Sonic experience design

for your products, spaces & brand.

Sonic branding

Take the guesswork out of describing, choosing and testing sound, music and voice.

Sonic identity & guidelines

All the tools you need to create a unified sonic experience for your brand, products and services.

Sonic logo

Everything great about your brand, translated into a unique, unforgettable sonic logo.

case study

Developing National Australia Bank's sonic identity & guidelines

Read the case study

Sonic ux & ui

Make the world more accessible, inclusive and easier to navigate. For everyone.

WEARABLES — HEALTH

Use Human Centred Design to uncover what people want from your experiences and products, and use these insights to make their lives better.

VOICE USER INTERFACES

Guide your customers through your voice assistant with sounds that humanise the experience and express the voice of your brand.

Case study

Designing accessible interfaces for kids with disabilities.

Read the case study

Function + emotion

Designing your product's sonic experience.

Useful, conversational sonic UI that reflects your design language & brand.
Melodies, interface sounds, and voice make products fun, easy to use and more relatable. You can do a tonne with them.

Reassure people that their money transfer has worked. Create delight when they receive a notification. Or guide people while they keep their eyes on the road.

Use sound and voice to get attention — fast. Give feedback, remind, excite and reward.

Of course, you don't want sound everywhere, all the time, that's just noise. We use research, prototypes and feedback from users to decide where it's the most helpful, and how it should feel. So you can create a product experience that people love.
Guide.
play_circle_filled
pause_circle_filled
notification
volume_down
volume_up
volume_off

"Hey"
play_circle_filled
pause_circle_filled
Error_Uh-oh
volume_down
volume_up
volume_off

"uh oh"
Reassure.
play_circle_filled
pause_circle_filled
Start up - I'm ready
volume_down
volume_up
volume_off

"I'm ready"
play_circle_filled
pause_circle_filled
Shutdown - goodbye
volume_down
volume_up
volume_off

"See you later"
Reward.
play_circle_filled
pause_circle_filled
You're all done
volume_down
volume_up
volume_off

"You're all done"

Interactive experiences

Create memories that people love to share.

Interactive sound installations

Activate your festivals, spaces and events with beautiful sensory interactions.

Responsive spaces & architecture

Change what people think, feel and do with music that responds to people, data and the environment.

Case study

Transforming a building into a giant interactive instrument to foster play and innovation at NAB's Academy.

Read the case study

Music & sound design

Strategy . Culture . Stories

Spatial & 360º audio

Transporting kids to other worlds at Melbourne Museum.

Listen

Sonic branding

Case study

National Australia Bank
Sonic identity & guidelines

Making sense of sound.

The success of their "breakup" campaign changed what people thought about NAB, and how NAB saw themselves. This revitalisation prompted a refocus of their positioning and identity. So NAB Brand reached out to me to help them understand their sonic brand and show them how to best use sound in their communication and experiences.

The challenge.

Music isn't a universal language. One person's edgy is another person's mainstream; one person's caring can be someone else's patronising.

NAB's brand team has to explain to staff, music suppliers, and creative agencies, what music and voice they can use, in a language everyone understands.

The outcome.

The sonic guidelines describe NAB's sonic brand, guiding NAB's brand team, agencies and staff on how to use sound with NAB's wide-ranging products, audiences and experiences.

My capabilities.

  • Sonic brand strategy
  • Sonic brand evaluation workshops

The team.

  • NAB Brand
  • Clemenger BBDO
  • XXVI

Discovery & user research


Understanding the business.

How do we manage sound across such a complex brand?

NAB's brand team has to make sure music says and does the right thing for a wide variety of touchpoints, campaigns and products. These range from brand campaigns and financial advice to corporate responsibility. They speak to a broad audience, including retail, business and institutional customers.

We have to be able to explain our decisions.

When it comes to music, everyone has a point of view. So NAB Brand needed to know why certain music works in different situations, and be able to show that they based decisions on reasoning, analysis and purpose, not gut feel.

We shouldn't need a degree in musicology to understand.

The guidelines need to make sense to experts as well as people who aren't confident in their musical expertise. Too many attributes and 'mood terms' overwhelm people and complicate decisions.

NAB's sonic identity


Being consistently ‘NAB’ doesn’t mean they have to always sound the same.

Being such a large business, NAB expresses itself differently depending on where they're speaking, who they're talking to, and what they want to achieve. At the same time, they still need to deliver this in a way that feels and sounds like NAB.

Brand analysis. Audits. Building sonic profiles for different use cases.

Matching the right sound to the right situation.

Not every situation needs every brand personality or voice trait dialled up to full volume. NAB wouldn't use the same voice and personality for a graduate event as they would entertaining corporate partners.

Defining the feelings, beliefs and behaviour to evoke in different touchpoints and environments.

