If I could start all over again, I would get more into design, more specifically, industrial & product design. I get a lot of pleasure in finding products that are very functional and at the same time objects of desire. A lot of times I think on how to improve the existing products or grieve over the design flaws that to me are just so blatantly obvious! Unfortunately it’s a little too late for me to becomes a product designer, but I can still enjoy looking out for the good ones.
I’m starting a new series of articles called “Good Design” in which I will share those designs I find interesting. From the simplest things to those more complex; pencils to aircrafts! Whatever I find inspiring. I will start small however, from things around us and day to day objects that can add a little more colour to our daily lives.
Everyday we are surrounded by an insane amount of sound/noise around us. The busy city streets, transport, noisy work environments, living next to a construction site etc. I wonder often, that as an evolutionary change, will the humans in future have an inferior hearing ability as a result of being exposed to a lot of sound pollution. We get used to them very quickly. It’s only when you start protecting your ears by blocking some the sound out that you begin to notice. It’s quite frightening when you unplug and hear the volume. The other area where sound can affect us is sleeping and I’m finding myself much more sensitive to the music of the darkness as I’m ageing.
For the first article I’m going to write about a pair of ear plugs. As a light sleeper, I have been using earplugs for years in all forms and shapes and while some are better than the others, none had me satisfied, until now. There are three essential factors I believe to be required for a good earplug:
And this order is important. If they can block the noise effectively but not comfortably, or if they won’t last long, then it can’t be very helpful. I have tried all sorts that can be thought of; foams, plastic, wax. They all have their benefits and downsides and I kept looking for something that fits my criteria. Eventually the solution came from Sweden!
Happy Ears, a beautifully designed ear plugs, initially created by Karl Berglund and Jukka Viitasara in Sweden in 2012 and followed by a successful kickstarter campaign funded in 2015, are one of a kind. Their idea behind this product was reducing the volume while not blocking all the sound. This is a key design choice as there are many cases where you need to reduce the ambient noise but not to fully block it. For example outside and on a noisy street where sound is an essential part of navigational skill so you would want to hear, but reduce the harmful sounds. Also when used for sleeping in rooms shared with others, or wanting to find some peace in public places, an airport for example, you still want to pick up the important sounds. Not only they’ve been able to achieve that, these earplugs are also comfortable, re-usable and affordable!
According to their Kickstarter campaign page, the design is supposed to replicate the natural response of the ear canal using ABS plastic in the core and thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) on the outer surface. “The unique construction – with a hardened “foot” at one end and a soft “leg” at the other – reduces sound levels evenly across the frequency range without changing the sound quality or comfort. All materials used in the production of Happy Ears are allergically tested and medically approved.”
I have been using them for sleeping and often in commute and the result has been great. The fact that they also look good obviously adds a lot to the experience.
Functional and beautiful, Happy Ears earplugs get my first “Good Design” nod with a special mention for the the great protection box that is a showcase of an efficient and elegant design in which you only occupy as much space as is absolutely required. It comes in different sizes and colours of red, white and black. The only thing personally I would have liked to see was a way of providing different sound blocking level options. I think it would have been nice to have one designed specially for sleep as there’s nothing else out there as beautifully designed and made.
Finding them in the UK could be a little difficult. I found my pair in Stockholm and in a DesignTorget store, but it’s possible to order online from other countries or through Fancy. I reached out to them to see if they have an plans for future product but didn’t hear back.
The winner of my first Good Design award, Happyears earplug, for your happy ears: