Workshopping Product Sound Design

The PSD project was finalized with a thematic workshop at a Lynden’s Hus on May 13, 2015. Eleven participants (two female) have attended to the workshop. Most participants were from academia, with varying experience with sound and music. In the introduction phase, the key disciplines of the PSD project (product development, sound, and design) were introduced. For instance, by following the famous definition of design by H. Simon as “changing existing situations to preferred ones”, the participants discussed how sonic interaction design together with sonic branding can advance the usability and user experience of everyday products. The iterative nature of these advancements [14] were also mentioned, together with the conceptual tools, e.g., Sonic Incident, Action-Sound and Vocal Sketching [6]. As a technical tool, the Gestural Sound Toolkit [6] was introduced.

The first part of the workshop was purposefully no-tech, and followed roughly the ideation phase described in [6], with activities related to Sonic Incident and Imagining sonic interaction. Both activities fitted nicely to the Simon’s design definition above [14]. We have used some examples from [6] to elaborate the tasks.

Sonic Incident Technique

The sonic incident method facilitates participants recalling situations related to sound and music, and highlighting the desired operation of an interactive system [6]. We have asked the workshop participants to remember an inci- dent in the last two days where the sound was memorable, and guided them to concentrate on felt emotions (frustrat- ing, surprising, etc.), and to sketch the existing situation on post-its together with the sound descriptions. In particular, the minimum requirements for sound descriptions were set to contain an action, medium, and a listener. The next activity was a pair work: one member of the pair was instructed to take a post-it and describe the incident without words, whereas the other was to guess the incident aloud by interpreting the sketch, sounds, movement; by focusing particularly on emotions. After five minutes, the pair swapped the tasks. Vocal sketching was the [7] preferred method of communication; in our case too it required the participants to describe sound with sound [6].

Imagining Sonic Interaction

In this part, we have asked the participants to imagine possible interactions with their sonic incidents. Starting with the metaphor ”Superpowers” of [6], we have encour- aged the participants to imagine themselves as all-powerful beings who could create and act upon sounds. The particular solo task (5 minutes) was as follows:

Imagine you have superpowers. Through the action with your body, you can manipulate the sounds/situations in your sonic incident. So, look at your sonic incident, and imagine what happens and how it happens. It does not have to be realistic (remember your superpowers).

Realizing Sonic Interaction

In this phase of the workshop, the participants were divided into groups of four. Each group was provided with the Gestural Sound Toolkit (GST) [6] running on a laptop, a Leap Motion Sensor, and access to the internet. The groups have first discussed their imagined sonic incidents and interactions, and choose the best one to prototype. Then they have launched the GST, loaded the related sounds from to form a sound bank, dragged and dropped the sound bank to one of the synthesizers, patched the sensor data to analysis, and finally to the synthesizers. Due to the limited time, simple mappings that do not involve machine learning of gestures were encouraged. In addition, the energetic analysis provided too low output amplitudes with the Leap Motion sensor. Two groups did not use it, and one group has scaled the output amplitudes. This glitch has now been corrected in the GST code repository.

Constraining Sonic Interaction

The last part of the workshop introduced further constraints based on the product family, brand, and the target group. This part has been carried out by the industrial partners; several product families were introduced together with the actual demands from the design and engineering teams. Example cases were illustrated and reflected upon. As a task, the participants were instructed to place the sensors on actual products, and consider all the constraints. The workshop has been wrapped up with presentations, critique, and open discussion on the process.


[6] B.Caramiaux,A.Altavilla,S.Pobiner, and A. Tanaka. Form Follows Sound: Designing Interactions from Sonic Memories. In Proc. Conf. Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), pages 3943–3952, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 2015.

[7] I. Ekman and M. Rinott. Using vocal sketching for designing sonic interactions. In Designing Interactive Systems, Aarhus, Denmark, 2010.

[15] C. Pacione. Evolution of the mind. interactions, 17(2):6–11, 2010.