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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Empathic design to music

First, here's a site update:

I finally uploaded my current portfolio. This is the one that I was talking about in the September 25th post. I also updated my resume with my new address in New Jersey. What an exciting time this is. Hopefully, the next post will include pictures of my new apartment.

Now for the article:

In school, we had an assignment to draw various shapes and forms on large newsprint while listening to a specific of music. The goal was to develop a "speed shape" based on our gestural motions while listening to classical and new age music. The teacher had us listening to some Andre Bocelli, Enya, , Mobi, and a few more newage-ish artists.

While listening to this floating and rhythmic songs, I through down streaks of charcoal and bobbed my head to Ave Maria. I realize now, that I wasn't drawing fast "speed shapes" at all, but rather graceful, curvaceous shapes. To me, the music inspired more graceful and aquatic shapes rather than streamlined fast moving objects.


The other day, I was listening to some music that I consider more representative of speed in order to help me with some concepts I was designing. My coworker, on the other hand, did not appreciate that particular type of music (which is fine with me, because I like his taste for music anyway). To him, the music grated on his nerves and prevented him from concentrating on some of his work. This got me thinking.

It is incredibly interesting how different types of music inspire the same kinds of emotions in different people and yet the same type of music can produce drastically separate emotional responses in different people.

Could it be that my professor, when he listens to Enya, think of speeding objects that I would envision only by listening to something like Crystal Method? If I wanted to use music as a means to sketch objects that were soft and elegant, I would say classical and new age music would be appropriate. If I wanted to draw something that was edgy, hard, and fast, then I would pull out my techno. I doubt my professor would see it that way, but I am confident that my "speed shape" would have been a lot faster looking if it were drawn at the pace of 16 bps.

Music has a hypnotic quality for sure, and I think it plays directly into industrial design. I have friends that groove out to Indie Rock and 80's to get there pens moving. Electronica was the genre of choice for a studio I worked in once. In retrospect, I think a lot of that music manifested itself in the work that came out of those people.

My advice is to be conscious of this interesting influence. I would recommend listening to music that seems to fit the demographic that the product is intended for. Of course, you might not have to listen to Sesame Street CDs while designing children's products, but I think you get the picture.
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