When we look for inspiration,
we do our research from visual documents such as books, magazines, photography…

How about sound, taste, smell…

Should we also explore our other senses ? Definitely, yes.

Nowadays an industrial designer doesn’t look only at function and performance – but also emotion. Any rational decision we make is driven by emotion.

We’ll address to people’s unconscious mind, and create a product or service in harmony with the user.

Let’s look at few examples of design innovation using the sensory design.

“Sensory design”

Hearing Shell

| Hearing |

| Crisp of Mineral water bottle |

Mineral water crisp of bottle
Crips of a mineral water bottle

Did you know that
Sound designers work on the crisp of bottle of mineral water ? Why ? To remind us freshness when we grab the bottle in the shop or before serving yourself a cup. Same for the packet of crispy Potato chips ! Maybe that detail is insignificant to you. I hope you realise that we are surrounded of insignificant signs that influence our act and behaviours.

Everything has a meaning.
“As a designer be sensitive to human’s behaviour. And you will touch people subconscious.”

| Conversation spy from Potatoe chips ! What ?? |

Lays Conversation Spy

Did you know that
(Be prepared to be terrified) A conversation can be spied from a Potato chips ! The principle is pretty “simple”. A high speed video collect the vibration on the potato chips from a conversation, and convert/recover these visual vibration to sound.

High speed video recover sound

A bit more explanation: “When sound hits an object, it causes the object to vibrate,” said Abe Davis, an MIT graduate student. An algorithm has been created by Microsoft and Adobe to reconstruct a conversation. We can even know the number of speakers, gender and the identity of the speakers (if some information has been priory given). Click here to see more about the sound recovery from vibration.

Sound recovery from vibration
A high speed video of the plant is recovering sound.

“Trend forecasting is your duty.
Allocate some time at browsing new technologies and science discovery. You may merge these innovation to your own project. As a student, feel free to look at innovation patent.“


| Sound of a closing car door |

BMW 8 Concept
BMW 8 Concept

Did you know that
The sound of a car closing door is also meticulously studied ? It tells the user how safe and comfy is the car even before driving it.

“Give importance to details.
I tempted to say that there is no small innovation. But invisible, yes.”


Star Wars sound gathering from real life

Star Wars Ep III - Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars ep III – Revenge of the Sith

Laser sound of Star wars
Creation of the laser sound of Star Wars – Pew ! Pew !

Did you know that
Sound designers create sound for movies extracting them from real life. Click to see more about how Star Wars sound designers gathered and created the sounds !

”In design, mix your emotion with your imagination.”


| Speed of music in supermarket |

Ballerina in Supermarket - One Foot Print Photography
Dancing ballerina in Supermarket

Did you know that
Music in Supermarket influence customer mood and speed. Slow music retain the customer longer. Note that classical music tend to make them buying more expensive things.

”Marketing for mass market is a huge source of inspiration for designers.*”

  • In marketing, some application may be on the edge of ethics (personal opinion). It’s important to dissociate the innovation or technology to its application.


| Crisp of fresh French bread |

Ratatouille - Sound of the bread crisp

Did you know that
French people squeeze lightly there bread to know if it’s fresh or not. Ok, its not an innovation, but this is just a small reminder than even the simple things has a meaning. Human’s habits, and cultural behaviour are where a designer can dig precious inspiration. (That’s one of the reason why Pixar’s movies can make such great movies)

Touch sensation

| Touch |

| Sense of luxury |

Did you know that
Even though a luxury perfume has a cap made of cheap plastic, some artificial weight is added in to increase the feel of quality and luxury (antique bottle of perfume was made of “heavy” glass).

The touch sense is used within multiple parameters such as

  • the surface whether is smooth or grainy
  • the temperature
  • the pressure
  • soft or hard
  • sticky or slippery
  • vibrating or not

Flower scent

| Smell |
| Micro capsule of scent thrown on the floor to attract customers |

Perfume of breadDid you know that
Some bakeries in shopping mall spread micro capsule of perfume on the floor – in front of the shop ? Why ? The micro capsule explode when customers walk in the gallery. Some may be more attracted to stop at the bakery.


