Multi-sensory design

Zhiyu Guan ~ Evelyn

Multi-sensory design refers to the feeling that a design can provide users with multiple senses. A great design needs to involve all five senses of people, including sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. However, in today’s design field, most designers only focus their works on the appearance and functionality of the product, thus ignoring the other four senses outside the visual.

The first is to consider the appearance. The appearance is the most obvious part of a product and is the part that the customer will see at first sight, so it is very important. In addition to the basic appearance, different visual effects give people different feelings. for example, if all the signs in a hospital are designed with white cotton cloth.This is to imply people that in the hospital are always diligently changed and kept clean.Reflect the hospital’s emphasis on health. If the hospital uses red characters and white walls, it is clear and concise. At the same time, it also creates a tense atmosphere. This is to demonstrate the hospital’s high quality and professional medical care. Second, consider the product touch, including the shape and structure of the material and the surface. For example, baby products are often soft, or the texture of bumps can have a non-slip effect. The third point is to consider the flavour, because the user may be attracted by the sweet smell. Here is an example of an electric iron. An electric iron is added with a spray mechanism. The user adds the favourite perfume to the bottle, and the clothes will emit this fragrance

In addition, in terms of hearing. The slow and gentle sound makes people feel relaxed and comfortable, and the rush of police cars or ambulances makes people feel anxious.

Finally, consider the relationship between taste and product. For example, the toothbrush has a sweet taste like sugar, and when the sugar taste disappears, it means that the toothbrush is changed.

Here is the method of five senses in my design process:

Before designing a product, first establish a statement of product vision, adding a concept to the design,which is the ideal that the product can bring to the user.Here is an example of a ticket for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics designed by Kenya Hara . Before the design, the original Kenya’s statement was to design a paper that could be used both for winter celebrations and to awaken people’s memories of “ice and snow.”

The second step is conceptual exploration. The designer should create a mood board, and the mood board should focus on how to express the sensory experience of the product. In our memory there must be such a scene: In the streets that have just finished snowing, people want to be the first to walk on flat snow.

The third step is selection of expression. The designer begins to describe the characteristics of the product, and the characteristics should be linked with feelings. For example, the snow is soft.

The next is sensory exploration. Create another mood board that details the expression of the senses, such as its texture. This picture is the final effect of the ticket, the surface of the bumpy font is like people’s footprints in the snow.

The final step is sensory analysis, which lets the tester rate different five senses. Then adjust according to designers’ own vision.


A similar view is from Five Senses Theory proposed by Jinsop Lee. In his speech entitled ‘Design for all 5 senses’, he pointed out that the more people like to do things, the wider the scope of five senses involved in design, and the stronger the feeling of five senses.He gives a table in the design of a product, use this form below to measure whether the products meet the multi-sensory design.

The five points on the x-axis are five senses, and the y-axis is scored from 0 to 10, expressing the degree of sensation intensity. The perfect feeling should be all very much. Here is a comparison of Nintendo Wii and older gaming consoles. Red represents Nintendo Wii, and grey represents older gaming consoles. It can be clearly seen from the table that Nintendo Wii is better than the older gaming consoles because of its advantage of touch, which is why Nintendo’s game consoles can be hugely successful

In conclusion, the feeling that a product should bring to people is not only visual but also auditory, olfactory, taste and touch. This kind of design will give people a completely new feeling. So when thinking about a product, designers need to satisfy as many aspects of the sensory as possible.


Solar Powered Clock

This example is a solar-powered clock designed by Chris Hosmer. It combines vision and smell. He uses five magnifiers. Each magnifier has a small glass underneath. 5 glasses contain five different oils. The morning sunlight shines from the first magnifier, and the beam of light collects on the small glass under the magnifying glass. It can heat the scented oil inside and emit a fragrance. After about an hour or two, the sun shines on the second magnifying glass, so it emits another fragrance. Therefore, five different flavours will be emitted during the five different time periods of the day. People can distinguish the approximate time based on the smell


The second example is an Alarm clock designed by Josh Runoff to make coffee. It is called The Barisieur.

This alarm clock combines all five sensory designs and it wakes you up by stimulating the user’s five senses.

  • The first step: hearing – hear the boiling sound of coffee
  • Step Two:smell- Smell the mellow flavor of coffee
  • Step 3: sight – Open your eyes to see water from the glass tube to the filter
  • Step 4: touch – Open the drawer on Barisieur to take sugar or coffee mate
  • Step 5: taste – the taste of fresh coffee refreshing.