Design Is [Audible] – Designing sound for human experiences

[MUSIC PLAYING] KAI HALEY: Great to see you all. We took a little bit
of a hiatus in May. So it’s fun to be back
here after a month break. I wanted to also
welcome all of you who are joining for SF Design Week. I hope the activities
and events that you’ve been to so far have been
inspiring and enriching. We are excited to be part of
the SF Design Week events. So thank you for joining us. And for those of you who are
our regular Design Is attendees, you guys all know we
started this series almost two and a half years ago now to
create a space for the design community to come together
and explore the role of design in crafting the future,
specifically a future we all want to be a part of. And implicit in that
is the craft of design. Design encompasses more than
just what we can see and touch. To create really powerful
and meaningful experiences, we need to engage a
multitude of senses. And sound design has the
potential and the power to do that. Sound design can enhance
the sensory depth of product experiences, it shapes
emotion, and it can even transport us into new realms. It’s often undervalued
and overlooked, which is why I’m so
excited to be able to bring the topic to all of you today. We have Conor O’Sullivan
who is our head of design here at Google. He leads a cross-product
effort, which includes the most recent launch
of our first sound spec, which is really exciting. And I’m very excited
to have him here, because he is an industry
leader in sound design and sensory and sonic branding. So he knows a lot
about this stuff. I don’t know very much. So I’m really excited to learn. He has brought together a
group of inspiring experts, and I’m going to let
him introduce and be your host for this evening. So please join me in welcoming
Conor for Design is Audible. [APPLAUSE] CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Thanks,
everyone, for being here. Thanks, Kai, for allowing us
to talk about sound design as part of SF Design Week,
which is really exciting. It’s also Pride Week, so I’m
very excited about that too. And we’re here today to
talk about sound design. So let me just jump in here. Before I actually introduce some
of the talented designers who are going to share
some of their work– so get ready to do
some listening– I just wanted to take
a step back and just talk about the value of sound
as part of the product design experience. So as humans, we’re
constantly experiencing sound. Sound is all around us, and
our brains are very good at background listening and
deciding when we need to pay attention and when we don’t. So as sound designers,
we have the opportunity to create soundscapes that
take advantage of this. And sometimes the sound can be
in the background, receding, and other times in the fore,
grabbing your attention. And sound has been shown in
studies particularly related to product experience to impact
in the perception of things like quality, emotion,
and even time. And increasingly
in product design, we tend to rely on
visual modalities to convey a lot of
information to users. But sound affords
us the opportunity to offset some of the burdens
that we place on the visuals onto this other sense. So I recently wrote about some
of this in an article that addresses some of these topics,
and also, as Kai mentioned, announced the first ever
material design guidelines for sound design. So we’re really
excited about that. If you’re interested in learning
a little bit more about that, please do check it out. So I’m going to introduce our
first speaker, Elad Marish. And Elad I’ve had the pleasure
of working with on some work that we did for Pixel, which I
hope he’s going to talk about. And Elad is a senior
producer and partner at Swell Music and Sound, which
is a cutting edge sound design studio and audio post shop
here in San Francisco. So his work spans from national
broadcast commercials, HBO, and documentary film, to UX
and original music composition for bands and brands. So Elad, please take it away. ELAD MARISH: Hi, everybody. Thanks for having me. And I want to apologize
for my pathetic slides. I’m a sound designer. I have no idea what to do
with Keynote or PowerPoint. Luckily I spelled things right. What is effective sound design? So at Swell Music and Sound,
we do a ton of video work. And so I’ll divide my
talk up into a video, or work the picture, as I call
it, and then UI experience. So in video– and the
two are very different. So let’s start with video. So when clients give
us a video, they tell us to bring
the scene to life. How do we do that,
sound-wise that is? In this particular example,
which won some awards, they gave us a blank slate. It was completely silent
HOOTING] [END PLAYBACK] So this was for the
photosynthesis pack, whatever that means,
for Nike, and then the jungle pack
after that, which we did one with butterflies. But like I said before,
it was completely silent. So we had to design everything
from the jungle background, to the laces, to the
kind of plants growing sounds of the jungle, and
then finally the supers, or the title cards at the end. So what makes for good
sound design there? Somehow that came together to
be a compelling enough piece to win the ICP
awards and so forth. So we will talk a little bit
more after our presentations about what makes
that compelling. But for me, it’s
the juxtaposition of the background
sounds, plus what we call the heart effects,
which were the shoelaces tying, and the plant
sounds, and so forth, and then the buttoning it
up with the Nike sounds at the end. Another thing we think about
when sound designing to picture is that, as you guys may
know or not know, every video is made up of frames, typically
24 frames per second, sometimes 30 or other weird frame rates,
but typically 23.98 or 24. And in our digital
audio workstations, we have the capacity to use
and design every single frame if we wanted to, which
would take all day. But this particular
client had the budget to sit with us almost on
every frame of this thing, and designed it that way. So think about frames when
you think about video, and also enjoy Snoop Dogg. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] – One Sasha, one
boss, one word– Banks. Be heard, be seen,
like Dolph, like Dean. No guts, no glory,
one shot, one story. Be you right now,
no time, one run. Be like no one. Get the deluxe edition
and play four days early. Rated T for teen. [END PLAYBACK] ELAD MARISH: Thank you, Snoop. So that’s one of
my favorite spots, because there’s
so much going on. There’s so many
scenes, so many frames. And we were able to, in
a frame accurate fashion, sound design every single
scene, every single frame with the client. And we sat there for
probably 16 hours doing it in the same room
with them on the couch. The wrestler hitting
the mat was us doing Foley with our
leather couch cushion and recording it in real time. Sometimes we draw from our
massive sound library and drag sounds in, and then
design them and mix them so they’re perfectly
suited to the spot. That piece just had Snoop’s
VO and the music track, and we were tasked with making
the sound design amazing. So that’s every frame. A little bit about UI– what makes for effective
sound design in UI? That’s what we’ll be talking
about for most of the night. And I like to think about
designing for the brief. So the first phase of
that is exploration. We get together
with clients and we talk about what do
we want, what’s this going to sound like. So I had the pleasure,
as Conor mentioned, of working with him on the Pixel
1 and the ringtones for that. And we had the idea of, who’s
going to be using this phone? Is it going to be– who are the users? So we thought about
different subsets of users, like the techie user, the kind
of math nerd user, the sports head, the emo music person,
who I identified with. Who are our users? And so we blocked it out,
and we gave letter code names to each user, and we
try to design sounds based on those folks. So that was a pretty
creative approach. Let’s see what we came up
with, exploration phase. [RINGTONE] I think we call that Borg. [RINGTONE] Techie. [RINGTONE] Soft, around, a
little warm, modern. Next phase is picking
one of those things. So we call that the
initial direction. The one we picked– [RINGTONE] –was that guy. It’s really hard to
talk about sound, so let’s just keep in mind
what that sound sounded like. So then we went about revising
that sound with our client. [RINGTONE] Cool. We dug that. It got our attention. It’s soft, appealing,
attention-grabbing, modern. It has a couple of
tones embedded in it. And we can get deep into the
world of sound and wave forms and sound waves, but we
won’t do that right now. But we decided it was
a little repetitive. What would happen if we added
a musical element to it? [RINGTONE] Sweet. Everyone dug that,
and that ended up being the zen ringtone on Pixel. So that is about all
I have time for today. Thank you so much. Hope you enjoyed, and I’ll
see you in a little while. [APPLAUSE] CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Thanks, Elad. So next up we have
Kevin Dusablon, and I found out today
