Sonic interaction design is the study and exploitation of sound as one of the principal channels conveying information, meaning, and aesthetic/emotional qualities in interactive contexts. Sonic interaction design is at the intersection of interaction design and sound and music computing. If interaction design is about designing objects people interact with, and such interactions are facilitated by computational means, in Sonic Interaction Design sound is mediating interaction either as a display of processes or as an input medium.
For our next round of AIGA Breakthroughs webinars, I’ve received enthusiastic approval to run a segment on emotional design. Which has me thinking about sound. In my own user experiences, I’ve had a few emotionally-rich sonic interactions lately:
First, I had to reinstall the OS on my iPhone recently, consequently downloading some new tones. In the iTunes store, there’s an R2D2 “happy” tone. I set it as my default text tone. Every time it goes off, I smile, in spite of myself at times. That is good emotional design.
Second, I have a friend at Apple in San Francisco. I used to see him everyday when we worked together at NPR, but over the past couple of years, my interactions with him are exclusively pixelated type on a screen travelling 3,000 miles over Instagram or IM. During my recent haitus in Seattle, however, I talked to him over the phone for the first time in a while. When I hung up, I was struck by how very nice it was to hear his voice. Tone, pitch and inflection make a conversation so much richer. That is good emotional design.
Third, there is a new baby in my life, inspiring me back in time to resurrect wonderful Caldecott/Newbery/literary things like Meryl Streep and George Winston narrating The Velveteen Rabbit, a staple of Seth and Michaela’s childhood. This is one of the most beautiful audio experiences I have ever encountered. Soothing, calming, zen. That is good emotional design.