1

States of mind

I identified the three states of mind NAB needs to evoke with sound, voice and music from NAB's customer insights and brand collateral. The three core functional and emotional benefits that NAB gives customers.
2

Workshops & audits

Through workshops and touchpoint audits, we discovered the clusters of personality and voice traits that NAB dialled up and down to suit these three core messages. As well as the types of campaigns and experiences that NAB uses to achieve this.
3

Energy & tone

I used these clusters as the foundation for deciding together with NAB brand, where to use particular sonic attributes, and their energy and tone.

The guidelines


The business and its agencies, on the same page

How to describe, choose & test music. The right way.

3 simple choices.

Three practical and straightforward sonic profiles organise NAB's sophisticated brand, touchpoints and customer needs into task-based uses. Each explains the musical qualities that will achieve different outcomes and where to use them.

Want to create your own unified sonic identity across all your campaigns and touchpoints?

Get in touch to talk about building your sonic branding toolkit. Knowing whether you're matching the right music and voice to touchpoints and audiences. And how to describe what you want music to say, do and why. So you can inspire the beliefs and behaviour you want when you want.

Sonic UX & UI

Case study

Art Centre Melbourne
Accessible Music Program

How can we make musical interfaces work better for kids with disabilities?

Music lets kids with disabilities shine and connect. Through music, we see their unique abilities - their talent. And our world opens up. Accessibility and inclusion are driving innovation at The Art Centre, inspiring new approaches and tools for creativity, interaction and music-making.

The challenge.

Music therapists had a sense that their equipment, while engaging, was limiting the creative potential of the kids in the Accessible Music Program.

They approached me to test this and find out what the kids needed from interfaces and equipment so that they could express themselves fully.

The outcome.

The research revealed the nuanced and varied ways kids express themselves through gesture, movement and voice.

These insights generated new ways to combine sound, light, haptics, movement, and surfaces, so kids of all abilities can participate fully in programs.

World Congress of Music Therapy (Tsukuba, Japan 2017)

We presented our work and how to use human-centred design and evidence-based methods, at the World Congress of Music Therapy (Tsukuba, Japan 2017)

My capabilities.

  • User research
  • Design & prototyping
  • Sound design

The team.

  • ACM - Music therapists
  • Dyani Kelly Maker
  • Andrew Cherry Arduino programming

Discovery & user research


We often make assumptions about people with disability. This leads to designs that don't meet their needs and even reinforce stereotypes and the idea that disability limits creativity.

Many of the kids have multiple disabilities. Instead of assuming what their disability was, I focussed on understanding behaviour, motivation, and what hindered and what helped them achieve their goals.

I observed sessions across cognitive, developmental, and physical disability with their current digital and traditional tools and instruments.

Results — Observing users and music therapy sessions.

Uncovering untapped gestures, interaction & abilities.

Observing music therapy sessions showed us how the children instinctually used interfaces and instruments.

We observed the different techniques they'd try to make interfaces work for them.

The kids showed us the nuanced, versatile ways they play and react to different forms, surfaces, materials and sounds. And how they learnt through tactile, visual and auditory feedback.

Understanding emotion, motivation & mental models.

It's hard for a lot of these kids to describe what they want and why. So I reached out to the people who know them best — their parents, teachers and disability workers.

I wanted to understand the emotional drivers that motivate them to use products. What do they expect and want to accomplish from different tools? What feelings do the instruments and sounds generate? What is it about them that does this?

We want to
Have permission to be loud, boisterous, and a little naughty.
Have an impact.
Be part of a group.
Make people laugh.
Feel important and powerful.
Hear our voice.
Explore vocal sounds.
Explore and be creative.
Have control and influence.
Be autonomous.
Be allowed to be ourselves.
Express ourselves with our body.
What's stopping us
A light touch isn't heard.
Not enough visual and sensory feedback or stimulation.
Shape & colour isn't engaging or instructional.
Needs directional input to work.
Assumed gross motor skills.
Tools don’t adapt to physical needs.
Lack of sensitivity to small gestures.
Limited opportunity to create music with our bodies.
Instruments and sounds don’t reflect movement.
Meet Joshua – an inquisitive and energetic 4-year old who has autism.

He loves exploring things that have texture. And quickly loses interest if he doesn't get enough sensory feedback.

Josh struggles to produce sounds from instruments such as drums because he plays very lightly. This means he can't get to experience having an impact and being part of the group.
Alex is non-verbal, she doesn’t use words to communicate.

When she’s shown a microphone she doesn’t know what to do. Its colour and shape make it look like a stick or ice cream, so she often bites and licks it.

Her dad finds it hard to show her what to do because microphones can be intimidating.
Natalie's an adventurous girl who loves being independent and trying new things.

She has a very limited range of movement.

It's hard for her to achieve what she wants because most tools, even those made for kids with disabilities, assume everyone makes large movements. They also usually rely on someone having to help.
Chloe is a bright, energetic 8 year old. She’s a visual learner and loves creating and listening to music.

Like many children, she loves expressing herself through movement.

