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Sound Design at Impulse Audio Lab

Text: Vimukthi Gunatilleke Media: Audio Impulse Lab Graphics: Davide Amorim & Bart Bolluijt

Jasper de Kruiff is the co-founder and interactive sound designer of Impulse Audio Lab – a startup company based in Munich, Germany. He chose to do his final master project at BMW AG. He says, “I wanted to experience a different country, a different culture – anything really. I was a bit tired of university – and I really wanted to do it at a big company and experience what working in a proper professional environment was like”.

What exactly is sound design?

“On the one hand it’s pretty self-explanatory – it’s the design of sound – but I can imagine that answer is a bit too easy” he jokes. “I would describe it as deliberately manipulating sounds so that they convey a certain type of information or evoke a certain kind of experience or emotion.

What inspired you to specifically focus on this area of design?

“I’ve always been into music, for as long as I can remember – I really feel that you cannot be a sound designer if you’re not into music. Everyone at our company and everybody we work with – they love sound and make music – that’s where it usually starts.

I never really connected music with design to begin with. As a design student, I was working
a lot with interaction design and I didn’t really do anything with sound until I had a project with some students from HKU Utrecht, after which I thought to myself – wait a minute, I can combine my passion of interaction, design and objects – with sound. I got really interested in the tools they used because I had no idea how to even make sounds at that point”. “This is really a niche” he says, “nobody does sound – it’s different and exciting and I really wanted to stand out as a designer”.

“What I love about sound, much like music, is that it’s a gateway to the soul” he says. “Great sound makes all the difference – It’s something that can give me goosebumps, or make me emotional. It’s
a very powerful medium – much more powerful than any other medium I’ve worked with, and if you use it right, you can really shape emotions and experiences”

What are some of the coolest projects Impulse Audio Lab have worked on?

There was a project we did for Märklin, a famous model railway manufacturer, where we made interactive sounds for their trains. I modelled sounds and made tiny synthesizers for their steam, diesel and electric trains – and got to play with them for a week!

Another project we did was with Fanpictor, a Swiss company, where they digitize crowd engagement during events. “So we had music played inside a stadium and that was linked to an app on the fans’ phones. The app would use information encoded within the music that was being played, to blink different colors in time with the music – making the audience became part of the venue the light show.”

What tips do you have for any aspiring sound designers and entrepreneurs?

“I would say begin with producing your own electronic music. It’s the easiest way to start – as long as you don’t use pre-sets obviously. It teaches you the very basics of manipulating sound, the parameters involved and what kind of synthesis methods are available.

If you want to get serious, I would recommend getting a field recorder and starting your own library of sounds and getting as much real-world experience as possible, by working on movies, indie games, anything you can find really – basically you need to train your ears.

It also really helps to know a lot of people in the business and get connections before you start a company.
Most importantly, have a lot of fun, because you will be spending a lot of time at work and you have to really create the kind of company you want to work at. I cannot imagine myself being creative in a grey office for instance, where everyone is quiet and does their work a desk. We laugh a lot during the day – and I feel that’s very important for our work, especially creative work – because if we don’t have fun making these sounds and it doesn’t make us smile, we won’t make the customer smile.”

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