How about a Sound and Smell Tasting session?

In both professional and academic settings I’ve had good success helping non-designers partially "get" what the whole design/brand/quality/experience furball is all about just by having them bring in their favorite object and then talk a bit about what makes it good.  There’s something about the process of having to articulate mushy subjects like quality, heft, smell, taste, and feel that wakes the formerly dormant "goodness sensitivity" gene in people.  Deep down inside our modern brain, we all know what good is all about, but somewhere along the line we forget how to listen to our senses.  It’s there, can you here it whispering?

I’ll never forget the time a co-worker brought a piece of her underwear (okay, okay — it was just a t-shirt) to one of these meetings.  She spoke from the heart about why this was the absolute best undergarment in the world for her.  It taught everyone in the room about quality in a deep way, and we just couldn’t have gotten there via PowerPoint.

A little while ago I wrote yet another episode in my "Sound Matters" series.  It generated some good feedback and ideas: 

  • Ryan suggested that we also add "smell" to products to push them over the top.  Absolutely, man!  I got a whiff of a 1962 Porsche 356 the other day, and it smelled like Germany!!  Now that’s what I call brand essence!  What if you could buy a new 911 that really smelled the way a Porsche should, instead of smelling exactly the same as a 2005 Camry?
  • Valentin came up with the nifty, nifty idea of holding a "sound tasting" party.  I can just imagine it: you walk into a room, you get blindfolded, and then you listen to a series of 20 or so vintage mechanical cameras being put through the paces…  Voigtlaender Bessamatic, Leica II, Exakta Varex VX IIa, Robor Star…. it would be an aural fiesta, a feast for the ears.  The sound of quality.

I think design thinkers need to be able to feel design quality in their bones.  Why not hold a sound and smell tasting party of your own?

1 thought on “How about a Sound and Smell Tasting session?

  1. I like this post. It strikes home. I especially like the way you teach this truth by setting aside the linear of the PowerPoint and moving into an experiential model of learning. I think it was Martin Luther that said “God gave us five senses, it would be a sin to use anything less”. Not an exact quote but you get the notion.

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