Sound Design Essentials: The Verse
Let’s do a quick experiment that might make you a little nauseous. TURN OFF your phone! OK, now, with your eyes closed, turn it back on. Once you know your phone is back on, open your eyes; the experiment is over.
What did you feel? You probably heard an opening sound and a vibration. However, there is more. Subconsciously, you’ve realized the following things:
– It was your phone, or at least the same model as your device.
– Your phone works properly.
– Your phone is safely back on.
No one told you these things, but all of this was processed with your eyes closed. How?
In this second segment on the “Sound Design Essentials,” we’ll spend some time investigating what goes into consideration when a sound is designed for a product, as well as the future of Samsung sound design. The word ‘The verse’ from the title might have suggested this to you. Verse is the main part of the song, and needless to say, designing sound is the main part of sound design.
Sound design, like any other project, needs a clear purpose or goal. According to Samsung Sound Lab, their goal is “to create sounds that provide an auditory user experience to enhance a product’s usability and enhance auditory emotion.” In short, its goal is to improve user experience of a product with sounds. As simple as it may sound, there is something about this mission statement that requires our investigation.
The Contradiction of the Mission
Here is the thing. Samsung products are globally used in many different cultural regions. Therefore, sound design needs to take cultural and regional differences into account. However, it must also focus on individual needs. Moreover, if you read the previous segment, ‘The Intro’, you are aware of the significance of projecting a sense of brand and product identity through sounds.
So we have three main objectives and they seem to contradict each other:
1. Tailoring sounds to enhance the UX for individuals
2. Customizing sounds for cultural and regional group
3. Establishing a product/brand identity through standardizing a unique sound
This means, you have to like it and your associated culture needs to like it, while at the same time, everyone has to know it is the same Samsung Product all over the world.
Contrary to how challenging it seems, Samsung Sound Lab solved the equation that satisfies all factors. For the sound designers at the Samsung Sound Lab, it is not so much about what sound the product makes, but rather how well it conveys the relationship between the device’s information and users’ emotion (like you did in our small experiment.)
Here is how Samsung sound designers achieved their goal.
#1 Tailoring sounds to enhance the UX for individuals
When typing on a mobile phone, you hear a sound while ‘tapping’ on the screen and you feel a vibration. This is called haptic sound (vibration) and this can improve typing accuracy and reduce the amount of typos. Therefore, the ‘display tapping sound’ and the ‘text input sound’ should provide clear auditory feedback to users. In another example, a vibration or sound indicates that you have entered the wrong password to unlock the home screen. Samsung also understands that these sounds should not be distracting or tiring to users because they are functional sounds played repetitively.
It is not just mobile devices that take advantage of the art of sound. Let’s take home appliances, such as washing machines, for example. Speakers are integrated into premium washing machines to allow for smoother, softer alarm sounds than what is normally heard in conventional models. Also, since it is often difficult to know whether the surface of a microwave oven is hot or cold, Samsung created a sound for induction that lets users know how hot the surface is.
#2 Customizing sounds for cultural and regional group
Samsung also localizes sounds to enhance the auditory user experience to meet the needs of consumers around the world. For instance, in India, research showed that the average outdoor noise level was about 79 decibels (db). When consumers were outside, they were often unable to hear their mobile phones ringing due to the outdoor noise. (For comparison, the average noise level of a dishwasher running is about 80 db; a library is about 40 db.) Therefore, Samsung designed a special ringtone that would be audible to users in such an environment.
Furthermore, Samsung localizes its brand sound by harmonizing it with local music trends in melody and instruments. In India, sound designers collaborated with Debojyoti Mishra, a popular Indian film composer to create sounds that were customized for local users.
#3 Establishing a product/brand identity through standardizing a unique sound
As we mentioned in the first segment, creating an identity through sounds is as important as enhancing user experience. It is important that users realize that the sound belongs to their product.
Samsung’s approach to sound design is as diverse and creative as the sounds that result from the development process. Rather than a formulaic process, Samsung’s team of sound designers take a customized approach, using different sound design methods and concepts according to each product, all the while maintaining a level of consistency so the sounds are recognizable as unique Samsung sounds. While the next segment will go into more depth on how brand identity was implemented, we didn’t want to let you go without the basics.
But how do you maintain consistency when Samsung products continue to evolve? Thus the question arises, what is the future of sound design?
The Future of Sound Design
Just as Samsung’s product is evolving, so is sound design. However, no matter what the future holds, the basic philosophy of Samsung sound shall remain the same. As with any good sound, Samsung knows that it is possible that people may grow tired of its sound over time, so the Sound Lab will continue to develop and evolve its sounds. Samsung’s ultimate goal is to establish a recognizable sound and provide users with an easier, enhanced product experience.
For now, Samsung understands that people tend to like sounds that are unassuming and not distracting – sounds that seem natural. In addition, Samsung creates sounds in all of its products that make people immediately recognize it as a “Samsung Sound.” Samsung’s brand sound is crucial to achieving a level of consistency across all products, especially with the expected rise in smart homes where electronic products are likely to be integrated throughout the home.
To take another glimpse of the near future, here is one example of what Samsung sound plans to do. Samsung aims to create an industry standard for non-visual sound (e.g. vibration patterns) to add convenience to people’s lives. This includes people with disabilities to people who want an easier way to use their smartphone while exercising. As such, Samsung is currently developing a UX that maximizes accessibility for people with disabilities.
So, Samsung Sound Designers are able to achieve all three of their main goals, all the while keeping an eye on the future. In the next segment, as we already briefly mentioned, we will go over how Samsung products, such as Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Gear, represent and differentiate themselves through sound in detail. More specifically, we will bring you the exclusive look at each device’s sound concept and key elements of how they were created at the Samsung Sound Lab.
Products > Products Others