that Kevin plays in an Irish music band, which
is a fun fact about Kevin. But he’s an award-winning
audio experience designer working in San Francisco. Kevin spent the
last decade creating content for entertainment
and technology with brands like Google, HBO,
Nickelodeon, and Ubisoft. So please welcome Kevin. [APPLAUSE] KEVIN DUSABLON: Great. Thanks, Conor. Let me start by calling
Elad out for stealing my joke, which, to be fair,
I stole from someone else. But that is the apology
for the slide deck, because again, we’re
sound designers. So yeah, so thanks all
for having me and spending your evening here
talking about sound. Specifically, I would like
to talk about designing audio for the intersection
between entertainment and product and UX. So over the course of
my career, probably like several designers
out here, I’ve had the opportunity to work
across a large spectrum of products and
mediums, from film, to games, broadcast, over to
software, hardware, VR, et cetera. And the last several
years of my career have sort of pulled
me more and more into creating voice experiences. So this is content for
Google Home and Amazon Alexa and platforms like that. And my main role
nowadays is working at a company called
Xandra, and we specialize in
immersive rich content for those particular
mediums, and work with companies
like HBO and Google and Amazon and Nickelodeon,
Sesame, and others. And what’s really interesting
is that it represents, as I mentioned, a
true intersection between entertainment and UX. And I say that because often
we’re tasked as a company to convey linear storytelling
and gaming through sort of a more traditional
UX environment using things like speech
recognition and voice user interfaces. And so I’d love to share a few
examples of how that plays out in real time over
voice experiences. So I’ll use a few classic types
of UX sound design elements that you might
hear in a UX system as an example to convey
these particular sounds. So one of those is
an orientation sound. So that could be an intro and
outro to a product, really anything that
indicates to the user where they are in time
structurally or narratively. So here’s a quick example from
one of our voice experiences. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] – Welcome back to Nickelodeon’s
SQUAREPANTS” THEME] The annual jellyfish migration
is sweeping through town, and those jellyfish hunters
are sweeping through the Krusty Krab. Let’s get behind the
register and get to work. [END PLAYBACK] KEVIN DUSABLON: So yeah,
we have a lot of fun. We get to work on
really cool IP. But yeah, so that’s an example
of an orientation sound, and like I said,
that’s an intro to one of the voice experiences, a
return intro specifically. So another category of
UX sound design elements that we also borrow, but use
in more of an entertainment or gaming fashion would
be a call to action. This is really anything
that invites the user to interact with the product. So an example from
one of our experiences is the following, kind
of a short example. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] – What kind of animal
came in seventh in a half marathon in Alabama? Was it a cat, a
squirrel, or a dog? [END PLAYBACK] KEVIN DUSABLON: And
full disclosure, I don’t know the answer. And this is a great
opportunity to ask the crowd what you think. So maybe just after the
speech or the talks, just come and let me
know what you think. But essentially you can
hear a music cue there that we used throughout
that experience to indicate that a prompt or
a call to action was coming, and then we have
a clear question as well inviting
the user to speak. And that kind of leads
us into feedback. So feedback is, in UX, just
a sound that the product will emit or
potentially would have a visual to indicate that
there has been interaction. So here’s a couple
examples of some feedback. [SOUND] So that’s a clear affirmative
if we answer that past question correctly. [SOUND] And a clear negative. So the last one I’ll talk about
is another basic standard sound type, and that is
a branding sound. So at Xandra, when
I’m working on voice, we tend to try to weave
branding through our experience as much as possible,
but we do get the chance and the opportunity
to just play great branding cues. So here’s one that we whipped
up for one of those actions that I just shared. [JINGLE] All right. So as I mentioned, working
at this intersection provides me some pretty
cool opportunities. And the one that I want to talk
about mostly tonight with you guys is being able to borrow
best practices and principles from both entertainment and
UX, and kind of realize them in this center space where
we work in voice experience. And I think it’s kind of
worthwhile for the design community to think about
this, because in some cases, if you’re kind of too
far over an entertainment or too far over in UX,
it’s really easy to look over some very core principles. So we spend time at Xandra,
and I spend time in my work working with my sound
teams, really focusing on a few of the
following principles as we go through our practice. So the first is story first. So story, of
course, is the words on the page, the
picture on the screen maybe the vision
of the director, but I think it’s actually
a little bit more than that as well. For us, it’s the
intent of the product, and it’s maybe the
style or the emotion that’s trying to be conveyed
in a particular moment. So we try to make sure that we
really emphasize the intention and hold that center
as our first priority when we’re designing. I think this actually mirrors
the core principles of UX design as well,
which are to provide relevant and contextual
information at all times to the user. And it has a further boon. So if we’re all
focusing on the story, we have a kind of
cross-departmental north star that we can focus on and have
a shared vision to create for, which is kind of crucial to
designing a cohesive experience that might be rich in
visuals, animations, sound, and other elements. So the next piece that
I’d like to talk about is having a strong story– I’m sorry, strong style guide. So this one is kind of a common
sense one in some circles, and then in others it
doesn’t get much attention, and that’s why I
wanted to mention it, because it is another
very important piece and really defines
the brand, the look, and feel of the product
or the user experience that you’re working on. This is just another
one, just like story, that provides a strong
vision for the team to unite around as well. And I’d like to
kind of emphasize that this should get a beat
as early in the production as you possibly can. So that way, you’re creating
material and content that has that shared vision
from early on before you get too far down the road. The next one, this is kind of
the most important one for me after story. So this one is
thoughtful editorial. I’m really kind of
stealing from some of the best supervisors I’ve
worked with in my past, who really focus on editorial. And in audio terms, it’s a
great opportunity for pacing, for dynamics, branding,
and clear communication. So it really shouldn’t
be overlooked. And to me, it means just
going beyond stock sounds, not just pulling things,
but really being thoughtful and curating great sounds. And then beyond that,
I’d like to talk about of a few different
types of editorial. So there’s sort of the
macro editorial, which is super important in
the sense that it’s similar to spotting
film scripts, where you’re looking
at an entire product and thinking about how
sound is used holistically in that product. And essentially, this
might mean using silence, or this might mean picking
kind of a perfect sound for a particular emotion. And the next is micro and that
is sort of the nit and gritty, curating that exact sound,
getting that exact emotion, and hitting that
exact story beat. So those are all super
important to me, things that we work on a lot. The next is mix. So this is usually just kind of
a quick thought in the product cycle. But I really think
it’s worth thinking about putting time in here
and paying a lot of attention to mix. So I’m sure everybody
here has an idea of mix, but essentially this
is where we’re leveling all the sound elements. But beyond that, this is
sort of the last opportunity for the sound team to
tailor the sounds to all of the other elements
in the project, because often final animation,
final visuals, and final flow doesn’t really land
until the very end. So this is kind of that last
step to get things just right. And of course, this is where we
get to optimize for platform. There’s a big difference
between designing elements for a theatrical film
or for a Google Home, and this is sort our
chance to think about that. So kind of with all
those things in mind, with a little bit
of luck, you will be able to create a
compelling sound moment or compelling story experience. And I’ll just share
one from our work that we thought came out
pretty well, won a few awards, and we’re pretty
excited about it. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] [TRAIN HORN] [WESTERN MUSIC] [HORSES NEIGHING] [WALKING ON SAND WITH SPURS] [DOOR OPENS] [FOOTSTEPS CROSS WOODEN FLOOR] – You’re new. Not much of a rind on you. – Not that one, Clem. They’re here for something else. – You must be here
