Finalist 2023

FOLI Acoustic Light

Samantha McKenzie / Makushla Harper / Morgan Cremasco - Acustico Lighting by Studio Acustico

Elegantly designed with 70’s inspired geometric lines, FOLI Acoustic Light offers an aesthetic solution to noise problems.

Elegantly designed with 70’s inspired geometric lines and a soft, plump underside, FOLI Acoustic Light offers an aesthetic solution to noise problems in reverberant spaces. The super-sized surface area of acoustic material absorbs sound waves before they bounce from surface-to-surface, reducing reverberation by up to 30%, allowing for greater speech intelligibility. This results in more focus, conviviality and with less feelings of overstimulation and the resulting agitation and tiredness.

The compact, flat-pack packaging cuts down on transport emissions, and our innovative zero-glue construction dramatically reduces pollutants while allowing for disassembly and recycling at end-of-life.

Design Brief:

Our brief began with a problem: How can we reduce reverberation in office and hospitality settings in a highly effective and aesthetically-considered way? There were four important considerations to guide our design process. The first was aesthetic versatility, in order for the product to make sense in a range of interior design contexts, we needed the product to have a wide, flat profile for maximal surface area for sound absorption, and to allow for both ceiling-mount-style fitting as well as long pendant drops. This product is situated within our range as the most cost-effective option, so the team were guided by manufacturing and assembly considerations to ensure the price remained accessible for a wide range of customers. Crucially, this product had to be completely flat-packable and disassemble-able to reduce emissions from transport, and have a glue-less construction.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Our design process began by identifying customer needs, and sketching initial concepts. This initial stage involved much research and experimentation of the limitations of manufacturing and assembling our star material, the acoustic foam. The design team created prototypes to explore the foam’s soft, forgiving nature and incorporate this unique element into the design.
What followed was a year-long development cycle, comprising many iterations to reach the final product.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the foam, it was necessary to test its bendiness in relation to the other components of the product, which resulted in much liaison with manufacturers to perfect the tolerances to allow the foam to sit exactly level when hanging.
After finalising the design, we then began testing its longevity by hanging the product in a test room for an ongoing period, to observe how the foam performs over time.
Because the design comes as a flat pack, we also tested the user experience of assembly with a qualified electrician, in order to adjust potentially complicated operations or ambiguous assembly steps. After re-testing, we received positive feedback and results that indicated this assembly was simple to execute in under 10 minutes.

Design Excellence

The design of FOLI Acoustic Light began from deeply considering the customer. Recent trends to create more collaborative workplaces has led to increased reporting by workers that office noise is hindering productivity. ‘The Lombard Effect’ is a phenomenon whereby speakers increase their vocal production in noisy environments. According to a City of Melbourne report in 2016, elevated noise has health consequences including, hearing impairment, hypertension, heart disease, annoyance and sleep disturbance.

The ability to focus and work without interruption has been found to be the most important attribute of many workplaces, not to mention hospitality contexts where speech intelligibility is paramount for customers and employees alike. These needs go beyond the office environment, spanning education, healthcare, hospitality and arts industries. In a post-pandemic frontier where employers are needing to create commute-worthy office spaces, and more people are flocking to bustling restaurants and cafes, FOLI Acoustic Light offers a beautiful solution.

The FOLI Acoustic Light's suspended nature ensures sound waves are absorbed in the open-cell foam materiality from the top, bottom and sides of the pendant. Being close to the source of noise means sound is absorbed before bouncing around surfaces in the room.

Manufactured locally and completely assembled by hand in-house, the quality of the FOLI Acoustic Light is constantly controlled and assured. It is designed to have a long lifespan with each component being repairable or replaceable, as well as being designed for disassembly when it reaches end-of-life.

As far as Acustico Lighting is able to identify, the foam we use is the most environmentally responsible foam production in the world. It is created using Global GreenTag: Rate A VPF technology which creates zero emissions in it's production process.

Design Innovation

For so long, we have primarily designed with our eyes, and still to this day more often than not, the visual elements make it through budget management processes over the 'unseen' elements in a design. The FOLI Acoustic Light aims to solve that problem by sitting at the intersection between aesthetics and functionality.

