustainable options like the products we make because it might be exactly what your clients are looking for. First and foremost we want to create iconic products that perform, that designers want to specify, that installers can easily and reliably install, and that make for beautiful spaces that sound great. We back all of that up with some of the best certifications in the industry and I’m proud that we don’t greenwash. We go the distance to really make sure the product is as sustainably made as we possibly can from the sourced materials down to minimizing waste in production.


Want to learn more? View the full Hyper Sonic Collection.

About the author

Alexis Wagman is the Content Marketing Specialist at Carnegie. Passionate about what connects all of us, she seeks to leverage creative Marketing and design to communicate real stories.