Why designing earwear is far from boring

Our Senior Industrial Designer Elodie Delassus has been making her mark on our earplugs since she started in December 2023. She tells us all about her everyday challenges, why she’s excited to work on a product that’s so small, and how working with her team in person gives her an energy boost. 

What does an industrial designer do at Loop?  

There are a lot of different design elements to our earplugs. From the hardware that needs to fit in the product, to the shell of the earplugs – not to mention the colors and finishes of the material.  

As an industrial designer, I make sure that all those different design experts work closely together so that the products we develop have the quality we’re looking for, can be made for the right price and fit the needs of our customers. To do that, we need to understand our customers. Who are we making these earplugs for and how will they use them? So it’s really about connecting the dots between not only different design expertise, but also between the needs of the customer, the business, and the engineering possibilities.  

What makes your job challenging?

Definitely the scale of the product. Earplugs are tiny! Before I joined Loop I worked as an industrial designer for personal care and medical products. Think hair dryers, steamers, and surgical tools. Those are all bigger products compared to earplugs. With earplug design, a tenth of a millimetre can make a big difference.  

When you work on bigger products, there’s a bit more wiggle room when you’re prototyping. For instance, when you’re working on wall thickness of a part of the product. In bigger products, 1,5 or 2mm won’t make a difference. But with these small products, we’re talking about 0.2 millimeters. Everything needs to be extremely precise and detailed. When you’re building your CAD file, the perfectionist inside of you needs to come out. The same goes for when you’re working with the engineers. Our designs shouldn’t be just ‘nice designs’, they actually have to work on a minuscule scale.  

Another challenge is the acoustics part. For me, that was an entirely new territory, but an exciting one. I’m learning a lot about sound, and frequencies that pass through materials. I’m curious by nature, and I really want to understand how things work, so this adds a whole new dimension to my job.  

Aren’t earplugs a bit boring to design?

That’s the first reaction of a lot of people when I say I design earplugs. But actually, there’s so much that comes into play when you’re designing a product that affects people’s health. 

I have a thing for biology, so understanding how the ear canal works and how certain materials carry sound adds an exciting level of complexity. And let’s not forget that we aren’t just blocking sound, we’re actually trying to control sound. What we also consider is the comfort, of course. People should be able to wear our earplugs for hours in a row, without feeling it.  

Besides the health aspect, we are also working on destigmatizing hearing protection, to make it cool. To get there, we need to make sure the product looks like an accessory people actually want to wear. To think about these issues, to play with them, to design a product like this...that’s definitely not boring! 

You’re not just working in one of our hubs, you travel between the Antwerp and the Amsterdam offices, why is that?

Connecting to my project team in real life helps our projects a lot. And since the team is split over two offices, I feel it’s essential to travel to both hubs. I love it, because every time I come to either office, the energy boost is incredible. It helps me to forget that my trains may have been late or cancelled. 

Next to that, we’re working at such a high pace that it’s just easier to discuss issues in real life. To quickly 3D-print a prototype and tinker with it together as we discuss is so efficient. We have so many tools and workshop areas at our disposal at Loop that help us look at the product at all angles, hold it in our hands. That works much better than just staring at product renders on your screen.  

What are you looking forward to here at Loop?

Obviously, I can't wait until we launch the product I’m currently working on. It’s going full speed and I’m looking forward to hearing the reactions from our customers. We’re really taking big steps here, and our customers will see that.  

In any case, I’m already extremely proud of our team and the work we’re doing. Hopefully, this new product will be just as award-winning as our other earplugs. ;-)  

If after reading Elodie's experience at Loop you feel 'this is the perfect company for me', browse through our open positions!

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