Many accessible instruments aren’t designed to harness and translate nuanced movement into expressive music.

Design & prototypes


Making interfaces adapt to people. Not the other way around.

Design approach.

My starting point for designing concepts and prototypes was that they should realise what we discovered in the mental model workshops. The designs had to serve the kids' emotional needs. Their motivation. Their curiosity. Their humour. The things that kids love to do.

Design criteria: Helping the kids achieve their goals.

The design should conform to physical & sensory needs.
Designs should be instructive and suggest affordance.
The sound should be rich, have character and tell a story.
Instruments should be fun and easy for parents and carers to manipulate so they can help the kids use them.
The software should scale so sonic and sensory responses reflect the user's intent.
Sounds should reflect the interfaces mental model and 'match' gesture & affordance.
Prototype sketches and designs.

Building better interfaces


Kids can teach us how to design better.

Our trials focussed on the "Magic Ribbon Stick", which allowed me to test a broad range of design solutions and hypotheses.

Results — Prototypes and user testing.

Insights & opportunities


To help people learn what an interface does, use distinct gestures that create obvious changes in sound.

Changes in frequency and pitch can be hard to recognise, so use large changes in rhythm and timbre instead.


Use shape, size and texture/tactility to encourage/instruct behaviour and gestures.

Think about the expectations that an object's history creates - for example, drums and ribbons- and how this can guide what people think they can do with it.


Build a platform, not just a product.

Make your design and code open so that other smart people can modify and iterate your designs to suit the preference of the people they're working with.


Think about the nuances of disability. For example, some people can only hear specific frequencies.

Make the sensitivity and multi-sensory responses of your interface scalable to suit preferences and ability.


Parents show their kids how to use things.

Tools like microphones and public performances like dancing can be intimidating. So think about how you can make them fun and approachable for the big kids too.


Music therapists, disability workers and parents are the interface.

They need to be able to easily manipulate and position your tools so that their kids can use them.

Inspired to make products that make a real difference to the lives of people experiencing disability?
Let's talk about asking disabled users what'll make your products useful. Discovering the incredible ways they can use gesture, movement and voice to get things done. And using sound and interaction to build products that everyone can use. Equally.

Interactive experiences

Responsive spaces & architecture

National Australia Bank
The Academy at NAB

Architecture as an instrument of change.

The responsive sound architecture at NAB’s corporate university transforms the building into a massive interactive musical instrument. It’s alive, energetic and playful, carrying staff from conventional to fearless, out of the box thinking.

My capabilities.

  • Project management
  • Concept design
  • Sound design
  • Technical design
  • Remote work
  • Cross-functional collaboration

The team.

  • NAB culture
  • Rumblefish
  • BVN Architecture
  • Garth Paine Max/MSP programming

Awards.

  • High Commendation. World Architecture. Interiors and fitout category. 2010
  • High Commendation. IDA Corporate Design. 2010
  • Commendation. CEFPI Australasia Regional Facilities Awards. Education Initiative/Design solution for an innovative programme. 2010

Changing mindsets

Fostering play and innovation at NAB's Academy.

Everyone's welcome

Energy sensing cameras create a tunnel of sound that celebrates people entering The Academy and gets them ready for new ways of thinking.

River of words

New meanings are created by collisions of ideas as staff trigger sensors to create a soundtrack composed entirely from their voices.

Dialling up the right mood

Trainers can use curated playlists to put people in the right frame of mind. Because sometimes you want to stimulate ideas, and other times you want to focus and calm the mind.

The River of Words & Sonic Surprises

Shifting creativity with avant-garde and interactive sound.

Making space for new ways of thinking.

Soundtracks used the building's construction and acoustics to shape sounds and prevent 'challenging sounds' from floating up into the open-plan offices above.

Squeeze Me Lightly

Interactive textile, sound and light sculptures.

The Night Market

Prada at the Sunglass Hut Summit

Where Lovers Lie Concept Store

Music & sound design

About


I get to work with incredible people for great brands.
Here are some of the nice things they've said.

'Hey Marcel, it looks and IS amazing everyone loves it!! Thanks so much!!'

Jacelyn Hawkins. Flock Agency.

Squeeze Me Lightly for Prada at the Sunglass Hut Summit.

'Not only did Marcel break down what was working and not working in terms of interfaces, and the responsiveness and character of sounds, he explored how they hindered or helped them achieve their goals'.

Wendy O'Neil. Art Centre, Melbourne.

Sound expression. Designing accessible music interfaces for people with disability.

'Marcel was indispensable to us and the success of the project, with that rare combination of practical know-how, a hard-work ethic, and inspired creative vision'.

Brian Rupp. Brand Timbre & Rumblefish. [USA]

The Academy @ NAB

Get in touch


Melbourne . Australia
Marcel de Bie
Marcel de Bie. Creative Director

Talk. +61 407 318 065

Connect. LinkedIn

Email. marcel[at]marceldebie.com




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