To our knowledge, acoustic foam has not previously been used in the creation of lighting products, perhaps because it is a difficult material to work with, having a sponge-like nature that is difficult to cut and colour. The benefits of this material is that its noise-reducing properties perform significantly better than other market offerings, such as felt or fabric.

In developing the FOLI Acoustic Light, we reimagined the foam material in a way that took the sponge-like nature of the material, usually considered a challenge, and used it to squash the material through an aluminium base producing soft, organic curves.

The tension created by the foam threading through holes in the aluminium means it requires no glue or small fastenings to keep the foam in place - it is finished simply by using a securing disc screwed into place by the lampholder and cap. This zero-glue construction means it is completely disassemble-able for separating materials for re-use.

The product is developed with both assembly and disassembly in mind and both processes can take place in under 10 minutes. We request from our customers that the disused products are returned to us at the end-of-life, for local up-cycling into crumbed foam used in carpet underlay.

Design Impact

FOLI Acoustic Lights human-centred design considers a person's experience in a space, creating acoustic and sensory calm. Less distracting reverberant noise results in more focus, conviviality and with less feelings of overstimulation and the resulting agitation and tiredness for employees and customers alike. FOLI works as a triple threat - it reduces reverberation, provides an ambient light source and adds an elegant design element to a space.

FOLI Acoustic Lights are made from acoustic foam which has a very high Noise Reduction Co-efficient of +1 which aids to minimise reverberation in a space by absorbing sound waves. Once assembled it is sized at 1120mm x 1120mm x 40mm which boasts a high surface area of sound absorbent material. As no glue or complex assembly is required, the light can be flat-packed and shipped at very low weight and volume.

Acustico Lighting is actively working to have a minimal impact on the environment. We provide an End-of-Life Management program, having agreements with our suppliers to up-cycle or recycle returned acoustic foam and aluminium materials. FOLI is made in Australia from high quality materials, with the acoustic foam verified to Global GreenTag: Green Level A standard.

We fund our employees to participate in volunteer work of their choosing, one week each year. These commitments aim to aid in promoting a culture of social responsibility both locally and globally.

We are also working with our supply chain to minimise their plastic packaging. We partner with ReSea Project to take plastic waste out of our rivers and oceans by donating to a clean-up team in local communities in Indonesia. By ensuring fair compensation to the clean-up team, our support improves living conditions to the team, their families and local communities. In 2023 we have committed to taking out 500kg of plastic from oceans and rivers.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

The design of FOLI Acoustic Light is the first product in our range to be produced without any glue or small fastenings, and can therefore be flat packed for shipping. This represents significant innovation in the realm of acoustic lighting, where soft materials have previously required glueing or screws to attach to metal components. By eliminating these, the product can be easily disassembled at end-of-life for repurposing or recycling. The nesting of leaves during the cutting process creates very minimal wastage of foam, further reducing manufacturing impact.

Our end-of-life management program has been developed hand-in-hand with our suppliers, and FOLI brings Acustico Lighting one step closer to achieving full circularity. Our acoustic foam to be crumbed and re-used for insulation purposes. This gives our product an entire second life as under-carpet floor insulation, without creating new foam from scratch. Aluminium is used for all our metal components, because it can be recycled infinitely to reduce manufacturing impact by 95%.

Providing a flat-packed product, we can reduce transport emissions, which would be >4x as much if shipping a pre-assembled FOLI Acoustic Light. Our cardboard packaging is made in Australia, it has been designed by our in-house industrial design team to secure the parts to protect them during transport. Our boxes are covered in cellullose (biodegradable) plastic when they require weather protection.

The Studio Acustico office is solar powered. We make to order or in small batches which means we don't have excess stock or waste. All prototyping materials are recycled or upcycled. We supply our customers only with colour samples they request.

A percentage of profits from our acoustic lighting products contribute to our continuing support of the ReSea project. ReSea Project is a community-driven clean-up solution, employing people in polluted communities to clean plastic waste from oceans and rivers.

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