sound + objects
[Skills used: Sound design, acoustic research, sound modeling, 3D modeling, animation]
When object are designed, the look of a door might drive the material it’s made of. But the sound it makes when it closes rarely dictates the material.
sound + objects explores objects designed acoustically first, and produces a basic guide on the considerations made that determined the form and materials.
In the end, the objects can look odd, or quite normal, but they show how this method results in a more thoughtful contribution to the soundscape.
Note: this project was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague”
- Robert Koch, Nobel Prize winning physician, 1905
Wave Washing Machine
Washing machines were noted amongst all home appliances to be a source of unpleasant sound.
A machine could be made wider, with a sloping inside and wave generating paddle. In this way, the sound of the waves crashing on the beach could be imitated.
Low Frequency Noise Effects
Numerous studies including ones from the German state environmental agency have concluded that low frequency noise exposure contributes to stress, agitation, hypertension, cognitive impairment, and poor cardiovascular health.
Pink noise, where power decreases as frequency increases, is one of the most common biological signals. Occurring in your heartbeat for example, and ocean waves crashng. Research shows it has a positive effect on mental wellbeing.
The natural motion of waves serves to agitate clothing, similar to a motorized spin, to help release dirt and clean the fabrics.
The sound of cutlery and dinnerware is ranked as one of the highest triggers for people with misophonia.
Using the principles of singing bowls, computational acoustic design, and materials, the ambience of a restaurant can be controlled.
Fork Screech Analysis
Fork shape and tines play a significant role in the tones produced, with straighter, thicker tines being less chaotic.
Glass interaction makes the worst sound, and stoneware generates the largest energy vibration.
Computational Sound Design
Research from MIT and Harvard, along with the work of Yamaha researcher Kazuhiko Yamamoto, have developed models for computing acoustics of objects based on their shape.
Using the same principles of acoustic resonance used in violin design, the tube air pressure and be calculated to produce richer tones.
As a necessity of their function, microwaves are loud at almost every part of their use. The loud ping of the door opening, the food clinking on the rotating plate, the door slamming closed, the beeping panel, and the whirring fan.
By addressing each source of noise, we can find a more pleasant replacement.
Asymmetrical, non uniform fan blades are able to reduce noise when in motion. We find these in products like Apple Macs, and Muji low noise fans.
Choke Joint and Loud Latch
Microwaves need to seal properly to prevent microwaves escaping. Previously relaying on a gasket, microwaves now use a choke joint. but this is couple with a cheap, loud latch to seal.
De-beep Your Microwave
Piezoelectric buzzers are cheap and easy to produce, and as such our microwaves have become inundated with unpleasant beeping sounds.
There are countless guides on how to “de-beep” your microwave.
sound + objects was likely prompted by my own intolerance of noise in the world. While taking a sound design class, I became obsessed with the concept of the soundscape, and our contribution to it as designers. I read the book "The Tuning of The World" by Murray Schafer to better understand the acoustic ecology of our world.
“The collection of biological, geophysical and anthropogenic sounds that emanate from a landscape and which vary over space and time reflecting important ecosystem processes and human activities.
- Murray Schafer, composer and teacher concerned with “acoustic ecology,” 1977
It seems that our contribution to the greater soundscape is responsible for a myriad of issues. Anxiety, stress, poor cardiovascular health, and environmental damage can all be attributed to the anthropophonic segment.
Redesign with acoustics in mind
I decided to redesign objects from an acoustics first lens, to demonstrate how the world might look different. This initially yielded many concepts.
Once the concepts were decided, I tested materials and analyzed their acoustic properties to prove my ideas could work.
Acoustic Object Design
With my research findings as a guide, I set about designing the objects to illustrate each concept.
A series of animated vignettes were created to illustrate each concept visually and audibly, using the sound design recordings from my research.
Unfortunately this project was interrupted by the pandemic, which resulted in a lack of access to materials and collaborative efforts to break down. As such, this project mostly exists as a proof of concept.