Dr. Haverkamp has been so kindly to answer me some questions about Synaestetic Design. He is an expert in this field as he works Ford and has recently written a book about Synaestetic Design.
1. In a nutshell, can you describe what synesthetic design is?
Synesthetic design means a search for those product attributes (in each modality) which provide the best connection between the senses. In example, applied to human-machine-interfaces, a visual light signal can be aligned to an auditory singal with respect ot the temporal correlation (synchronicity). Therefore, blinker signals appear to be appropriate if the sound, lamp and function are correlated in time.
2. What has inspired you to write a book about synesthetic design?
In the past, most approaches focused on singular or perceptual strategies to find a cross-sensory alignment. Now, it becomes clear that various strategies have to be taken into account. The concept of the book is to present a framework which includes all possibilities. This new approach enables designers to chose the connections which are most appropriate for a given task.
3. What parts do emotions play in synesthesia?
Structures with optimized cross-sensory alignment are perceived as notably harmonious and thus provide positive feelings.
4. What is so fascinating about designing with synesthetic knowledge?
Using those design tools provides a targeted optimization of the product appearence throughout the modalities. Beside especially harmonious solutions, it can also be used to include systematic misalignment, which may be usefull to attract customers attention.
5. Why are people so attracted to those designs?
The human perceptual system tends to find cross-sensory alignment – best fit of sensations provides positive images of objects/products.
6. Can everybody have synesthetic phenomena?
There are common processes of cross-sensory correlation which are effective in each individuum. Specific, strictly individual phenomena of “genuine synesthesia” have to be distinguished from those common abilities.
7. Is there a rule that certain colors or tunes evoke the same result at every person? Are there cultural differences?
Common processes of cross-sensory connections are not fixed (not the same) in every subject. There is an influence of the context of perception and of perceptual experience and learning. Thus, preferences are established. Preferences, however, can be evaluated for every specific social or cultural context. People who experience genuine synesthesia, however, observe fixed connections. In those cases, every individual has its own intuitive scheme of connections, e.g. defining which color is assigned to which tone.
8. Some people having synesthesia see colors while hearing a tune and others taste things while see colors. In your opinion is synesthesia an endogenous disease or more a step in evolution?
The specific phenomena of genuine synesthesia are neithe a disease nor a further step in evolution. It is just and additional mechanism of connection.
9. Which product would you like to redesign with your knowledge of synesthesia if you had the chance to do so?
Many household appliances which don’t look like they sound; many operation elements of human-machine interfaces which do not show visual movement like it is tactile / auditory sensed. Moreover, I often miss alignment of colors of packages of foodstuff with its taste, tactile feeling in the mouth and with the chewing sound. Multi-sensory interfaces show a high potential of refinements, too.
10. Do you have any advice for marketing and brand managers in terms of using the knowledge of synesthetic design?
First look at all possibilities of cross-modal optimization (i.e. the perceptual strategies of cross-modal connection) before you chose specific features of the product appearance in all senses effected.
If you want to learn more about Synaestetic Design we highly recommend the latest book by Dr. Haverkamp about this topic.
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