Collector - Intelligent Drum Kit

Tianchen Liu worked for his master's thesis at Delft University of Technology on the drum kits of the future in collaboration with the Phoenix Design Academy. "Collector" is the concept for an intelligent drum kit that fundamentally brings emotions that connect drummers and their drums into new acoustic possibilities. More >>>

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  • Collector – Intelligent Drum Kit r – Master Thesis – Tianchen Liu

    Collector – Intelligent Drum Kit r – Master Thesis – Tianchen Liu

    Stereotypically, drummers are the symbol of loudness and powerfulness. However, the essential emotion that connects drummers and drumming is curiosity – the eagerness to explore. Collector is an intelligent drum kit that empowers drummers to freely explore the world of sounds to fulfill their curiosity. The concept consists of three products: the drum kit, the "smart" module and "smart" drumsticks. The smart module and drumsticks allow drummers to collect sound samples for their drums by exploring the surroundings. The drum kit is designed to be effortless to set up and tear down, flexible to transport, and easy for drummers to customize the configuration. The design is compact and lightweight, with a minimalistic and modern design language, which fits in various contexts. Collector can be played well through headphones at home - no more trouble with the neighbors.

  • Collector - Intelligent Drum Kit

    Collector - Intelligent Drum Kit

    Credits: Tianchen Liu, Master Thesis, Delft University of Technology. Mentoring: Jan Willem Hoftijzer, Dicky Brand; Sven Feustel, Principal Designer, Phoenix Design Academy.

  • Smart Module & Sound Samples

    Smart Module & Sound Samples

    The "smart" module and drumsticks allow drummers to collect sound samples for their drums by exploring the surroundings.

  • Drum Kit, "smart" Modules & "smart" Drumsticks

    Drum Kit, "smart" Modules & "smart" Drumsticks

    The concept consists of three products: the drum kit, the "smart" modules and "smart" drumsticks. Collector can be played well through headphones at home - no more trouble with the neighbors.

  • Portable Drum Kit

    Portable Drum Kit

    The drum kit - including seat - is designed to be effortless to set up and tear down, flexible to transport, and easy for drummers to customize the configuration.

  • Design Language

    Design Language

    The design is compact and lightweight, with a minimalistic and modern design language, which fits in various contexts.

  • Sven Feustel, Principal Designer + Tianchen Liu, Student, Master Thesis Drum Kit

    Sven Feustel, Principal Designer + Tianchen Liu, Student, Master Thesis Drum Kit

    Tianchen Liu *1995. He spent the first 20 years of his life living in China. In 2015, he went to the University of Nottingham in the UK for his bachelor's degree in Product Design and Manufacture. After obtaining the bachelor's degree, to further deepen design understanding, he decided to pursue his master's degree at the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, majored in Integrated Product Design. During my master's study, he did the internship at Phoenix Design and later he got the chance to conduct his  master thesis at Phoenix Design Academy which was an amazing and fruitful experience for his design career. On 24 June 2020, he graduated from his master's degree and now continue pursuing my dream of being an industrial designer.

    Experience as Drummer > Tianchen Liu

    "When I was a very little kid, rock music started entering China and became popular. I used to watch some bands on TV. I still remembered that in every band, behind singers, guitar players, there was always this guy sitting behind this huge, cool, monster-like drum kit. He seldom sings, but only swinging two sticks to create powerful and incredible drumbeats. For me, he is the coolest guy in the band and keeping pumping energy to the band, just like the heart pumps the blood into the human body. That is the moment when I decided to learn drumming. I learned drumming for 6 years. Every time I sat behind my drum kit in my bedroom, I felt like a young king in my own kingdom where I can freely express myself and do whatever I like, and that is the beauty of drumming. Also, when you start learning to drum, gradually you will become extremely sensitive to the sounds and tempos around you. Up till now, I still keep this habit of drumming on every surface I encountered using my fingers. This spirit of continuous exploration, I think that is the largest treasure drumming brought me and that is the starting point of my drum kit project – to design a drum kit that emotionally resonated with the drummer."

