Sound is an essential part of human experience. Whether it is a reactive, proactive, or a byproduct of use, sound is an essential medium to enhance the experience of the products & services we create. But most of what we - as designers - have been designing has been devoid of sound. We define shape, color, motion, behavior etc. but we rarely pay attention to sound. But it’s not that we don’t care about it. We just take it all for granted.
Un-muting Design explores the impact that sound has on design and how we can be more mindful of sound in the way our design is experienced.
Why is now a good time?
The emergence of devices with built-in audio delivery like smartphones,
smart speakers, virtual assistants, etc. expands the opportunities for
using sound as a medium communicate and interact.
Most product/service companies serious about their design have sound
designers on board. It’s up to us as Designers & Technologists to describe
how are designs are consumed and interacted with, in the sonic medium.
Before we jump in
We should ﬁrst explore where we can use sound in our discipline
Critical alert systems
Sometimes getting your attention is more more critical that being notiﬁed
of a match on Tinder.
The Two Tone Attention Signal
In 1963 The Emergency Broadcast System was setup to alert the masses
in terms for emergencies. They wanted to create a distinct signal that
could be use to alert in times for an emergency.
They developed the two tone attention signal.
From human-like to invisible
Virtual Assistants are digital systems that perform tasks for us.
We’ve come a long way from depicting our virtual assistants as
extremely anthropomorphic robots to faceless omniscients.
They listen to us, do what we request them to - but always with
their own personality.
Meet Eugene Goostman
A chatbot that convinced 33% of the judges at a turing test competition
that it was human.
Not just intelligence
The key to this success wasn’t the ability to have an answer to everything
that was asked of him (?)
It’s the personality
The chatbot pretended to be 13 year old Ukrainian boy who did not speak
english well. Testers forgive minor grammatical errors in his responses.
It’s the right kind of personality
While good personalities are liked by people, bad ones can annoy them.
Now meet Clippy
The Microsoft Oﬃce assistant was almost universally hated by most
Recent study done by Journal of Consumer Research showed that the
disdain comes from digital assistants that seem too human, we start
hating them just like we hate human strangers who try to help us and
undermine our autonomy when they provide assistance.
Ask any Motor Head
The sound of a car engine used to signify the the raw power and speed
the car is capable of. The most attractive aspects of a car.
The sound deﬁnes the personality of the car.
More efﬁcient and quieter
This coupled with great noise isolation within the cabin reduces drastically,
the engine sound that is heard by the driver. Drivers want all the force and
fuel savings of a newer, better engine — but the classic sound of an old
Amplify the sounds through pipes or replicate engine sounds by playing
them through speakers in the car.
Federal safety oﬃcials have rules requiring all hybrid and electric cars to
play fake engine sounds to alert passersby, a change that experts
estimate could prevent thousands of pedestrian and cyclist injuries.
Making interactions safer
An integrated device that communicates information about the WALK and
DON'T WALK intervals at signalized intersections in non-visual formats to
pedestrians who are blind or have low vision.
The existence of and location
of the pushbutton
The beginning of the walk interval,
interaction, direction of the crosswalk
and location of the destination.
Pedhead-mounted, Pushbutton-integrated, Receiver-based,
Secondary tracks with narration
An additional narration track intended primarily for blind and visually
impaired consumers of visual media. A narrator talks through the content
describing events on the screen during the natural pauses in the audio.
Solution without a standard
For a long time diﬀerent implementations & solutions existed
without a standard.
1974 - a graduate student at San Francisco State University
developed underlying audio description concepts.
Theater, museums, & broadcast
Through the 80s Metropolitan Washington Ear worked with
theaters, museums, and television stations to provide audio
track for performances & shows.
Early 2009, the American Council of the Blind established
Audio Description Project (ADP) to boost levels of description
activity and disseminate information on that work throughout
the United States and worldwide
On digital content
With he ability to provide multiple audio tracks,
streaming services have been include several movies
with audio descriptions.
_ Sound for Identity
_ Sound for Personality
_ Sound for Accessibility
_ Sound for Engagement
Using sound to create immersive experiences
Keeping busy during wait
Music on hold is the music you hear when waiting for service or placed
Invented on accident
In 1962, Alfred Levy, discovered one of the telephone wires loose and
touching the girded of the building amplifying radio signals and playing
music on the phone systems when on hold.
You may hate it but it works
70 percent of callers who are on hold in silence hang up within 60
seconds; of them, 35 percent won't call back. Callers who had
information to listen to remained on hold up to three minutes longer.