to play the game. Well, you came to
the right place. It’s not easy, but I can
tell you want in on it. Do you? [END PLAYBACK] KEVIN DUSABLON: Actually,
before I go over there– So yeah, so that
was an experience we did for “Westworld”
for some folks that may have kind of
recognized the soundscape there. But it really kind of draws
on many of the principles that we were talking
about here, and conveys them pretty well I hope. So the last one I’d like
to mention before I go is that dialogue is king. So I may seem
fairly biased having my primary work
be in voice, and I am holding the microphone now. But there is a true precedent
for this, of course, across entertainment, and that’s
because in film, broadcast, and games, usually dialogue
gets kind of the number one spotlight in the mix,
and that’s because it’s a very efficient and effective
tool for storytelling, conveying communication,
information, and it can be actually the most
cost-effective in many cases. And as Conor mentioned, it does
offset the visuals at times. So the last thing I’ll
mention about dialogue is that it essentially is
the most human-centric design path as well. So it can inspire empathy
and convey emotion just about better than
any other asset type. So with that, I’ll say thank
you so much for having me. And I will encourage
you, if you kind of want to think a little bit more about
this, in particular if you come from a UX or a
product background and maybe haven’t been exposed
to entertainment fields just as much, do
yourself a favor, take a little
homework assignment, and go read Walter Murch. All right, thank you. [APPLAUSE] CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Great. Thanks so much, Kevin. So when I first moved
to San Francisco, I found out that there
was another sound designer by the name of Conor who had
an Irish-sounding surname, but the difference is he has
two Ns in his first name. I’m talking about Connor Moore,
who, for the last 10 years, has been the award-winning
audio creative director and lead sound designer
of CMoore sound, where he’s been designing
bespoke sound experiences for brands across the globe. So he’s had the pleasure to work
with the likes of Google, Uber, Amazon, and Tesla,
and has been featured as an interviewee
for California Sunday magazine, NPR’S Marketplace,
and Communication Arts. So please welcome Connor Moore. [APPLAUSE] CONNOR MOORE: Hello, everybody. Thanks so much for being here. It’s quite the crowd
and a good evening. So today, I want
to talk to you guys about curating our
soundscapes, in particular, looking at this through the
lens of audio user experiences. I’m going to start
with a little test to see what you guys know
hands, how many of you guys recognize what brands
or product or app those sounds come from? You guys know your stuff. All right. So sound as a medium
has this amazing ability to be very effective in
short snippets of time. That file I just
played for you guys was 10 seconds in its
entirety, and each sound was only two seconds in length. So as technology is really
starting to utilize audio at these multiple touch points
for our user, voice user interfaces, heads up
displays, connected home, we have a real
opportunity here to be very intentional
with these designs and very thoughtful with
how we’re crafting them, because we don’t want
to add to the noise. We actually have
an opportunity here to make the world
potentially quieter. So I’m actually going
to start with a bit of unique storytelling that’ll
teach you a bit more about me. And I’m going to use
my family and our house as kind of a metaphor for how I
think of audio user experience design, because I think we can
learn a lot from how people communicate within
these ecosystems, and potentially bring those
learnings into how we craft our audio user experiences. So come on a little
journey with me. I live in a home in Oakland. I have a wife of four years. I have a two-year-old son,
also known as Mr. Messy, as you can tell. And a four-year-old lab. So this is the audio user
experience within my home. So I’m going to play some sound
recordings of these individuals in the house here. So we’ll sample what
they sound like. – Hey, Connor. CONNOR MOORE: So
that’s my wife calling my name from across the room. – Dada. CONNOR MOORE: This is my son
calling my name in the house. [DOG BARKS] And my vicious dog Miles. I think he’s calling
my name, unsure. He got two syllables. So that’s good. So in isolation and moderation,
these sounds aren’t really going to drive any
forms of stress, or they’re not overly intrusive. But what about– [MANY SOUNDS] Right. When they’re all
firing at once, it’s going to kind of drive this
more stressful environment. If they happen over and over
again for long periods of time, it could actually trigger
our fight or light mode. So we, as humans, we don’t want
to experience these moments all the time, right? But unfortunately, our
soundscapes around us are a bit chaotic
and unpredictable, and we don’t have the ability
to always just press the mute button on these moments. But we do have this
opportunity to be very thoughtful and intentional
with designing our user experience designs. So this is what I call
considerate audio user experiences. So you might ask, what does
considerate design sound like? So I’ll show two
case studies for you guys today, the
first being Sense. So many of you guys be
familiar with this product. It is a sleep tracker
and a smart alarm that sits on your night
side table, and it’s able to essentially tell
you what is waking you up in a given night so you can
better curate your sleeping environment and become a
more productive person, sleep better, and just
overall be a happier person. So what really struck
me with this product is that when I was
researching with alarms, that’s the first thing you
experience in your day. Think about that for a second. That has the potential
to make a massive impact on your overall mood, right? So I didn’t want to [ALARM BUZZER] –create that. It’s a very intense sound. And what’s crazy is you
can still buy that alarm, go to Target and
buy it right now. And 10 years ago, that was
kind of the only option we had. So I wanted to create
something obviously unlike that, something
that was really bespoke to this product,
something that matched the ID, the look and feel,
what the brand was trying to communicate. So if you guys would
close your eyes, I’d like to simulate the
sleeping environment here and play some of these
examples for you. So you’ll notice these are
alarms evolve very gradually. They start very quiet to
wake up soft sleepers, and then they grow over
time and get louder to wake up heavier sleepers. So it covers a range of users. These also use a lot of silence
and space in the compositions. I learned through
research that the brain is attracted to new sounds
coming into the fold. So it’s a way to kind of
subliminally wake you up. You also notice these all use
softer timbre instrumentation and airy textures. So it really supports this
lighter waking up experience. Thanks, guys. You can open your eyes now. So what makes this
experience considerate? Well, as I mentioned, it
covers this range of sleepers. I was very
intentional about what is it that wakes up light
sleepers versus heavier sleepers, and how can
we essentially design a system that is not
a one size fits all. It really speaks to all
these different users. Number two, it uses space and
silence in the compositions. I wanted to actually
utilize space so people could sit there
and actually listen to them, and maybe stretch a little bit
instead of just jumping out of bed. And they’re a holistic,
cohesive soundscape. This is really important
with product design or any type of branding. You want something that ties
the entire experience together. So I didn’t showcase the UI
alerts or notifications either, but these are all
harmonize with one another. So if an alarm comes in and then
an alert rides in on top of it, it doesn’t bring dissonance
into the experience. And lastly, these are very
intentionally branded. They build an emotional
bond with the user. It’s an opportunity
for the brand to create something memorable. Because after all, these
people are investing their time and money into this product. So you might as well give
them something memorable. So the second case
study– unfortunately I’m unable to speak about the
brand, but I did get clearance to play some of the tones. And obviously it is a car. So I created in-car alerts
in UI and notifications. And for any type of app
or product experience, when you’re creating these
alerts and notifications, essentially you’re trying
to express and communicate a level of priority, or
a hierarchy of priority. But this is especially
true with the car, because some of these
moments are life or death. If you think about a
forward collision alert, if you’re not able to hear that
and respond really quickly, you could very well end
up in the back of a car. So it’s really
important that you’re able to communicate
