Sep 28, 2020
As an essential member of our global design team, design consultant Ellen Sorkin works alongside our account managers to provide beautiful acoustic solutions for architects and designers. We sat down with Ellen to chat about designing for the global community, her favourite acoustic products, and why the Kiwi summer landscape inspires her.
I have an interior design degree, so I was initially hired to be a design resource for the sales team with the job title of architectural designer. I would often photoshop our acoustic products into a photo of an existing space so that the client or architect could see how it would look. My role also included helping architects write specifications, attending site meetings alongside the account managers, and creating 2D technical drawings/details for specific projects and solutions. I think it was particularly helpful for the NZ account managers to be able to explain to me what they needed to get the sale over the line and then I could make that happen with my design expertise. It was also rewarding to be able to help people visualize how our product could help an existing or new space, whether that be a classroom, restaurant, or office.
In May 2020, I was promoted from the sales team to the design team to be a design consultant. This role allows me to take my design skills globally, so I now communicate with the account managers in our Australian, UK, and US markets (as well as the NZ market of course). In addition to doing some of what I did before as an architectural designer, I have increased responsibility because now I also create quotes and cut files for production. I come from an interior design background (mostly 2D spatial design) while most of the existing design team comes from a product/furniture design background (3D object design). This allows us to collaborate and learn from one another each day using our specific strengths.
The Autex account managers send their bespoke project requests to the design team via a shared e-mail mailbox. When a request comes in, one of the designers will “flag” the job as theirs and essentially claim it as their responsibility. We will then create a drawing or rendering that illustrates our solution as well as a custom quote for the acoustic material plus cutting, etching, printing, etc. We usually discuss solutions and problem-solve in mini project groups within the design team and then whoever is responsible for the project will do the e-mail and phone communication. Our day is very fast-paced and we each work across multiple projects at once. Along with responding to our e-mail requests, we also answer general account manager queries and work alongside the marketing, export, and customer services team as needed.
Sometimes an architect will have designed an acoustic element for their project from start to finish, in which case our job as the Autex design team is to simply translate their vision into cut files for production. In other cases, a client may have a vague idea of what they’d like in their space or could have seen another one of our projects and come to us with that as their inspiration. This is an opportunity for us to show what we can do, sink our teeth in, and create something unique and creative! Every project is different from the last in some way which means every day we face new challenges and solutions. The work we do and the level of service and engagement we provide as a design team relies on what the architect, client, or installer needs from us.
I mainly use two programs to create drawings – AutoCAD for 2D drawings (plans, elevations, details, etc.) and photoshop for in-situ renderings and file creation. The other designers on the team also use a program called SolidWorks to model 3D objects, such as our hanging Horizon panels, custom Frontier fin systems, 3D tiles, etc. depending on what drawing is needed, we may use one program or a combination to create the desired effect.
It’s got to be our Cube panel! It’s incredibly versatile and can be transformed in so many different ways using cut outs, colour, the placement in a room (walls versus ceiling), and now even with printing! I’m very excited about our new in-house printing capabilities; our customers now have the opportunity to print whatever they’d like on our panels which is a total game-changer.
As I spent most of my formative years growing up in the States, to me there’s something special about the natural colours that can be found in New Zealand. I am specifically drawn to the hues of blue and green in a typical kiwi summer landscape, colours that I never saw growing up in Ohio. I am particularly inspired by our native birds, forests, beaches, and sunsets. I think these colours can be woven into local projects alongside the timber and black you find in most kiwi interiors.
Sep 28, 2020
Insights and inspiration