Back in 2013 Industrial Designer Stefano Merlo launched Noisli.com. With a simple, friendly greeting and a brightly coloured background, it was a site that demanded further investigation. Fortunately Noisli was designed with functionality in mind and users quickly discovered a site that allowed them to create their own ambient soundscapes, which along with the subtle changes in background colour to help users relax and be more productive.

Soon after launching, Merlo added a text editor to the site, creating a distraction-free writing experience that's been used by coders, bloggers, writers and students. The main website has also been used to help people with Tinnitus through hearing damage recovery. Now Merlo is launching Noisli for iOS, allowing people to create background noise from looped samples of environment noise offline, save their favourite combinations, and set the app to play for a set length of time to help them relax or focus.


Noisli combines both a plain text editor with a background noise and colour generator. What made you want to combine those two things?

I launched Noisli in September 2013 as a simple background noise generator done as a side-project. After that, all the improvements and developments came naturally and step by step by personally using the website and staying in contact with the users. Therefore, adding a text editor was simply the next logical feature to implement on the website.

On your site you make a point that the colour changing background helps to bring the health benefits of chromotherapy. Can you explain what you mean by this?

Beside of being an aesthetic feature that sets Noisli apart from the competitors, the colour changing background also has a functional meaning. It is proven that colours affect and influence our mood and state of being. Furthermore the continuous and slowly fading background leads to a state of wellness.

It's clear that a lot of research has gone into the creation of Noisli, I'm interested in how this research was used during the development of the process? Did it spark the original idea, or become more important later on?

I was already aware about the topic and the benefits of background noises. I knew how they can improve productivity and help you relax. What I found on the web wasn't satisfying my needs and personal taste, so I decided to create my own background noise generator. Since the beginning I had a pretty clear idea in mind about what I wanted to build. While developing it, I tried to keep every element as essential, simple and clear as possible.

The sounds you use are loops of a range of environment noise - from rain, to wind through leaves, to the murmur or a coffee shop - how did you source these sounds and decide what was appropriate for the project?

From the very beginning, every noise I selected was out of my personal taste and what I thought was appropriate in order to achieve the purpose of the website, hence help to relax or improve concentration. Every other sound addition was based on the same principles and also with the purpose of completing the whole sound experience since you can combine the sounds with each other.

You're also able to blend sounds, by using a simple mixer to create more dynamic soundscapes. What was the reason behind doing this, as opposed to just offering one sound loop at a time?

I wanted to offer the ability to mix different sounds so that everyone was able to create their own working or relaxing environment tailored to their personal need or taste. Limiting to just one sound at a time means limiting the user and the experience, and I didn't want that.

The iconography and typographic choices on the site make for a really beautiful, clean UI. What was the process you went through in order to create a style that was functional, yet still aesthetically engaging?

My philosophy is based on functionality and minimalism. Every element of the UI and UX was carefully thought and has its own reason to exist. Nothing was added if not essential for the use and experience of the website. Everything was designed specifically for its purpose.

I remember spending days and nights just thinking about the right name.

You're about to launch an iOS app, can you explain more about what this offers. Does it differ much from the web app?

The iOS app of course offers the same simple and pleasant experience as the web version does. With the launch of the app there will be also two more sound additions on the app and on the website. I implemented a timer so that you can focus on concentration or working sessions using for example the pomodoro technique (a time management method developed Francesco Cirillo) or to set a certain time span while falling asleep. Moreover there will be the possibility to save your favourite sound combinations and play them whenever you like. A big plus is that you don't need an internet connection anymore to listen to the sounds.

You work in quite a wide range of disciplines, from web design, to product, to visual communication. What first got you interested in design?

I am a really curious person and that is why I am interested and attracted by many disciplines. I've always wanted to create something that people will use, and I remember my first passion being web design. Soon after I discovered and became attracted to industrial design, and that's why I started my studies in visual communication and industrial design.

Do you consider yourself to have a particular style, or approach you use when designing for those disciplines?

When I design something I never think or try to have a certain style, everything comes rather naturally through the design process. I simply try to keep things essential and simple.

Aside from Noisli, which project are you most proud of and why?

As an industrial designer it's very difficult to get real feedback from users with regards to how they interact with the product and how it makes them feel. With Noisli I can keep a close relationship with the users and get direct and continuous feedback from them. This is very important for me and for my work and that's why Noisli, at the moment, is the project I am most proud of.

What are your future plans for Noisli?

I am definitely interested in continuing with Noisli, working to improve the service and its functionality, also implementing new features. My wish is to bring Noisli to another level and at the moment I am looking for the resources in order to achieve that.

With Noisli now available online and on iOS, have you turned your attention to your next project?

Since I am mainly an industrial designer, I always have some projects laying around my head that I want to develop. However, at the moment the majority of my attention is going into Noisli and the next steps for its development.

****

You can try Noisli yourself online at noisli.com. The Noisli app is out now on iOS at a special launch price of 69p (£1.49 after that).

You can learn more about Stefano Merlo's other work on his site or follow him on twitter: @Noisli and @stefanomerlo.