these things. So simple– I wanted to create
alerts and notifications that are communicative
and expressive. So for low priority
alerts, I use lower pitch. These are more mellow tone. I use software softer
attack and longer decay. So these tend to be
much more elegant. So this is a ringtone. [RINGTONE] For medium priority alerts,
they step up slightly in pitch. They become a little
bit more percussive, but they really lean on this
idea of using repetition, because as seat belt
warnings go off, you guys know that if they don’t
turn off until you buckle in. So you will hear it eventually. [RINGTONE] And for high priority alerts,
these really shift up in pitch. So these fall in the
range of two kilohertz to five kilohertz, which
is the most sensitive area of human hearing. These become much
more percussive, and they use a rapid fire
three-note repetition. So this is a forward
collision alert. This is something you’re
going to hear that’s really going to grab your
attention, and you’re going to be able to react. [RINGTONE] So what makes this
experience considerate? Well, it is communicative
and expressive. We were very intentional
about working with the team at this
company and defining what does it mean
to be high priority, and how can we work with
a pitch range, the timbre of instrumentation,
the composition styles, to really communicate
this priority. Again, using space and
silence is always important across these
experiences, especially in the driver’s seat. A driver could be driving
and talking to someone and listening to music. So you don’t want to
clutter that environment. Lastly, they’re
simple and direct. They’re very communicative,
and the compositions are very simple to digest. Again, you don’t want to
throw too much information at the driver. You want them to be able to
focus on the task at hand. So in closing, I think there’s
many things that can make up considerate sound design. And obviously, we just looked
at what this means to me through these two case studies. And I think a lot of
those design principles hold a lot of water, and
can scale across many brand experiences. But ultimately, it’s
going to come down to what project you’re working on. It’s going to come
down to what’s the product you’re
working on, what’s the app, who’s the brand, and
ultimately, what are you trying to communicate to those people. As many people have mentioned
standing up here tonight, we have a real
opportunity to shape what the future of our sound
experiences sound like, and we have to start from
this zoomed out vision– the zoomed out vision of what
it means to be considerate, are we spending the
time upfront to be intentional and thoughtful in
crafting these experiences. And ultimately, I think it’s
so important that we do this so we can set this foundation
for considerate audio user experiences. So thank you guys very much. Appreciate it. [APPLAUSE] CONOR O’SULLIVAN: So
really interesting sounds and principles, approaches,
some really outstanding work there that you’re showing. And we’re just going to step
through a couple of questions here, and then we’d love
to hear some questions from the audience too. So seeing as how we’re here as
part of San Francisco Design Week and there’s a lot of
disciplines represented from various people, from things
like marketing, engineering, UX design of course– So I wanted to talk about
the process for how we engage with people in these
various disciplines, how you might approach a sound
design project with designers, or branding people,
or engineering. So what would make a good design
brief, and what would that contain as you begin working on
a new sound design challenge? ELAD MARISH: So I spoke to
this a little bit earlier when talking about Pixel, but
it’s great to talk to the team early on about what we’re
trying to achieve obviously, and to create a language that
both client and obviously designers can understand
around the parameters of sound. And it comes down to adjectives. It’s kind of like a
music brief in a way when we get a music brief. Is it warm? Is it fuzzy? Is it round? Is it modern? Is it vintage, antique, new
school, old school, high, low, these things that were
outlined throughout the talks? And achieving this
common language around sound which is
a non-verbal medium is, I think, paramount
to the process, and can get us going on our job. And once we understand,
we can grab the ball and be the labrador. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah, I’m
happy to speak to that as well. Yeah, the biggest thing
is what is the project and what are the project goals,
similar to what Elad said. A lot of times, what we
like to talk about when we talk with our
product teams is, what do you anticipate will
be the biggest challenge, and essentially how can we help? In many cases when
we’re producing sound– I think this is true for
probably many content creators– it’s sort of a service
industry, and we really want to help the product makers
make the best product they can. So getting ahead of where the
challenges are in the projects and sort of anticipating and
thinking of those as the big set pieces over the
course of the production. Where do we really
want to dig in, whereas where are the
things that we may have more familiarity and kind of
can get through a little easier and use existing expertise? So yeah, so that’s kind of– I think Elad had a lot
of great things to say, but I could add
that little nugget. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: How
about you, Connor? CONNOR MOORE: Yeah, so I
think it’s dependent also on kind of what project
you’re working on. If it’s UX driven,
obviously UX drives kind of what that
brief would look like. If we’re talking about it from
a lot of the bigger brand build out work I do, it
includes all those facets. And when that happens, just
getting a comprehensive brief on engineering
giving you the spec– What can we actually design for? What is the speaker capable of? And what’s the environment? So understanding that
from engineering side’s super important. Brand and marketing is
typically more the story side. So really understanding what
the communication points are is super important. And then the UX
side obviously is how do these things work
in actual application. What does the visual
system look like, and how can we best
map sound to that? But ultimately it
comes down to getting a comprehensive brief that is
explicit kind of on all fronts. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: OK. ELAD MARISH: Just wanted
to add how hard that is, because again, sound is
something we can’t talk about. Like, I had the CEO
of a company tell us that he didn’t want it to
sound like a dishwasher or a washing machine. What does that mean? So they know what they
want it not to sound like, but can you come up with
any common language of what you do want it to sound like? I want it to sound elegant. I want it to sound premium. What does that mean? So the closer we can get
to a common language. CONNOR MOORE: And I
don’t mean to derail it, but because going back
to the brief idea– often what I do
with companies when they have a brief that–
well, generally speaking, first stages with
the project is all about discovering what that
is, and working with the client about potentially
doing workshops. Like, OK, you have
these adjectives we’re trying to design to,
or just brand attributes from a visual language, but
what do those mean sonically, and kind of creating playlists
maybe of sound or music that can really translate
those things into sound. Because those initial phases
are so important because you’re really setting this foundation
of what these communications actually mean. So that’s a big part of what I
do in those initial phases is kind of workshop-based. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Great. And just from my own
experience of that, once the sound gets tagged
as the dishwasher sound, I think that’s forever going
to be the dishwasher sound. But I’d like you to think about
and share some things that have helped you to
get to where you are as influential
designers in the field. So one of the questions
I often get asked is, how do I get started in
product sound design, or in sound design in general? So what are some
things that have helped you get to where you
are, and what advice would you give someone who wants
to start down that path? CONNOR MOORE: Sure. I can go first. Yeah, when I got
started in my career, I feel like I got
very lucky, because I was able to meet some
pretty big design people at some agencies
in San Francisco. But this was 10 years ago. So it was different. Like, now I feel like you
can get out of school, and there’s agencies
or bigger companies that have these kind
of organizations you can get work at. But I linked in with some very
influential visual designers that kind of pulled me
into some experiences, which, quite
frankly at the time, I didn’t really know how to
do the work to be honest, because it wasn’t really
happening at a high level yet. But it was kind
of the first part of seeing product and brand
sound come to the forefront. And I said yes. I just kind jumped into the
fire and took the opportunity and ran with it, and that really