Collector – Intelligent Drum Kit. Stereotypically, drummers are the symbol of loudness and powerfulness. However, the essential emotion that connects drummers and drumming is curiosity – the eagerness to explore. Collector is an intelligent drum kit that empowers drummers to freely explore the world of sounds to fulfill their curiosity. The concept consists of three products: the drum kit, the smart module, and smart drumsticks. The smart module and drumsticks allow drummers to collect sound samples for their drums by exploring the surroundings. The drum kit is designed to be effortless to set up and tear down, flexible to transport, and easy for drummers to customize the configuration. The design is compact and lightweight, with a minimalistic and modern design language, which fits in various contexts. Collector can be played well through headphones at home - no more trouble with the neighbors.

Interview with Sven Feustel, Pricipal Designer, Phoenix Design, Stuttgart (Mentor of the project)

An intelligent drum kit – is that sustainable?

In this context, we need to take a closer look at the term “sustainable”. Sustainable always means investigating the respective use case, to reflect it, and to optimise it in the direction of sustainability, also in terms of long-lasting relevance. The drum kit is a very archaic product; it’s basically a membrane that creates sounds by being hit with a stick. This kind of musical instrument has been in existence for thousands of years.

In the course of urbanisation, with private living quarters getting smaller, there are fewer possibilities to express yourself acoustically with this pretty unwieldy and loud instrument. Here it can be helpful – as we present it in our concept – to make use of digitisation and the portability resulting from it. Combined with more and more powerful and compact technology, the instrument offers the drummer different possibilities, and hence expandable usage scenarios. That’s sustainable in several respects.

What were the project/design challenges?

To take the very direct interaction and develop it further, to add new possibilities to it and make it richer in its expression, thus offering the musician more creative leeway. It’s precisely this approach, to collect sounds, that enables the musician to take in their environment in a more interactive and more inspiring way, and to integrate it creatively into their musical expressivity.

What’s so special about this concept?

The special thing are the many possibilities to experience and take in one’s surroundings as a huge acoustic library and inspiration, and to directly integrate it into one’s musical creativity, as well as the easy way in which the drum kit is scalable, creating as it were a new instrument. And the direct interaction as such is not at all lessened by all this.

How do you picture the future of music culture?

Music culture in its creative form will get more facets and become more expressive in the future, also thanks to technological possibilities. Classical and technologically enhanced instruments will merge more and more intuitively. Actuating elements and sensors will become an essential interface as the basis for further processing, thus directly contributing to achieving an extended and improved sound quality. Generally speaking, technological support is nothing new to the music business, the band “Kraftwerk” already acted as a trailblazer back in the 1970’s. But thanks to new tools like Machine Learning, the acoustical possibilities and approaches are getting more and more intuitive, and they help musicians more and more to express themselves in an experimental manner. Rituals and processes get renewed and optimised, but fundamental and emotional interactions persist.

What do you find fascinating about this?

I am fascinated by products with which you enter into a very emotional dialog. Things that you take a fresh look at via critical examination and a change of perspective, which results in producing innovations that offer real added value to the user, fascinating and enriching them. Music in particular is a very exciting creative field where the experimental, the creative, are in the foreground, and where people can be empowered, supported, and motivated by products.

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The Phoenix Design Academy is the platform hosting the visions and studies of the Phoenix Design Team. The Phoenix Design Academy is considered a design laboratory for conducting experiments and creating concepts. Here, non-commercial projects may take shape, unfettered by specifications and client directives, and here entirely new design aspects can be developed. This forum of creative latitude is where seasoned designers and young talents can meet and team up to design the world of tomorrow. Moreover, the Phoenix Design Academy is expressly devoted to developing up-and-coming designers. Talented students can work on their final thesis here while being supported, both workwise and financially, by experienced designers and model builders from the Phoenix Design Team. More Academy projects >>>

About Phoenix Design: Phoenix Design is a studio for design and innovation, creating smart, meaningful, and substantial brand experiences which touch people – today, for tomorrow. Since 1987, products, interactions, and digital ecosystems have been created based on the fundamental values of Logic, Morals, and Magic. More than 850 design awards (Top Rank – iF World Design Index, Design Studios) confirm the quality and continuity of the worldwide work, among them the honorary title “Red Dot: Design Team of the Year 2018”. Today, the team comprising 80 international experts at the Stuttgart, Munich, and Shanghai locations – together with its partners – are creating a joint vision of Smart Living.

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