Saturday, July 16, 2011

Humanistic design - Part 2

In a previous article I wrote about how we associate different sounds with different objects and even when those sounds are no longer made due to developments in technology we still associate the sound with a quality product. Thus product designers add these sounds back in artificially so that we continue to make the quality connection.

Partly this is due to the human failing of not feeling comfortable with change. The absence of something that has always been there makes us feel slightly uncomfortable even though we may not fully make the connection between what is missing and the feeling. A good example of this is yesterday when I was driving home the car sounded different, the engine noise was different, I started wondering whether there was anything wrong with the engine, was it as responsive as normal, I started to feel uncomfortable.

The answer to this ,which dawned on me eventually, was that I had forgotten to turn the radio on. So I turned it on and everything returned to normal.

Now imagine a day when I get into my first electric car, I turn the engine on and apart from a click, there is no noise, I will feel slightly uncomfortable. I might not even buy the car if I was looking for a new one. This for designers is the ultimate nightmare.

So they are looking at making electric cars sound like traditional cars with engine noises. For two reasons, one is that the driver wont be put off buying them and secondly that a pedestrian can hear the car coming. When you can choose the engine noise or download the latest engine noise from the internet things might feel a bit weird.

For sports car models they are even thinking about creating a throaty engine roar, as after all, everyone knows the best sports cars have the throaty roars.

How engineers create artificial sounds to fool us (BBC)

Anyway I digress, the whole point of this article was to post an interesting follow up to my original article. The BBC have posted up a similar article with a few extra quotes and examples.

The car door example is one I found very interesting as Professor Cox is right, car doors should have a solid clunk to them. There have even been advertising campaigns based around the sound of the closing car door clunk.

I also love the fact that Harley Davidson are quoted as saying they won in the court of public opinion. In other words technically they didn't win according to the law.  Anybody can win a popularity context without being great at what they do, or right, or talented just check out the numerous winners of various reality talent competitions.

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