Sonic experience design

for your brand, products & spaces.

Sonic branding

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

Sonic identity & guidelines

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

It can be tough describing sound and explaining what you want it to do. These tools show you what sound, music and voice says and does to your audience so that you'll always send the right message about your business, capabilities and what you stand for.

Sonic logo

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

Developing the National Australia Bank's sonic identity & guidelines

Read the case study

Sonic ui & ux

Sound changes the relationship people have with your products.

Voice User Interaces

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

Wearables — Health — Accessible interfaces

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

Designing better interfaces for kids with disability

Read the case study

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 magical places that respond to people, data and the environment.

Transforming a building into a giant interactive instrument.

Fostering 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.

Hear my work

Sonic branding

Case study

National Australia Bank
Sonic identity & guidelines

Making sense of sound.

NAB is one of Australia's 4 big banks.

The success of their "breakup" campaign changed what people thought about NAB, and how NAB saw themselves. This awakening and revitalisation of how people saw the brand prompted a refocussing of their positioning and identity.

NAB Brand reached out to me to help them understand their sonic brand and how to best use sound in their communication and experiences.

The challenge.

Music can feel like another language. NAB's brand team had to be able to communicate how music should be used to multiple levels of staff as well as music suppliers and creative and digital agencies.

The outcome

I had to find a way to make it easier for NAB's brand team to describe what they want, in a way that everyone can understand.

I designed a sonic identity tool kit that they use to guide agencies and staff on how to use sound across NAB's diverse range of 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 and Australia's best new graduates.

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.

Don't just tell us what. We want to know why.

NAB brand and their agencies didn’t just want to be told what music to use. The brand team wanted to know not only what works for specific situations, but why.

NAB Brand wanted to know what sound would say and do, so they’d always create a great experience and send the right message about their business, capabilities and what NAB stands for.

How do we explain our decisions?

When it comes to music, everyone has a point of view. So NAB Brand needed to be able to show they based decisions on reasoning, analysis and purpose, not gut feel.

We shouldn't need a degree in musicology.

Their 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' will overwhelm people and complicate decisions.

NAB's sonic identity.


Being consistently ‘NAB’ doesn’t mean always sounding the same.

While NAB wanted flexibility, they also needed a coherent identity and musical expression grounded in the communication and experiences they used every day.

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

They had to know what kind of sound they should use, where.

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

Defining the feelings, beliefs and behaviour that NAB needs to evoke in different situations.

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.
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.
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


Everyone on the same page.

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

3 simple choices.

Practical and straightforward, 3 sonic profiles organise NAB's complex brand, touchpoints and customer needs into task-based uses, that explain what musical qualities will and won't achieve the outcome they want.

Sonic UI & UX

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.

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 can be more expressive and creative.

The outcome

'Disability' is driving innovation at The Art Centre. Its opened their eyes to new approaches and tools for creativity, interaction and music-making.

Armed with the knowledge of what works, doesn't work, the music therapists are now adapting and procuring the right tools for the kids they work with.

World Congress of Music Therapy (Tsukuba, Japan 2017)

We presented our work and how to use Human Centred Design and evidence-based methods to understand what people want, 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 or 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

The things that everyone thinks they're doing wrong, tell us what we're not doing right.

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

We saw how they'd try different techniques to make 'bad' interfaces work. If the sound didn't make sense to them, they'd find a way to make it make sense.

They 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.

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. The voices of the children their parents, teachers and disability workers.

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

When we know what satisfies their curiosity, their emotional needs and their personalities, we can design better tools.

We want to
Have permission to be loud and boisterous, and a little naughty.
Have an impact.
Be part of a group.
Make people laugh
Feel important and powerful.
Hear our own 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 me
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 do. Its colour and shape makes 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 things that kids love to do. The designs had to serve the kids' emotional needs. Their motivation. Their curiosity. Their humour.

Test — Design solutions that will help the kids achieve their goals.

The physical design should conform to the physical needs of the kids. Adults should be able to manipulate the instruments easily. Instruments should be fun for them to use as well.
Sounds should reflect the interfaces mental model and 'match' gesture. They should be rich, have character and tell a story.
Designs should be instructive and suggest affordance. The software should scale so sonic and sensory responses reflect the user's intent.
Prototype sketches and designs.

Building better interfaces


Awesome kids teaching 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.

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 people smarter than you can iterate and modify 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 certain 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.

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

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

Academy stairs

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 to sensors to create a soundtrack composed entirely from their voices.

Dial a 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.

Changing minds & behaviour

Using avant-garde and interactive sound to generate new ways of thinking.

Making space for new ways of thinking

I used the building's construction and acoustics to shape sounds and stop 'challenging sounds' from floating up into the open-plan offices above. Impact was created by placing different sounds at cluster points where people gathered.

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’s 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 to 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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