Experience Design! | Engage Your Senses

September 30, 2013 | DesignPhiladelphia, 2013 Festival

DesignPhiladelphia’s 9th Annual Festival, EXPERIENCEdesign! kicks off this year on the evening of October 9th with PopUp Place and festival events running from October 10 through 18. As a signature event of the Center for Architecture, DesignPhiladelphia showcases Philadelphia’s strong design and creative communities through more than 100 exhibitions, workshops, tours, lectures, open studios, and parties that celebrate design’s many dimensions, dynamics, and applications. This year's theme, EXPERIENCEdesign! promises to spark emotions and engage the senses with opportunities to see, touch, smell, hear, and even taste the design that surrounds us. As part of the 2013 Festival Event Guide, we asked five notable thinkers to consider how each of the five senses informs design.

by Drew Becher President, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society “Please bring back the escalator.” That was one of the first requests I received when I joined PHS, and it came from longtime Philadelphia Flower Show visitors. They remembered gradually watching the exhibits of the Flower Show unfold from above at the Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center, which closed its doors in 1996 and was demolished soon after. “I remember the scent of hyacinths and lilies when I entered the Show,” they said. More than anything else, this powerful fragrance stuck with them through the years—an indelible memory shared by hundreds of thousands. Scent plays a key role in landscape design. It can mark a place, time and feeling. A well placed bed of roses around the patio, or a climbing tower of jasmine near a doorway certainly provides aesthetic value, but it also triggers the memory of that place and that moment in time. Do you remember the first time you smelled a tomato plant? I do.  My brother and I playing with trucks in our grandmother’s garden, reacted to that pungent scent.  That singular experience in the garden remains with me today. In landscape design, we use scent to create moods and to engage: A subtle rosemary border to invite touching and tasting. A sweep of lavender to captivate and calm. Take a walk through the dozens of beautiful landscapes that adorn the city. The connection to scent will help to complete and extend your experience long after the place—and the plants—have moved on.

by Joe Patitucci of Data Garden We are immersed in a sea of waves. The Universe seems to be nothing more than vibrations of sub-atomic quanta, visible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and audible oscillations of air pressure. As humans, we are built to experience these waves as a solid physical reality. As designers, we shape them to form an existing reality or propose an alternate one. We all use waves to translate ideas. We commonly express our experiences by manipulating air pressure with our mouths through speech. In the same way, a sound designer uses instruments to shape vibrations into experiences. Sound does not require our gaze or attention. Its presence has effect whether or not a listener is explicitly aware of it. When immersed in audio, we are constantly processing waves as conscious and subconscious experience. Loudspeakers allow audio to be encountered in a public setting, inspiring social interaction, dance or atmosphere. Headphones create a more personal experience; we explore a constructed sonic landscape in the isolation of our own mind-space. Designing sound requires us to develop a deep understanding of waveforms and how they can be used to express ideas. Working with the raw materials of waves via synthesizers, we sculpt changes in air pressure and monitor the effects these changes have on human emotion. In this way, our work is a constant reminder of the relationship between waveforms and the experience of physical reality - between ourselves and our own consciousness.  by Alina Wheeler author, Designing Brand Identity Seeing is believing. Experience is knowing. Design is making. From the sustainable to the ephemeral, from the organic to the digital, as big as an urban plan, as small as an app, the work of designers affect each moment of our everyday experiences whether we are working or playing, online or outdoors, whoever we are and wherever we are. Ideas, information, environments, technology, products, packages, services, spaces, systems, signs, software, cities, clothes, tools, appliances, homes, transportation. Can't you see...Where would we be without design? Sight is the first sense that engages us, and leads us to an experience. Design works to make the experience better. Good design makes us happy, makes us feel smart, and improves our quality of life. Vision is the sense that trumps all others because ninety percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Seeing is believing. Experience is knowing. Design is making it better.

excerpts compiled by Jeffery Ziga Little Baby's Ice Cream "You taste with your eyes first." -- Mark, Festival Food Seller, July, 2012. "While you're chewing, the food releases chemicals that immediately travel up into your nose. These chemicals trigger the olfactory receptors inside the nose. They work together with your taste buds to create the true flavor of that yummy slice of pizza by telling the brain all about it!" -- posting on kidshealth.org, July 15, 2013. "What the spoon is made of, of course, can change things because somebody else did some tests not that long ago with spoons made of different metals and found out that - what a lot of people believe - that different metal tastes different to your tongue - that for many people that's true. For some people, it's not so true. But they - these guys also played with things like what's the shape of the spoon? What's the color of the spoon? How heavy is it? All those things had some effect on people. The more interesting thing to me, at least today, is when people said the taste - that actually tasted different because of how it was served or what it was served in it. It was sweeter. It was saltier, whatever. You would think that couldn't change." -- Marc Abrahams, Editor for the "Annals of Improbable Research", 2012. "In matters of taste, the tongue is key." -- excerpt from Little Baby's Ice Cream Manifesto, June, 2013. For you see, it all works in concert, harmony and dissonance.

by Natalie Nixon, PhD Director of the Strategic Design MBA, Philadelphia University To touch is human.  We touch one another in greeting- a handshake, a kiss on the cheek- and we crave touch as a way to stay interconnected with other humans.  Touch is a pure and wonderful mixture of physiology, physics, memory and intuition.  It provokes lust, guides our way and heals what ails us emotionally and mentally.  Consider that when we are born into this world, we feel the familiar touch of parents’ skin before we see.  At birth, touch is our guide to sense and see the world. Haptic technology attempts to mechanically simulate touch through vibrations, forces and motion.  For example, haptic technology is being developed to better simulate the hand and feel of fabrics - the potential cost savings in product development are huge.  Haptic devices are also being explored by designers for modeling and prototyping other materials through the computer. Touch is probably the most complex sense to simulate and design because while the sense of touch is very tangible between human beings, its subtleties make it difficult to replicate.  The after-effects of touch reverberate out to our emotions and wellbeing, and science has now documented the healing effects of touch.  How amazing would it be to design sensory cues into our lives for both personal growth and commercial ventures?  Learn and experience how we can design touch into our lives.    

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