All posts by Gina Walker

About Gina Walker

Gina is a designer and Senior Consultant at Smith. Contact the author directly

Hearing Is Believing

Using sound to enhance visual communication.

Today’s technology helps designers produce sophisticated communication products—videos, animations, podcasts, animated slideshows, etc. This digital content often includes sound elements like voice, music and other effects. Understanding the ways sound affects “how we see” is becoming increasingly important.

A brief demonstration.

Here we see how a small click inserted at the right moment transforms two identical animations. This illustrates the powerful ways sound changes visual interpretations. 

This little video helps illustrate the way our brains enhance vision when sound is added. The extra information provided by the click sound tells us more about what is going on, changing what we think we are seeing.  

Science on this subject is focused on neurocognitive responses and the way our brains integrate information—how we use all of our senses to give us a more complete picture of reality. Sound and vision can work together to enhance that picture. Or, they can confuse us, distorting our view of reality.

While the science interesting, it doesn’t directly lead to practical solutions. My task as a designer is to create effective, understandable communication. I find the following simple concepts help me build better sound into my work:

  • No sound is better than bad sound. 
  • Don’t add confusion or distraction.
  • Sound quality must match image quality.
  • Consider how end users will hear/see your design.
  • Design for multiple platforms.
  • Sound and images must align to create a whole.
  • Allow time to be precise when adding sound to projects.
More Ideas