Does coffee taste better when your coffee machine produces a particular sound? According to industrial designer Elif Özcan Vieira the sound a product makes is an integral part of that product.
The auditory experience of product users is not just "a sensory response to an acoustical stimulus." In fact, users contribute characteristics, such as trustworthiness or a high standard of quality, to products on the basis of the sounds they produce.
Özcan Vieira, who received her PhD degree from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands on 2 October 2008, researched the relationship between sounds and the associations they elicit. On the basis of this research she developed guidelines for industrial designers on how to sound-design their products.
Product sounds influence our reasoning, emotional state, purchase decisions, preference, and expectations regarding the product and the product’s performance. Thus, auditory experience elicited by product sounds may not be just about the act of hearing or a sensory response to an acoustical stimulus (e.g., this is a loud and sharp sound). A complimentary and meaningful relationship exists between a product and its sounds.
Industrial designer Elif Özcan Vieira focused on the bases for this complimentary relationship in her PhD thesis. In other words, meaningful associations of product sounds are investigated from a human perspective. Empirical findings indicate that sound is regarded as an integral property of a product. Thus product, as the sound source, determines the majority of the meaningful associations. Context, in which a product is presented, also influences meaning attribution.
The result of the meaning attribution is often a product label, a description of an event, or determining the purpose of the sound. Consequently, a well-designed sound should be typical to the product, be informative about the product’s operation cycle, and convey implicit/explicit characteristics of the product. The thesis translates the empirical findings into guidelines for designers. In addition, tools and methods are proposed to support designers in their sound related activities.
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