just opened a lot of doors. So I always recommend to
people getting started– I’m not a big fan of the fake
it till you make it thing, but sometimes you
just gotta jump in and take initiative, and just
take off and let it guide you. And you’ll figure it
out in the process. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. I’ll kind of piggyback on that. For sure, I think
the biggest piece for me was finding
people that inspired me in various communities–
entertainment, technology– and just hanging around
them while I was learning. And while I was hanging around
them, my network was growing. And opportunities would
pop up here and there, and like Connor said,
I’m always saying yes. I’m always showing up and
I’m kind of building trust with these people. So some of the earliest
studios that I started has built a
reputation for myself at, I’m pretty sure it was
like 50% super annoying that Kevin was always
there, but also super comforting that
Kevin was always there. I would be there, and that
reliability in our profession, it puts you a cut above
the rest right off the bat. So be consistent, and always be
learning and building things. So don’t wait for other folks. Don’t wait for opportunities
to come your way. If you’re really fired up about
product, or games, or film, and you can’t find a team that
wants to hire you to do sound for it, commission that team. Find a way to do it. Do it with equity. Tell them that you
can’t pay them now, but the next project will
definitely have funding, and it probably will. And in the process of
generating the steam there, you’re going to be, again,
growing your network, growing your skill set, and
growing your reputation. So I think just being
proactive, working hard. ELAD MARISH: Yeah,
I completely agree. A prominent Hollywood
composer once told me when someone asked
him how to get into the gig, he said, is there anything
else you’d rather do? Anything at all? And there’s a little
bit of that with audio. It didn’t land like
I thought it would. But there’s something
to it, because you need to be incredibly
passionate, and you need to have
skin in the game, and you need to hustle
really, really hard. And if someone emails me
once, I won’t pay attention. But if someone emails
me two or three times, I might pay attention. And if they’re really
good, and they’re really persistent
and really talented, then I will pay attention. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Good. Some great advice there. So you’re all part of a group
of specialists and boutique agencies that are vital,
and that often partner with big companies, tech
companies, and non-tech, on various design projects. So I’m interested to know what
are some things that companies who want to work with you
should maybe do differently, or what are some
things that they should know if they’re
interested in partnering with you on a project. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. I’ll take this one to start. We, very much like
you said, work with sort of the
biggest companies out there, which is
a great opportunity. And companies like ours,
or boutique companies, we’re always stoked to join
the fold and jump on great IP and get on the
cutting edge of tech. But there’s a few things that
I think the big companies can do better. And the number one
thing for me is I want those
companies– and this is a tough– it’s tough
to request here, because oftentimes you’re
working with great people at these companies, and they
only have so much control and so much power
to make change. But what I would love to
see is sort of a capacity to grow and learn
from the boutiques and the specializations,
and develop some institutional memory
for experiences with us. So it’s such a bummer for
little companies like us, for us to put time
into long product cycles with, say, a
team at a big company, and then work with a
slightly different team at that same big company, and
they don’t remember anything, they don’t know
anything about us. So part of it is the ability
to learn, and part of it is the ability maybe to
communicate maybe horizontally. And I think Connor,
you’re probably doing great work at Google
that’s evidence of that. But that’s sort of that
horizontal communication pipeline that’s on a
disciplinary level. So having audio communication
through a company, or having visual communication
through a company. I’m seeing great steps
being made in that regard, but I would love to just
see it kind of pile in. ELAD MARISH: Yeah. And I would say
these companies got to where they are by taking
risks on an engineering side, or on a development
side, or something to rise above the noise– no pun intended–
and I would like to see these companies
take similar risks when engaging with us. I find that oftentimes
at the end of the day, there is either someone
at the top that says, here’s how it should
be, or the sounds end up feeling safe or expected. So I would love to see a
little bit more risk taking on the audio side. CONNOR MOORE: Yeah. I mean, kind of piggybacking
on what Kevin was saying about having this
horizontal communication, it’s super important. And it kind of goes back
to Conor’s earlier question about the briefs, of having
that open line of communication between engineering,
design, branding, marketing. It’s just super important. For projects in this work to
be long lasting, whether it be for any of those
mediums or all of them, there really needs to be that
open line of communication. And ultimately, the
UX should be telling a story which is
helping the branding, and the branding
can think about how the UX can play into their
marketing materials, which is going to build equity. Engineering is worried
about how are they going to sound in this product. That is going to influence
what you can do in design. So it all circles
back upon each other. So just that line of
communication is so important. And similarly, it
is getting better. It’s getting a lot better. So that’s a great thing,
but I think you can always continue to get better. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Interesting. So it sounds like some
institutional learning, communication, and risk taking. Some good lessons there
to take away, I think. I’m also interested
to hear if you could give an example, a
notable example, of a product sound design experience
that you admire, but you didn’t
design it yourself. So if you could pick
one, what would it be? CONNOR MOORE: I can start again. So are you guys
familiar with Jambox? I’m sure you are. But I remember when
that product came out. And obviously I
didn’t work on it, but I imagine the brief
was something like– it’s a small, portable speaker. It’s pretty affordable. But it’s really powerful
and it sounds great. Because most
speakers of that size are going to sound tinny and
not good on a low frequency spectrum, like bass
on the low end. But the boot up
sound of that product has a very distinct run
from really low pitch up to a high pitched tone, and
it really kind of showcases the power of the speaker. And that’s the first
moment the user does. They boot it up obviously. So when I first received it and
I turned it on, I was shocked. It has this really nice
low frequency content. Like, wow, this is
a very strong point of communication
to the buyer who just bought this that’s like,
oh, wow, this thing does– it is a really powerful
speaker, and it is portable, and it is affordable. So I think that’s a really great
example of good product sound. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Cool. Yeah, that’s a good example. KEVIN DUSABLON: I know what the
sound is, and I totally agree. And I’m not sure if it’s
the same speaker or not, but there’s another
Bluetooth speaker, or a Bluetooth
speaker, that when it does Bluetooth pairing– I think Mike has the speaker– it has kind of like a little
conga, like a [NOISE],, and it’s super nice and
also full frequency, and it’s like a
constant reminder that this thing is
not a piece of junk. And it’s great, and I just
feel like for a brand, that’s super valuable. And though, here I am not
knowing what the brand is. So maybe not so great but. Maybe the brand, on the visual
side, maybe just the brand should be a little bit bigger. One that actually I
picked up very recently, it’s a very new product,
is the Oculus Quest. So I’m one of those
super VR hopefuls. I’m like waiting
for it to catch. I want it to be great, and I’ve
played on a lot of headsets. But I have to say that the
Quest, as soon as you put it on, all of the
sounds makes sense. They’re balanced. There’s sort of a
sound when you’re in setup mode that lets you know
persistently– it’s like a pad. It’s always on, and
it lets you know when you’re in setup you
kind of have more to do. There’s just a lot of
thoughtful intentional sound. And then from the deployment
hardware standpoint, it’s fantastic as well. So when you put it on, you
hear stereo effectively, but you’re not
wearing headphones. And it doesn’t have a lot of low
frequency response initially, but it is kind of
a small device. But it has a great stereo
field, and it’s very clean, and in fact, when you do kind of
multi-user use with the device, dialog, like,
