Seeing with your ears

Seeing with Your Ears: Design and the Post-Visual Era

If you believe we are about to enter a post-visual era, where voice, gesture, and ML/AI guide our product experience just as much as the screen, then how should we think differently about our approach to design?

The first step is to acknowledge that design has always been about how something works — not just what it looks like.

The second step is to get better at choreographing aural product experiences. How do we do that? It takes listening, observation, practice and experimentation.

It takes seeing with our ears.

Recently at a gathering of design leaders from Sequoia-backed companies, we challenged each other to think about post-visual design.

To set the mood, I played this short piece of radio theatre we produced with the team at Intercom about what it’s like to move through the physical world — taking inspiration from life all around you — as an essential part of the design process.

There’s a long history of taking a walk as a narrative device, from Joyce’s Ulysses, Thoreau’s Walking, Walser’s The Walk to Stephen King’s The Long Walk. Here we take a walk to connect with the complexities of human life.

Warning — this piece of radio theatre is strange. You have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. Don’t let the glib intro fool you. Save it for the right moment — it’s perfect for a long commute to or from work or for listening to while you’re alone and thinking through where you want to go with your design career.

One listener played it while riding his bike through Berlin and confessed to a single happy tear rolling down his cheek as he made his way through the city.

I couldn’t have asked for a better result. One happy tear from one happy listener is worth a million likes, hearts, favs, claps, and RTs.

So here you go.