Designing With Our Five Senses: Sound

Today we are looking at our final sense in our series about the influence of The Five Senses on our built environment. So far we’ve looked at Sight, Smell, Touch and Taste. Today’s sense is Sound. Proper consideration of this sense is essential in the built environment. Whether it is annoying reverb, too much noise in a restaurant, or an unpleasant silence in a waiting room; acoustically awkward situations like these can be solved with the use of proper materials. Furthermore, designing with sound in mind results not just in more comfortable acoustic environments, but can also inspire more imaginative and visually beautiful spaces.

The Importance of Sound: Our sense of hearing in an environment can sometimes be overlooked even though those of use who spend our days in an office or classroom know that proper sound and acoustics are essential for optimal concentration and a feeling of wellbeing. The importance of sound as a sense can be found in a test during which you are shown two flashes of light while hearing three sounds at the same time. If you turn off the sound, you indeed see the two flashes of light. If the sound is turned on however, you instead see three flashes of light – even though there are actually only two. Why is this? Basically, your brain is confused between how many sounds it hears and how many flashes it is simultaneously seeing and must make a decision. When forced to make a choice, your brain will go with what it hears rather than what it sees, leading you to believe you saw three flashes. And this has an evolutionary reason. Imagine there is a lion hiding in the grasses behind you. You can’t see him so you can only rely on your ability to hear him. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the importance of sound in your environment.

We encourage you to browse our collection to explore acoustic solutions such as Hanging Felt, a perforated, double-faced felt panel that has been used as an acoustic screen in office environments. Or for something completely different, check out Lightben Acoustic, a transparent composite that enhances acoustic performance indoors.

We further encourage you to join us at Material Xperience 2015 where you can immerse all five of your senses in the beautiful world of materials. You can register for your free tickets to Material Xperience here.