other folks’ voice, comes through better on this
device than I’ve heard it on any pair of headphones
to date, which, to me, it blows my mind. So yeah, the Oculus
Quest is fantastic. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Cool. Elad, I suspect you
might be a bit more of a skeptic for this question. ELAD MARISH: I’m a
bit of a skeptic. So I’m an iPhone user, because
as an audio professional I have a million Apple products
and computers and so forth. And I’ve always used the
same ringtone Old Phone on iPhone, which totally
dates you and sounds terrible, because it’s one of
the only ringtones I could hear on this phone. But in the most recent iteration
of the device, the ringtone I was happy to discover
after searching through the whole
bin, I found one that is tied into the
haptics in the phone. So it actually matches– the ringtone is matched
up with the vibration when it vibrates on the table, and
I’m really into that design. The fact that they
married sound and haptics together seems like a
really obvious idea, but they didn’t really nail
it until this iteration. So that’s my example. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Nice. So multi-sensory design there. So we’re going to
open up to everyone. And if you have a
question, I believe that Nicole is running
around with a microphone. And please raise your hand if
you’d like to ask a question. AUDIENCE: Hello, panel. Thank you so much for
this awesome talk. It was really cool hearing a
little bit about how important a story is as well as
discernible dialogue, and how the idea of
having sounds for states. As a UX designer, I’m
super interested in hearing a little bit more
about what frameworks we’re using to
better communicate this vision with design. So are there any frameworks that
we’re using for sound playback, for example, that provide
any transformations or DSP on the sound
as it’s played back in the app or service? That’s super interesting to me. At StubHub, I’m always
interested in figuring out how the sound design
can get somebody to convert better
in, for example, selling or buying a ticket. But in games, it’s like a
totally different world where I have things like stereoscopy. I have things like delay. Could you tell me
more about that? KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. So I have a fair amount
of interactive experience. And so game audio
middleware such as Wwise, Fmod that plug into game
engines like Unity and Unreal. Those– Wise I’ll pick
on in particular– is a fantastic product
that does do real time DSP, it effects on content, it
runs relatively lightweight, and it has just two decades
of great engineering. Sony just bought Wise. So I think we’re all waiting
to see how that product evolves as a result, but
it sounds like it’s going to survive as a pretty
strong player in the space. And I’d recommend
folks to play with it and package it with your
binaries if you can. They have pretty affordable
packages and stuff like that. But I would say that one
thing, if there are engineers in the audience, that I’m
always kind of yearning for as a designer is the
infrastructure that powers a lot of the experiences that we
are trying to bring to market, whether on a phone, or
whether on a smart speaker. The underlying infrastructure
on the code side often does just doesn’t support
DSP runtime game engines, or even bespoke
ones that you might be able to pull on an
engineer and work with. So as much as I would
encourage people to go out and use Wise
and tools like it, personally, I do really want
to see engineering work done on the platform and
infrastructure sides on the tech side to
just support a wider range of tools in the space. CONNOR MOORE:
Thinking about also– it’s not– the actual abilities
to do that with certain devices now is very challenging. But I think moving
forward, I think there’s going to be many
capabilities around that. And I think there’s
a ton of power in this idea of adaptive audio. I mean, just from a
simple idea, imagine you have an app on
your cell phone, and it can immediately sense
when it goes in your pocket. So it gets louder,
or the cue changes to where it cuts through
kind of environmental sound or through your pocket. So when it’s out, it
can actually be quieter. So these adaptive elements that
will hopefully be more at play very soon will be super
powerful moving forward. AUDIENCE: My name’s Rafael,
and you talked a lot about organizations that
have like a big sound design infrastructure, or pretty
big professional sound design teams. I was wondering if you had
any advice on introducing like sound design into an
organization that is not really like a sound design culture,
that is very open to it, but just doesn’t have
the infrastructure. ELAD MARISH: I think that’s
why we exist as vendors, because I’m not certain that
most companies know what it takes or know how to bring
those folks into their matrix and into their design structure. Or else, we also are used
to running really quickly as vendors and really lean. So I don’t know if I
answered your question. Something crazy is going on. CONOR O’SULLIVAN:
Speaking of sound. ELAD MARISH: But I
think it’s a challenge. And yeah, someone turn that off. I think it’s a
challenge, and I think it’s very, very dependent
on each company’s culture and what they’re
willing to assume or not assume into their culture KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah,
just a quick one on that, just a
couple of anecdotes– one, I create lots of docs and
send them to lots of people all the time. So I sort of
saturate my channels at the bigger companies with
audio information all the time. I send white papers. I create white papers. I’m just sort of busy
on that front in hopes that I will spark
and get a signal. Because I think Elad’s right. Like, we exist, and we will
continue to exist for a reason. But if a company is open to
knowing more and handling sound better, we want to foster
that as much as possible so that we just
have more resources to do our job, whether
on the technical side to the last question,
or on the taking risk side to Elad’s earlier point. We really want to sort of
acclimate those companies and let them know
what’s possible and kind of spark
their imagination. AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. You shared a lot about some
principles and frameworks around sound design,
and something that I’m kind of
curious about is, what are some considerations
that you make in your work around accessibility? ELAD MARISH: Can you elaborate
a little bit more for the crowd on what accessibility
means to you? AUDIENCE: I guess in
terms of accessibility, like people of all abilities. ELAD MARISH: It’s a stumper. CONNOR MOORE: Well, I
think project specific, and then also playback
system specific for people that
might have hearing loss or something like that. You’re definitely often
taking into consideration those things for
people that might have a hearing loss of kind of
what frequencies work better for them. There tends to be a roll
off in the high frequency end and the low frequency end. So yeah, we’re
thinking about how we shape these tones in
these types of environments, and also adapting
to generally what’s going to cut their environmental
noise for everyone. Another thing
about accessibility is a recent project
I worked on, it touches a massive
amount of people. It’s a KQED, who’s an NPR
affiliate for Northern California. And the listener group and base
is a massive listener base. So with that work, we wanted to
make it accessible to generally anybody, and wanted to
make that work, something that anyone could appreciate,
and not super strong point of view on it. So yeah, I can
definitely say certainly thinking about accessibility
issues and stuff like that in these spaces for sure. ELAD MARISH:
There’s also, again, the opportunity for a
multi-sensorial engagement, like haptics and
sound, or when you see the strobe go off with
the phone ring for grandmas and so forth. Yeah. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. So kind of related to it, I
will say that one of the points that I actually cut
from my slide deck, just because I didn’t
kind of have enough time to keep talking your ear off,
one of the big points that’s important to me as a designer
is program management. And this kind of, again, speaks
to some of the material design work that Conner has
been doing, and it’s about maintaining
an ecosystem for all of the experiences on
a particular platform, and having a set of standards. And like I said,
it’s kind of related, but if experiences aren’t kind
of regulated to some extent, if there is no
adherence to spec, things play back too quietly,
and people might not even realize their sound
because it’s too low. People might be
wearing headphones, kids might be
wearing headphones, and you might have
a mobile app that didn’t adhere to a standard,
and it comes flying and hot. And then you have the
potential for hearing damage, and a child might not know
that it’s too loud for them. So program management,
especially in the technology and software and
hardware world, where it’s not quite as established
as in film and broadcast, is crucially important,
