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All Good Things in Modulation

Written by in Create, Design, Environmental Responsibility, Inspire

Never Hit Mute

“Volume” means tonal range. Volume, Inc, of San Francisco means tonal modulation. Eric Heiman, 110dB, likes it loud. Adam Brodsley, 55dB, prefers it quiet. Their contrasting tastes power balanced, evocative design. They began their partnership in 2002 and, ever since, continue to explore the narrative qualities of visual and written tonal range seeking to evoke and provoke new meaning and thought.

It is clear that these complementary personalities achieve balance. Serene, tall and commanding, Adam Brodsley is the Redwood. Slight of frame and ready to sprint, Heiman is the wind that bends the tree. While Brodsley plays piano, Heiman trends towards punk. Brodsley’s dog in the corner neither barks nor stirs. Heiman’s bike sits in the corner, waiting to be set in motion. Eric Heiman believes in “necessary friction,” challenging assumption in order to  provoke new ideas (see Necessary Frictions, in Design Observer). His interests intersect in album art, but, he warns against object worship: “I dislike preciousness fetishizing. An album is not above the cover; it is about the music inside.”

Says Brodsley, “Design is more than a visual experience. It can open new avenues to multifaceted, dynamic and engaging experiences.” Adds Heiman, “We care about how our work functions, not just how it looks. We produce on many scales and on many media.” Paper. Glass. Concrete. Rubber. Right angles. Book spines.


Above and Below. Bloomberg Environmental Graphics. Eric Heiman led design of environmental graphics for Bloomberg Washington D.C. News / Media office. Volume wrapped the First Amendment around Bloomberg’s office perimeter, a metaphor for freedom of the press and the protection of the men and women who defend it.




Above and Below. Bloomberg Environmental Graphics. Inside Bloomberg’s San Francisco Tech Hub office silkscreened vignettes on concrete columns communicate the client’s emphasis on innovative fact gathering and dissemination. Vignettes include a diagram of how the eye moves when viewing the Nefertiti bust, charts of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, and infographics comparing organism size to size of its life span. “We weren’t going to give them ping-pong tables or playroom-inspired spaces,” says Eric Heiman. “Our aim was to give them spaces that reflect their status as a technology innovator and a place for free expression.”






Heiman (R) and Brodsley (L) in Volume’s San Francisco loft studio near Telegraph Hill.



Above. Flip the Clinic for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In collaboration with Entrepreneur-in-Residence Thomas Goetz, Volume sought to improve communication between providers and patients. Flip the Clinic is a multi-media experience that helps doctors and patients optimize their short, 15-minute visits. It includes test kits providers can use in their home communities including a card deck that facilitates dialogue between providers and patients.


Above and Below. Boy Scouts of America: Welcome Center at Summit Bechtel Family Reserve in WV Directed by Adam Brodsley, Volume built an immersive experience that balances education with adventure, the essence of the Boy Scout brand. “The environment had to engage kids,’’ says Brodsley, “We created pace through a variety of interactive experiences to keep youth and adult visitors engaged in the Boy Scout experience.”




Above. IDEO Snapshots. IDEO values are at the forefront of their brand: “IDEO believes design can improve lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities,” says Brodsley. “When they speak, they speak purposefully and economically. They despise waste. This solution reflects those values.”   But, even IDEO knows its limitations. They hired Volume to help them expertly communicate their values and mission in print.






Above. Readymade: How to Design [Almost] Everything Book Project. Volume’s designers strive to give all their work context.  With a spine that doubles as a ruler, the book about readymade objects was designed to be a tool DIYers can actually use. Published in 2005: “Craft is about attention to detail,” says Heiman, “and this book is a tangible representation of the craft spirit of assembly, detail and aesthetic quality.”


Thank You!
Special thank you to Jennifer Rittner of contentmattersny.com who helped curate this story and provided valuable insight.
Photography Credits:
  1. Boy Scouts Visitor Center photos by Joe Fletcher.
  2. Bloomberg DC photos by Prakesh Patel.
  3. Bloomberg SF photos by Gabriel Branbury except…
  4. Bloomberg Conference Room by Bruce Damonte.
  5. IDEO and ReadyMade photos by Jefferey Cross.
  6. Flip the Clinic photos by Volume.
  7. Volume Studio photos by Mariko Reed.