Engaging The Senses with Experience Design
Posted May 31, 2018
In Sound and Communication’s IT/AV Report, Michael Luck Schneider, an ESI Design Senior Designer and AV Technologist, discusses how experience design interfaces with physical space through multiple senses:
Every good designer knows that the more senses an experience engages, the more powerful the experience will be. This power comes from the way our brain naturally leverages all our senses to orient ourselves in space and learn about our environment. When the senses provide contradictory information, we become confused and disoriented, or simply stop paying attention. But, when all the information from different sensory channels lines up, we learn more effectively, pay closer attention and feel experiences more deeply.
Sensory integration design involves coordinating the audio, visual, architectural and experiential elements of a space to create a unified sensory experience for the users. Thanks to new advances in motion sensors, computer-controlled speakers, real-time generative software and interactive media, designers can integrate sensory experiences in more controlled and creative ways than ever before. At ESI Design, we try to create experiences that activate as many senses as possible, and we enhance the power of those experiences by ensuring the sensory elements all work toward a single design goal. Two of our projects—the Shanghai Dream Cube and the lobby installation at Terrell Place in Washington DC—exemplify how we use sensory integration design to form connective tissue between the architecture and the people in it.
The Shanghai Dream Cube project remains illustrative of ESI Design’s approach to activating the senses. The experience, built for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, covered 40,000 square feet, with an exterior covered completely in LEDs and an interior path that featured a retelling of an ancient Chinese parable about a philosopher who dreamed he was a butterfly. ESI designed the interactive moments along the path to reflect this tale, with animated butterflies, pools of interactive LED reeds and sculptural lighting moments guiding the visitors.
Sensory integration experiences began as soon as visitors entered the Dream Cube. From the moment that they stepped through the doors, visitors rose into the cube on an escalator that paired dynamic lighting with ambient music. On the escalator, the light was tightly choreographed to the movement of the escalator and the soundscape matched both the movement and the lights, delivering a cohesive, immersive experience. The main hall featured a recreation of Shanghai’s agricultural past, with the three-dimensionally layered media walls extending into the ceiling, as well as environmental lighting to extend the experiential story off the wall and into the full environment. Hundreds of channels of audio delivered a fully spatialized experience along the entire journey, as the audio both connected to the media and responded to visitors’ interactions.