Feature Design Sony UI Sound And Light

What satisfying controls sound like


Nagahara:Our first real foray into sound as a key UI element was for a Handycam. At the time, audio feedback from electronics was limited to beeping, but advances had finally enabled us to incorporate a tiny synthesizer.

Support for various scales and timbres opened the door to several possibilities. We began applying universal design principles to accommodate hearing-impaired users who might have difficulty with high-pitched tones. More nuanced sound effects were also created. Later, starting with Cyber-shot cameras, we were able to use sampling data, which expanded our repertoire considerably. We created original startup sounds and sound effects, recreated mechanical shutter sounds, and addressed other details to make the digital cameras more satisfying to use, or truer to classic camera design. Now, even camera reviewers appreciate these sounds.

As we make products more appealing through sound, we also create sound effects consistent with how the UI is organized. In the Cyber-shot and NEX series, for example, opening menus is accompanied by rising tones, and closing them, descending tones. A higher-pitched tone is played when you scroll up a menu, and there's a lower-pitched one when you scroll down. In these ways, sounds that match UI structures and user operations make products more satisfying to control.

Sounds that amplify Sony brands

Nagahara:Camera UI sounds are one example of how we improve user experiences. We're also experimenting with expanding the same approaches to other product categories. This builds brand consistency and further simplifies operation for those who own several Sony products.

In some cases, we have adopted the same sounds in a few brands. You may have noticed that the focus lock sound on Cyber-shot and a (alpha) cameras is the same. Here, we sought a distinctive, responsive effect, which we even fine-tuned through user testing. As we refine how products respond, we ask ourselves whether to optimize sound effects for individual products or to seek consistency across products, while considering the roles of sounds and their significance as elements in the language of design.

We also design sounds that represent our corporate brand, which do not depend on particular products. In Sony advertising, there's a final, memorable combination of simple piano notes and bass tones as the make.believe logo appears.

Instilling products with character


Fujiki:Many Sony products introduce original functions and interactivity. In each case, we must take on new sound design, and Sony tablets were no exception.

Here, sound design had to support the desired effect-that using these products is a breeze. Our dilemma was that pitch or timbre can't be recognized unless notes are played long enough. Could any sounds keep the user experience light and snappy? After some thought, I prepared the subtle clicking sounds played when you tap on the screen.

In contrast, accessing the Favorites screen should evoke a special mood. It's a centerpiece Sony application, and very convenient. To match the three-dimensional UI, I combined sounds that give the impression of being in a decidedly different zone.

Even the Favorites startup sound is a little special. The first time you start the app, after turning the tablet on, you're greeted by a startup sound of ample length to welcome you. But when you access Favorites again, it's suitably abbreviated. You're in a different frame of mind after unboxing than you are after customization. The sounds should guide you along at a different pace.

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