Clutter distracts, multiple voices jangle and machines beep, ring or stutter. Welcome to the modern office, where tuning out human or mechanical drones and tones can make edgy employees into cutting-edge creative dynamos. PROOFFLab, the experimental lab for PROOFF (which stands for PROgressive OFFice), is an innovation platform for ideas and products for a communal, flexible work landscape. The lab invited Dutch designers Studio Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters (among others) to create a project dealing with office sounds and space for the Salone del Mobile 2013 in Milan. Kolk and Kusters, based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, developed innovative cloud boxes that soften sharp sounds, blur furniture edges and conceal distracting clutter.
Two conclusions reached by the Dutch design team were that “aural and visual tranquility is produced by very similar conditions” and “it is the combination of sounds that predominate and the sharp tones causing unrest,” according to Kusters. The pair made boxes that mimic the softness, opaque look and color of clouds, in three different sizes spanned by thin, semi-transparent latex fabric. The largest box could contain a bookshelf, the mid-sized box a lamp and the small box office supplies, for example. The boxes have no front, back or hinges. Instead, the latex skin overlaps in the front and can be pulled aside like a curtain to remove items, after which the skin closes to obscure the contents from view. Soothing colors, cloud-like semi-transparent fabric and acoustic dampening give cloud boxes features that calm and focus the office environment.