because it’s still kind of the wild, wild west. And only a few folks
like Conner are sort of really digging in and
trying to get that message out there. So that’s a big
note that I, again, would love to see the design
community kind of run with. AUDIENCE: To build on this,
I had a similar question about accessibility,
but thinking about a continuum of ability. And we’re getting more
sophisticated tools on the visual side. So we know things
like we have tools to gauge whether something
is high enough contrast to be visible to a wide
range of visual users. And we know we have rules
that we’ve learned now around making sure that we
don’t communicate something by color only. Reinforcing it with a
visual change like an icon or something that
can be seen that doesn’t rely entirely on color. So I was curious whether you
are starting to see projects, especially for consumer devices
or things that you can touch, where you think about this
continuum of ability for sound, where– I’m really glad you
brought up haptics, because actually, while I was
waiting here, I got a call, and I responded to it,
and there was no sound. So I think I’m in the same way
that visual and guidelines have been provided for
designers around contrast and around color, we
just have these rules and it’s extremely helpful. I’m curious whether on
the sound design side, especially for
consumer products, are you starting to hear
that as a consideration? CONNOR MOORE: I think so. A lot of the last
part of products that I, or projects
I worked on work on with different
companies, I often provide audio guidelines that are
similar to brand guidelines, but they also talk about– they talk about the
thinking process of what are we trying
to communicate, who are you trying
to communicate to, what are these kind
of brand personas or attributes we’re
trying to express. But also, it gets into that
more engineering side of, in my presentation,
talking about low priority versus high priority alerts
and how we compose those based on how people
listen in environments. So yeah, as I mentioned, a lot
of the last part of projects with me is essentially creating
documents for companies that they can have and that
they can continue to use, and that can inform the
remainder of products they might have coming
out shortly after as well. ELAD MARISH: And if I want
to be maverick about it, I feel like with
sound, a lot of times we don’t know until we hear it. And it’s trial and
error and exploration, because ultimately
we’re trying to give a personality to the sound. And so how do you
define that personality? It’s going back
to the adjectives. You’re shaping and sculpting. And yeah, we can look
at an oscilloscope, and we can look at
frequency response, and we can look at the
science, but it’s ultimately we’re creating a
personality and almost a persona to these
sounds when you think of these
modern notifications, from Whatsapp, to Slack, to
Skype, to all these products. So sometimes it’s
darts on the dartboard. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. I’ll just add that we use our
ears professionally, right? So it’s largely about– intelligibility is sort
of our number one mission. Whether it’s dialogue, or
whether it’s sound effects, or music, we want to really use
the full frequency spectrum, and we want to really
make things pop and punch. So part of it is mixing,
just mixing thoughtfully, and really using our ears
and using our experience. Another piece, though,
is having a product that supports what we imagine. So that has to do with having
a sound team on early enough so that they can influence
the speaker that’s chosen, because realizing
that soundscape does have a lot of dependencies in
the consumer product world, both on the software
and the hardware side. So that’s kind of it. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: Yeah. I’ll just add there are
objective and subjective measurements that can be made. And if you’re referring
to a specific project, I would definitely
recommend engaging with a psychoacoustics expert. AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m Zilka. Thanks a lot for
all the information. I’m a huge Android
ring phone fan. So what I usually do
in a normal environment is like I go through
all the ringtones. And cannot decide for one. I chose the one
you played today. But I also have a slight
hearing impairment. I never went to a doctor, but
I know that from a friend. And that’s also
annoying for them. For me, it would be just
like a super little step, super helpful, because
I’m not educated in what people hear better or not. So I don’t know, actually,
that higher frequencies its something I hear better. So it will help if you
just put it in the name, like, hearing impaired. That’s not a good name, but
that would be super great. Just a little thing. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: That’s
a great suggestion. KEVIN DUSABLON:
There is a field of– so this is something
that hopefully will become more prolific. So in VR, and AR,
and mixed reality, there is this notion of HRTF, or
Head Related Transfer Function. It has to do with the
actual physical distance between our ears and
the shape of our ears, and how the reflections
in a given environment are interpreted. And there has been
talk about essentially creating custom
profiles for people that are HRTF custom profiles. So essentially you would go in
and you would have your HRTF profile mapped, and
there would be something you’d be able to load onto
some kind of pair of headphones or an operating system. So I’m kind of hoping
that there’s a little bit more signal folks
like yourself are kind of pushing that forward. But there is definitely
a field of science there, and it can create just
a better experience, even for a traditional
listener, because again, it translates what a
sound designer’s trying to convey kind of universally
overall here listeners. AUDIENCE: Hey. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I have two questions. One is regarding why don’t we
see more sound used in apps. Because in any game you
play, every tab, every click, everything has a sound effect. But in apps there is no sound,
except for like Facebook apps. They put like notification
sounds, which is annoying, and everybody wants to annoy
you with notifications, but they don’t use sound like
in other places I notice. Where do you think sounds
could be used in apps? And second question is, I really
am fascinated by sonification. Any books or any resources
to learn about sonification? CONNOR MOORE: So I think
it’s dependent for the app question about why
they don’t add as much sound on apps as games. I think it’s
dependent on the app and like what the brand
is trying to communicate ultimately, right? Facebook, you said,
for example, has kind of more touch
sound, things like that, more just feedback,
generally speaking. And I think part of that is the
demographic they’re reaching is a bit younger. So they want to probably
gamify the experience a bit more, whereas some other
apps might be a bit more just pulled back from a design
sense, and more clean, right? So I guess every app is going
to be different on how much or how little sound it will use. I think it’s very specific
to that particular company or that particular brand. As far as books, Sonic
Branding is a great entry book into the field of
audio branding. It was written
about 10 years ago, but that’s kind of a classic,
classic book to read. ELAD MARISH: Yeah. I would just add
that these companies are incredibly intentional. So getting any
sounds into that app is a huge ladder of approvals. And yeah, so it’s a miracle
when a sound gets picked. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah, just
one book is Universal Sense. It is a fantastic book. It’s pretty deep, pretty heady,
but all kinds of great stuff, and very applicable. AUDIENCE: I wonder
if you could identify some dangerous or unhealthy
behaviors around sound that humans have, and what
you think the risk is. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. Music is too loud, man. I mean, I have kids. I’m old. But I mean, music is
genuinely too loud. So there is a topic that maybe
some people have heard of. It’s called the loudness war. It’s genuine. It’s a real thing. It’s a field of
study now, and it has to do with generally how
records were made in the ’90s primarily, and just continuous
driving up of sound. Systems play it back to loud,
and music also loses dynamics, and audio loses dynamics. The louder the music is
presented on the whole, the less dynamic range
it has, and the more it’s getting squashed at
the top, and therefore, the less information
and the less drama you can sort of
author into sound. So there’s a creative
risk right off the bat. And of course, yeah,
hearing is precious. And after being in this
field for many years, playing in bands
for many years, I can say that I would definitely
support a PSA for the kids. Preserve your hearing. Turn it down. But one of the cool things
about things like electric cars and a lot of the things
that Connor was talking about in his speech
about turning the world down a little
