Sound Design

January 12, 2018

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woman listening to headphonesThis is experience design, so sounds can be a very important part of our design outcomes. Every sound brings a type of “feeling” or communication with them. When you listen to a serene piano versus a death metal band, you know the difference. In order to create sound references, finding the right type of sound is paramount. Just like a theme board, the reference material doesn’t have to be exactly what you intend to use in the final product—it just has to capture the aspect you’re shooting for.

Sound Reference Material

In order to communicate a sound’s qualities, you must find some reference material so you and others can hear it. Here are some examples of some sound references:

An angry woman to capture a tone of angst. This could communicate the tone of a narrator for a design or a warning sound:


A cartoon boing to communicate a playful, silly sound quality that could capture an alert or maybe background sounds in a playground ball pit:


A static-sounding metal detector that would evoke a low-tech electronic feeling:


Several high-tech, futuristic sounds to capture a digital device’s sci-fi feeling of scanning or of warning users:



A narrator tone that could communicate the type of official voice you intend to use when people enter or leave a train (or monorail):

monorail – stand clear.mp3

A sad sound that captures failure in a lighthearted way:


All of these sounds communicate something unique. Many of these were found on teh internet, some were purchased, and you can always make your own.

Creating Sounds

Sounds can be made using a microphone, recorded using software that captures audio on a computer, or downloaded for free (legally) from a range of sources online. There are some great tools out there for capturing and editing sounds:

Audio Hijack: record any sound on your mac, no matter the source

Adobe Audition: edit sounds in extreme detail

Audacity: free editor that’s pretty effective

Apple GarageBand: included with every Mac, GarageBand includes lots of instruments and mixing features

Audio Equipment and Studio Recording

I hosted a weekly podcast for two years and over that time, I have figured out a good mix of audio equipment that produces studio-quality sound. If you are interested in learning more, please ask!

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Follow Through

Creating and capturing sounds is easier than you think. As you fine-tune your ear for what sounds communicate, you will begin to see the colors they evoke.


Associate Professor

Miami University