Scent diffuser - Marketing
Scent diffuser from Scent Australia

Some brands use scents diffuser to:

  • Increase the sell of a product (Even for washing machine where that specific shop area may smell the sea)
  • Associate a scent to a brand
  • Give a better experience to customers, hotels, resort, spa…

“When you think about it, in the world of product promotion, advertising and branding, everything is about sight and sound (…) No one has really been tapping into smell, and the sense of smell is directly hardwired into your brain.” Steven Semoff, the acting co-president of the Scent Marketing Institute. Read more at: The smell of commerce: How companies use scents to sell their products.

Note that a French company who started this concept years ago, hired a luxury perfume creator. That illustrate how a talent can apply his skills in different domains.


| Mercedes room scent, the smell of luxury |

Sabine Engelhardt Fragrance for S-Class Mercedes
Sabine Engelhardt, Tuturologist in “Social and Technological Research”.

Mercedes created the first Automotive room scent with: the Perfume atomizer for the S-Class. Different mood are available such as:

  • Downtown: floriental, musk, fruity
  • Nightlife: woody, oriental, ambered
  • Sports: green, flowery, cirtus
  • Freeside: cirtus, flowery, tea

Perfume atomizer - Mercedes
Perfume atomizer for the S-Class – Mercedes

Mercedes Smell of luxury
Air balance for the interior vehicle

At the Google Science Fair, Guillaume Roland, 17 from France – had the idea of creating an alarm clock that wake people up with scent instead of a buzz: an Olfactory Alarm clock. Guillaume says that Peppermint scent woke up 100% people within 2 minutes.

Sensorwake - demoRegular alarm clock make us grumpy.
Sensorwake - Demo a

Our day doesn’t start great and influence the whole day mood.

Sensorwake - Scent alarm clock

With Sensorwake, we can wake up with great and enjoyable scents – Guillaume Roland

  • Mint
  • Hot croissant
  • Candy
  • Money (Really ?!!)
Sensorwake - Start a great day
Sensorwake- Ready to start a great day!

The Sensorwake is not yet available. But you can see more at Sensorwake.com.

How does it works - Sensorwake
Storyboard of the Sensorwake.

“Stimulate people sense and memory.”

| Sight |

| Ugly design for a better design |

Velib design
Velib parking
Velib’ – Rental cycle in Paris

Did you know that
The brief for the designer team in charge of the design of the Velib (Public cycle for rent) was to make it: “Ugly”. It aims to prevent theft.

| Retro reference for futuristic design |

Sci-fi movies such as Star wars, Oblivion play with your visual memory. using retro references for the design of futuristic weapon or Spaceship. The viewer has an INSTANT recognition that a futuristic weapon is actually a weapon. If every single object or vehicle came to be too farfetched from reality, the viewer of the movie may “be lost”. To appreciate the movie, futuristic and innovative ok, but not 100% new.

Oblivion Jack Harper Rifle

Star Wars Ep III - Revenge of the Sith

“Cherish the past to innovate better.”


| Artificial flavour |

Syrup flavour
Did you know that
Most of syrup you find in supermarket are synthetic ? It means that if your syrup has a strawberry flavour, there is zero strawberry inside. It’s all about reproducing the taste from assembling molecules.

What id a 3D printer could assemble these molecules for Food 3D printing ? Terrifying right ?

A technology is by default pretty neutral.
As a designer, we believe at creating a better world.
Don’t aim to manipulate, enhance people experience.

Tell us some interesting case of design that also use Sensory design. 🙂


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  • It has been a long time I didn’t came here! I miss a loads of things! ;-(
    Very very nice this article Chou-Tac, Very nice, easy going and complete!
    Thanks !