bit is UX sound design, and the proliferation of sort
of audio in our environment, and devices becoming more
auditorily responsive is that we do now finally kind
of have a chance to cure it. And maybe V8s are going to go
away, because gas is expensive and electric cars will come in. And so I’d like to think the
world is getting quieter, but yeah, there are
some risks currently. ELAD MARISH: I’ll piggyback
on that really quick and say that there
our urban ambient environment is too loud. Our BART trains are too loud. Being a pedestrian next
to air brakes on a truck and squealing brakes on a truck
goes above the safe level. I’m that guy who holds his ears
shut when I’m on my bicycle and a truck goes by, because
I know it’s going to affect my work if I don’t. So these are important
considerations, especially when you have
kids and they’re exposed to these ambient sounds. CONNOR MOORE: I think
another space that has a lot of room for
improvement is hospital spaces. You go into a hospital
room, and there’s multiple devices
that are constantly beeping at these people,
which does drive stress, and it drives these moments of– depending on what
level of stress it could be an annoyance. But these people
that are in hospitals are people that need to be in
a relaxing environment, a place that they feel comfortable in. So I think there’s
a ton of improvement that can happen in our hospitals
of curating those spaces. But as these guys mentioned,
I think just like the ambient soundscapes that we see every
day are generally very, very loud. So yeah, there’s many health
risks, I think, ultimately. AUDIENCE: Have you designed
a physical object that moves? So simplest one could be
the sound of a light switch, and a complex one could
be the motor or drone or something with robot arms. And if you have,
it would be great if you could share
the experience, because I think I find it
it’s a super difficult– it’s completely different
potential, but it is a part of the experience. CONOR O’SULLIVAN:
Physical object sound? ELAD MARISH: Yeah,
so a synthesizer is capable of designing any
sound in our physical world. So a competent sound
designer should be able to sit
with a synthesizer and design any sound, from
a trumpet, to a piano, to a light switch. CONNOR MOORE: Yeah. I mean, Elad kind of nailed it. I mean, you can
really recreate kind of any sound that is
in the natural world pretty well through synthesis. And within UX,
too, like, there’s opportunities to do skeuomorphic
types of design, which is incorporating potentially
Foley into that as well, although there’s
been a movement away from some of that
skeuomorphic design, but yeah. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. I would just say that
this is the most fun thing we have to design– movement. There is an exponential
amount of ways to express it, skeuomorphic is a great example. And for me, I think, again,
you kind of hit it on the head here, skeuomorphic is like
not cool, and then very cool, and then not cool. I mean, it swings. Seriously, just
throw it in the mix, because it might
be cool that day, and you might find the
product teams really like it. So I would say just get
crazy with things that move. Film is just killer at this. Look at some of the
best sound designers. Look at those sound
designers at Skywalker, and listen to moving
objects in “Star Wars,” and it’s wild what a
TIE Fighter sounds like. It sounds like an animal. So you can kind
of pull anything. I would just say just
have a blast with it. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: And
just to add, [INAUDIBLE],, there’s a whole range of– there’s a discipline of sound
design sound sensors called physical modeling, which
might be interesting to you, which specifically tries to
take in the physics of an object and how that would sound. AUDIENCE: And what I
was going to ask is– you touched a little bit on
like designing for AR/VR, and that’s like
specialized audio, right? But like, have you ever
designed for something where it’s not necessarily– where it’s like just sources
in the physical world, like you have a bunch of devices
in your home that make noises, and how do you approach
that design problem? Like, designing a
sound environment that you don’t
necessarily control. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah,
that’s really tricky. I think, again, I’m
going to pick on Connors talk here a little
bit, Connor Moore. You got into this
a little about not being able to control
that soundscape, and I’d like to think that
were on the precipice. So now that we have
microphones as well as speakers on so many things, and we
have intelligent OSs running on everything and cloud
support for assets, there’s absolutely no reason
why we can’t essentially be measuring the environment. So our headphones currently
do this and our phones do this pretty well. They do echo cancellation. They’re always measuring
the ambient environment, and they’re always
EQing your voice in. So that as you’re
speaking, if you’re on BART and it’s loud as
heck, your voice is still coming through on
that call in many cases. So there’s a lot of work
being done in that way. But in terms of the
sort of the cacophony, and trying to can control the
cacophony in a space, yeah, I think that that’s
a tricky one. I don’t know that will
ever quite solve that, because we can never make
everybody by all Google products or Apple products. So we don’t know that we’ll
have control over that. But maybe, again, back to your
work with material and program management, maybe we
will start to develop a standard for especially
in-home sound ecosystems. And I think there’ll
be great things. I think there’s a lot of work
to be done in that space. CONNOR MOORE: Yeah,
kind of piggybacking on what Kevin was
talking about, we might not have that much
control over this yet, but from a pure brand
standpoint, the brands themselves should be
really considering what these multiple devices
are sounding like and how can they potentially
harmonize together. I know it kind of beats around
your question a little bit, but this is actually
pretty new, I think, that companies are really
thinking holistically, because they’re developing
products faster. The technology is constantly
advancing so quick, and I think companies are
really seeing this opportunity to say, OK, wow, this is cool. We have an ecosystem
of devices, let’s have them speak the same language,
harmonize with one another, have similar
instrumentation, and have an overall kind of
cohesive DNA that carries you through
an experience and might even tell a story. But similar to what
Kevin said, you might have Amazon,
Google products, and how will that work
out in the future? Who knows. But I do think that idea of an
actual like format of how that would play out in
an in-home system would be really fascinating. AUDIENCE: How do you
feel about UX design kind of prioritizing
user control and giving the user the
option to kind of mute or turn off sound? How do you navigate
that sort of situation? CONNOR MOORE: I
think it’s great. I think you should
give personalization. Sound is something
that’s really subjective. From our birth, we are
around sound constantly. With music, you form
opinions about sound I think in ways that other
mediums you don’t, right? Everyone kind of has an
opinion on what types of music they like, and that
shifts over time. So sound is just the same. In the context of product,
I’m just very, very sensitive about, generally
speaking, less is more, because people have
very strong opinions, and we have to be careful about
how much we’re bombarding them. So I think personalization in
that context is a great thing. I mean, at the end
of the day, the user has to decide what
they’re going to play when they’re going to play it. And if they have that
power, that’s fantastic. KEVIN DUSABLON: Yeah. I will just quickly say–
a little devil’s advocate on that– I agree, and I
think that there’s an accessibility
perspective on that that’s like non-negotiable. And I think that
curation is great, subjectivity is as a thing, but
it really is medium specific. So I think in some cases– this in itself is subject
kind of to opinion– but if you’re someone that
likes to go to a restaurant and get what the chef
makes, or if you’d like to pick from many,
many pages from a diner, I tend to be more of like I want
to taste what the chef makes. That’s just my feeling. So I think that there should
be experiences out there, even UX experiences,
that you get what’s made. You get how it’s built.
You hear it how it’s made. So again, just playing
devil’s advocate, I think there’s room
for both, but yeah. CONOR O’SULLIVAN: OK, great. That’s all the time we have. So, Kai, did you want to say
anything to wrap things up? KAI HALEY: Yeah. Thank you all. Thank you so much. It was really
wonderful to have you. I learned so many
new terms tonight that I’m going to go look
up and learn more about. So I just wanted to thank
you all for joining us. And thank you all
for joining us. Join us for next month
for Design is Curious. So have a wonderful evening. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]


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