Skill Level Beginner
- Whenever we start a new project, we always start with the handful of tools that we have to rely on from time to time. And one of the tools I like to use a lot is my sensorial tools. And I like to start out by looking at how to see. The exercise of seeing. Now this started out, a project that I would give to my students on each of the five senses. And each of the five senses, a student would then work on seeing, touching, smelling, sound, and taste.
But let's start at seeing for a second. And I like to reference how to see. I know it sounds a little bit basic but There's a way to see something that I like to focus on. It starts back in my preteens times when I came across photography. Now I had an uncle and he was a photographer and he would loan me his equipment and I shot everything. And when I got to understand how the camera worked and how the lens worked I started to see things differently.
Without knowing it, it was this kind of, kind of just there. And I wasn't using it as a tool at the time. I was just knowing that the camera could see things that I couldn't see. And so later when I used it for design and architecture It was one of those things where in my storytelling I was telling either parts of the story or a bigger part of the story in a more ecosystem way that was giving me an advantage over people that weren't using photography. And so what happened was, is I was starting to see things other people couldn't see when they weren't looking at things this way.
And so when you use a macro lens, the macro lens can get into and you can start seeing like the grain of something. And when you look at your fingerprint, for example, you get so close to it you almost can't make it out. But, you look at the ridges and the texture and the way it looks. But then you back up a little bit and it tells a completely different story than what the macro was saying. You look at it like, "Oh that's a finger". But then you back out even further and your like, "Oh, it's not a finger, that's a woman." Then you back up even further and, no, it's a woman and that she's playing in a band in a bar.
So the story changes as the lens changes. And so the more you understand how to frame that, you'll start applying that to looking at other things. And when you do that, start doing that with the other senses as well. So if we look at touch for example. How something feels. Now, as it relates to materials, let's say if you're designing a steering wheel on a car. If the leather that's wrapped on the car is shiny and smooth people tend to grip it harder.
When the material on the steering wheel is more like a suede or soft, it feels like really soft skin, people tend to hold it really lightly. And so the touch has an effect, even though the steering wheel is the same, the car's the same, performance is the same. The way they touch it is because of the way the material was feeling. And so the other thing to look at is it starts getting tougher as we move into these other areas. But, the way something smells. Now, when you walk into a room, whether it's subconscious or in your face, you know it effects you.
And so the smell of a car, the smell of a cabin, the smell of a house, or the smell of a product gives you a sensation like, "Oh, this smells cheap "or this smells expensive or this smells good "or this smells bad." You come up with these feelings whether you say them out loud or not. When we use this tool looking at sound as one of the senses in designing for products. We also want to talk about how materials interact with each other. And when they come into contact with each other they'll give you a haptic feedback, and the haptic feedback is in the sound as well was the way it feels.
So even though you felt it, you'll hear it. And when you hear it that might be the sound of a click. That sound of a click tells you this did something. Also, on the negative if you hear the cracking noise it tells you it's broken, or if something is loud it might tell you that it needs insulation. So these are the kinds of things that you'll look at when you're deciding which materials are used for which products. And then when you're doing things for taste, taste is a unique one.
So taste, let's choose a product, we've all used utensils when we're eating food. If you were eating with metals, metals have taste. The metallic taste can be actually bitter taste. And so things like chrome have probably the least metallic or the least bitter taste. But if you were to make your utensils out of zinc it would be very bitter. Another example would be if you looked at your coffee cup, for example.
Your disposable coffee cup. Now a disposable coffee cup compared to a ceramic coffee cup can taste quite different. That's why you might ask for the ceramic cup cause you want a better tasting experience. And so we encompass the smell and the feel and the taste. Then you have a better experience. So, looking at the disposable coffee cup for one second, if the coffee cup wasn't lined with a wax material you'd taste the paper, then the paper would influence the taste of the product that was inside of it.
So these are the things that a designer has to go through when they're coming up with these products. Because even in the disposable, they are looking at how to make it taste better. So, when we wrap this up we want to look at how all the senses work together. So, interactivity combined with self-actualization, when you put these two together it creates longer term memories. And the longer term memories also come with emotions and people connect with it. And so they're going to connect with it, they're going to like it better, and they're going to remember it longer.
I always like to end with a quote, and this quote is from Maya Angelou and she said it best. She said, "People will always forget about what you say. "They will always forget about what you do. "But they will never forget about how you made them feel." And that's what we're trying to do with the senses, and when you're designing your product and this is what you do when you're looking to choose your materials.