Designed to be Played: Early September 2014

I’ve been tinkering with the Sound Matrix for almost a month now, trying to add knobs and switches for more functionality. However, I’ve decided to scrap those efforts and shift the direction of the project. The ultimate goal has not changed: to make a musical exploration machine that anyone can use and enjoy. The way to reach that goal has become clearer.

Yesterday, I watched a Charlie Rose interview of Sir Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple Inc., and Marc Newson, another world famous product designer who was just hired at Apple and is a close friend of Jony’s. You can watch the interview on Hulu here.

Marc Newson and Jony Ive with Charlie Rose

Marc Newson and Jony Ive with Charlie Rose

Jony described design as reaching the inevitable to make something as intuitive and relatable as possible; “of course it’s this way, it wouldn’t be any other way.” Design isn’t necessarily “art”; it is, by definition, made to be accessible and simple. It may even seem naïve in the way it looks, as Jony put it.

This interview got me thinking… how do I make my device simple, intuitive, and relatable? It’s an interesting challenge, as people may not be familiar with something quite like my Sound Matrix. It has to be inviting and welcoming; not wag it’s tail in your face; complement a space without drawing excess attention to itself. What makes the most sense?

I originally had thought I would build a single-entrance booth for the Sound Matrix so people could use it alone. However, I want this experience to be collaborative and let a few people use the Matrix at once. It should be approachable from all sides.

I’ve been playing with a frosted acrylic cube I got for the Matrix to sit on. I also picked up some Octolivelies, these amazing little boards of lights that react to movement. I’m thinking about putting one of these boards on every side of the Cube facing outward, so as people approach, they are greeted by a warm glowing pulse.

2 Octolively panels

2 Octolively panels

So now that I have an idea for welcoming people to the instrument, how do I get people to know they should be touching it? I mean, everybody likes pushing buttons, but I’d expect at least some people to hesitate before messing around with an installed project.

I want to provide instruction that is simple, doesn’t require reading, and can be understood at a glance. With inspiration from warning signs in the game Portal 2, I created an icon that tells people to.. well, you tell me!

Matrix "Play" Icon

“Play! Press some buttons!” is what I’m going for. I’m still working on another icon or two for other interactions with the machine.

This thing is designed to be seen, heard, and, best of all, played. Looking forward to my first focus group to try it out! (aka Senior Project Exhibition Night)

But there’s still lots to do! For one, I’d like to think of a name for the installation. I’ve been calling the actual device the Sound Matrix, but I want something different for this new stage in the project, something less techy, more relaxed and welcoming. I’ll keep thinking, and I’ll keep you updated…

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