Thoughts on Design
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Thoughts on Design

A reassuring sonic signature

Subtle feedback comes in many forms

A reassuring sonic signature

Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep

When you turn on my Trek Valencia bicycle, it makes a beeping sound, 5 times, in a short sequence that lasts approximately 1 second — Quite tricky to count this as it happens so quickly. The five beeps emit when you turn it on. When you turn it off however if you count carefully there are six beeps. Somewhere, someone decided, turning it off should add another beep to the repertoire, they also thankfully decided that there’s no melody, no change in pitch. It’s a fairly cheap/humble sounding electronic sound, proportionate with the price range of the bike which is in the midrange of the electric bike market. Without it I think the bicycle certainly wouldn’t feel as electric.

Such a thing as Auditory Skeuomorphism.

Auditory Skeuomorphism done right.

The bicycle example aside, sound is one of the most underappreciated facets of interface design. In particular I’m thinking of physical interfaces and appliances. Recently after watching a video about GE’s home / kitchen appliances, I was enamoured to learn that they have a lot of thought lavished on them in the sound design department of their electronic interfaces, though I’m not convinced how well they work as a matter of personal preference more than anything. They sound too electronic and chirpy for a fridge, coffee maker or microwave oven.

Why is any of this important?

As a visual designer, audio is neither my expertise nor my playground. But I do feel acoustically sensitive and it’s not always a good thing. Do you hear the faint buzz of the transformer on fluorescent strip lights? Or that hiss on cheap headphones? Some people are equipped with the handy mental ability to filter out those noises, sadly I’m not one of them. At best I’ll tolerate the noise or get rid of it, at worst I’ll just be incredibly annoyed and be forced to put up with it.

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Shay Moradi

Shay Moradi

Person of design.

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