Kenya Hara On Sensory Design


What if we designed for all of our senses? Suppose, for a moment, that sound, touch and smell were treated as the equals of sight, and that emotion was as important as cognition. In 1980, one of Belgium’s tourist attractions, a famous coastline tram route, introduced new trams to replace the outdated wobbly and rattling models. Although passengers were reported to enjoy the smooth experience of the comfortable new trams, records in the first year after introducing the improved tram showed a significant increase in the number of severe tram accidents. An analysis of these accidents indicated that the approaching tram was so silent that pedestrians were unaware of the dangers. Eventually, a redesign was made that used synthetically produced sounds to alert pedestrians. This example does illustrate that improving the input to a single sense may lead to an unwanted decrease in performance for another sense and, thereby, decrease the performance of the design as a whole.

The main purpose of this study is to discuss the influence of sensory design on people’s daily lives, through case studies of some successful projects that focus on tactile perception. It explores in detail the importance of the concept of the haptic by introducing some examples of production design from an exhibition produced by Kenya Hara. Finally it examines how multi-sensory design contributes to the user’s experience.

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