Tuomas’ internship at Bang & Olufsen

Tuomas Hämäläinen spent his summer in beautiful Denmark interning at Bang & Olufsen. Together with Joska Heikkilä, also from Aalto Arts, their main focus was set on working on their Master theses. Tuomas reports about his experience.

  • Tuomas, where did you do your internship and how long did you stay there?

The internship was at Bang & Olufsen in Copenhagen, Denmark and lasted for about 4,5 months.

  • How did you find the internship and how difficult was it to get in?

In 2016 we collaborated with Bang & Olufsen on the Interactive Prototyping and Form Exploration courses to design new kinds of music players and loudspeakers for the modern home environment. The latter in particular was a lot of work but a wonderful experience – I helped to make most of the loudspeaker prototypes functional. This effort was noticed at B&O and they asked if I was interested to come over. I’m still incredibly humbled and grateful for this opportunity that does not come every day.

  • What was your motivation to go on the internship abroad?

I have been interested in sound and loudspeakers for as long as I can remember. The Aalto collaborations were like fuel to the fire – I found myself digging deeper and deeper into everything Bang & Olufsen. The possibility to get even a glimpse of how the products are developed and built from up close was very exciting.

  • Could you tell a bit about the company and within which department you were involved?

Bang & Olufsen is a Danish manufacturer of high-end loudspeakers, televisions and headphones. They’re one of the oldest companies in the field, having been established in 1925. Design is a huge part of their DNA, and many of their products can be found in the permanent collection of MoMA.

I was part of something called Bang & Olufsen Create – a small group of people within the company focused on openness and collaboration, the Aalto projects being an example of this. Create leans heavily on open-source and always shares what’s cooking.

I was not the only Finnish addition to Create, though: I joined forces with Joska Heikkilä, a fellow student from Form Exploration, to work on a MA thesis project for B&O, so both of us interned in the company at the same time.

  • Can you talk about a few projects that you have been involved with there?

Bang & Olufsen are launching a project called ReCreate. It allows people to ”upcycle” popular, passive vintage B&O loudspeakers from the 1980s to make them active and wireless. I worked with developers to design and build the setup experience for ReCreate, and helped in creating PDF and video guides for the users.

The primary focus for Joska and me was our thesis project. We’re working on an open-design sound system that would be easy to build locally in makerspaces, and is customisable to integrate into different types of homes. We were ourselves doing most of our prototyping in a makerspace called Underbroen at the heart of Copenhagen. I’m in charge of adapting the technology from ReCreate work for our project and making the product sound good.

Overall, I worked a lot with software. Digital technology is a huge part of modern loudspeakers.

  • What was the most interesting thing you learned?

The company is known for their craftsmanship in aluminium and their facilities are some of the best in the entire world. Even though a lot of it is automated, it’s the decades of experience of the people that enables the robot to do exactly the right kind of dance to achieve the perfect finish. Many of them move almost like humans, which is fascinating to watch.

  • What was the most difficult thing you encountered?

It was difficult to clearly define the design brief and then keep control of the design process. Sometimes this was due to external factors, sometimes you hit a wall yourself and are forced back to the drawing board, or simply drawn there by another great idea. It’s reality, but it can be really taxing.

  • How did the internship influence your vision of what you’d like to do after you graduate?

I would love to continue working with sound. It’s something that I’m very passionate about, and the good experience at B&O only reinforced it. I’m excited about the future.

  • Do you have any recommendations for people that want to find an internship?

I tried to come up with something for this, but they ended up being overused clichés. Always keep doing your best work, that’s what did it for me this time.