Sound: the New Design Skill

James Walpole/ March 15, 2018

Music used to be reserved to concert halls, parties, church, or military marches. Music was special, eventful. You had to GO to the music.

Even when radio and the phonograph made music available in private homes, music was still as stationary (and as manual) as the devices that played it back. You had to get up, go across the room, and flip the record over. How uncivilized.

[Insert cliche line here about how smartphones have changed everything]

They have, though. We can now bring music everywhere. Look around. It’s starting to become normal for people to almost constantly be playing music. Their headphones are in at the store, on jogs, at work. Their music is playing in their car, while they’re cooking, and while they’re showering (hopefully you don’t know this from direct observation).

Music is everywhere, and the sounds we hear are beginning to shape our experience of everything. You can look around right now and see the emergence of sound (specifically DJing and playlist-building) as a design skill.

We think about form, function, and feel of the places we live – because we know we will live in them all the time. We pay architects and designers to create spaces that will make us feel comfortable and healthy and productive. It figures that we should put the same level of intention yet into designing our sound experiences (which are much more portable than our living spaces).

Yes, we may already have our “Workout Playlist” and our “Shower Songs”, but what about more mundane times of the day? What sounds should we hear in our home in the morning? In the evening while we wash the dog? At family gatherings? At meals? At bedtime? What about the sounds we play at work?

All of these are design questions. And context is king in sound design.

You can already start to see smart companies rising to take advantage of the need for sound design. Spotify already embraces sound as design brilliantly in its huge selection of mood and intention-based playlists ranging from “Productive Morning” (specific to a feeling and goal) and “Winter Acoustic” (specific to the feel a season) to “Walk Like a Badass” (specific to walking like a badass) and “Boozy Brunch” (what you listen to while you’re knocking back mimosas).

It looks like there is a playlist for every kind of situation. It’s truly impressive. And it is someone’s honest-to-goodness paid JOB to DJ these.

Sound design is here. Fortunately, there’s still so much work to be done. Every person’s sound palette is going to be just a little bit different. And there are an infinite number of specific contexts around which to craft music. That means there’s plenty of opportunity – more than ever, really – for musicians, producers, and DJs to meet the needs of people who want well-designed sound in every nook and cranny of their lives.

Get pumped and start creating!

Oh, yeah, there’s a playlist for that.

Photo by Michail Sapiton on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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