Design activates our senses. Today, many designers are focusing attention on multisensory experiences, expanding beyond design’s traditional emphasis on visible form. Offering dozens of opportunities to encounter design through touching, smelling, listening, and interacting as well as looking, The Senses: Design Beyond Vision celebrates our varied ways of exploring the world and experiencing joy and wonder. Sensory design is physical. Design touches us, and we touch back. A chair supports the body. A tool fits in the hand. Tableware changes our experience of food. Every material—wool or wood, paper or plastic—has its own sound, surface, weight, and smell. Sensory design enhances experience. Designers are experimenting with new materials and technologies to harness the power of the senses and heighten design’s impact and reach. Smart materials respond to temperature and light. Digital interfaces communicate via sound and haptic feedback. Software translates sonic data into visual or tactile forms. Sensory design is inclusive. By activating multiple senses, designers embrace users with different needs. Every person has unique sensory abilities, which change over the course of a lifetime. Tactile maps facilitate mobility and knowledge for blind and sighted users. Audio devices translate sound into vibrations felt on the skin. Tools for the kitchen and bathroom use color and form to guide people living with dementia or vision loss. This exhibition explores extraordinary work by some of the world’s most creative thinkers, presenting experimental prototypes and practical solutions that extend the sensory richness of our world. We hope you will leave with a heightened understanding of how your different senses work together to shape the meaning of products, spaces, and media. #DesignBeyondVision
The Senses: Design Beyond Vision is made possible by the generous support of Delta Faucet Company. Additional support is provided by the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery Endowment Fund, the Ehrenkranz Fund, and Edward and Helen Hintz. Funding is also provided by Jesse Ormond Sanderson, Jr. and Robert Keith Black, Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council Exhibition design by Studio Joseph Exhibition graphics by David Genco Curated by Ellen Lupton, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design, and Andrea Lipps, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Exhibition voiced by Michele Spitz; Generously provided by Woman of Her Word In-kind support provided by Tretford Americas Accessible Exhibition Guide designed and produced by Sina Bahram and Joshua Lerner, Prime Access Consulting Project lead: Pamela Horn, Director of Cross-Platform Publishing and Strategic Partnerships, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Curatorial assistant: Julia Pastor, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Audio tour voiced by Michele Spitz, edited by Cliff Hahn; generously provided by Woman of Her Word
The textured yellow bar indicates that this project can be touched, smelled, or heard as well as seen.
ACCESSIBLE TEXT + AUDIO ON SMARTPHONE
Each project has a name and number in braille. To access full text and audio, download our accessible app at cooperhewitt.org/channel/senses. Labels are located at a consistent height throughout the exhibition.
A hand-pump container is filled with Ritual Cleanse, a hand sanitizer created for Cooper Hewitt by perfumer Christopher Brosius. This cleansing gel is designed to soothe and stimulate the hands while refreshing and focusing the mind. Please enjoy this purifying ritual before proceeding through the exhibition, which includes many opportunities to explore objects by touch.
Christopher Brosius (American, born 1962), I Hate Perfume (Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, founded 2004); Hand sanitizer gel with essential oils of sandalwood, rosemary, geranium, and hinoki cedarwood; Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Gently rub gel into hands. Smell the purifying scent.
A wall is covered in synthetic fur. Designer Roos Meerman explains, "Almost everyone approaches something furry with the same response. They want to pet it." Touching the wall activates digital sensors. A recording of a string instrument plays; it is part of a larger composition. Multiple users are needed to "play" the full composition, suggestive of the orchestra itself.
Studio Roos Meerman (Arnhem, Netherlands, founded 2014) and KunstLAB Arnhem (Arnhem, Netherlands, founded 2014); Textiles, wood, electronics; Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Stroke the fur to play a piece of music. You can activate a different instrument with each hand. Experiment with other visitors and different ways to touch the fur.
Six low, white pillars glow with light. On the top of each pillar, a line of text describes a complex emotional state, such as "a moment of collective déjà vu." A button releases a unique scent. The installation explores how scent could expand language by connecting emotions with unique smells. It was designed by Polymorf and IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.), in collaboration with linguist Asifa Majid and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec.
Artistic Concept and Interface Design: Frederik Duerinck (Dutch, born 1976) and Marcel Van Brakel (Dutch, born 1970), Polymorf (founded Netherlands, 2003); Perfumer: Laurent Le Guernec (IFF); Scientist: Asifa Majid; Creative Direction: Jean-Christophe Le Grévès and Anahita Mekanik (IFF); Scientific Advisor: Sissel Tolaas; Plexiglass, metal interior, LED lighting, fragrance; Courtesy of IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.)
Read the text on top of each pillar. Braille text is on the right side of pillar. Press the button on right side of pillar and smell the fragrance.
The unique sound and smell of any neighborhood results from human interaction with parks, plantings, fountains, street vending, and other features of urban design. Designers enhance urban existence by controlling noise and pollution and creating opportunities for sensory delight.
An overhead speaker plays sounds collected from cities and locations around the world. The piece was created by Shared_Studios, an organization that creates two-way audio/video connections between dozens of cities around the globe. Curators living in different locations worldwide have collected sounds that are unique to those places.
Amar C. Bakshi (American, born 1984), Shared_Studios (Brooklyn, New York, USA, founded 2014); Audio composition, 4:52 minutes; Courtesy of Shared_Studios
Two buttons play two different sound compositions, which can be heard with the headset. Spatial audio design creates the sensation of being immersed in a three-dimensional environment. The first composition depicts the chaos of a typical hospital emergency ward. In the second composition, unnecessary sounds have been eliminated, and new sounds offer a more humane patient experience. The project addresses "alarm fatigue," which occurs when false alarms and sonic clutter cause workers to ignore emergency alerts. Designed by Man Made Music, a strategic sound design company.
Man Made Music (New York, New York, USA, founded 1998); Interactive spatial audio compositions, 57 seconds; 1:13 minutes; Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Noise-canceling headphones generously provided by Sennheiser
SkunkLock is a U-shaped metal bicycle lock painted with black and white stripes. Although SkunkLock looks like a standard lock, it releases a putrid smell when broken, causing a would-be bicycle thief to gag or even vomit on the spot. SkunkLock was created by Daniel Idzkowski and Yves Perrenoud, two avid cyclists living in San Francisco. They funded their invention via Kickstarter.
Daniel Idzkowski (Polish and American, born 1989) and Yves Perrenoud (Swiss), SkunkLock, Inc. (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 2016); Carbon hardened steel, plastic, rubber, ceramic; Museum purchase
This padded, dome-like structure fits over the head, face, and neck. An opening on the front exposes the mouth and nose (for breathing comfort). Two arm holes at the top support a user's arms when their head is resting on a table. By shutting out light and sound, the pillow offers users privacy when sleeping in an office cubicle, airport lounge, or other public place. Designed by Studio Banana.
Studio Banana (Madrid, Spain; London, United Kingdom; Lausanne, Switzerland, founded 2007); Viscose, elastomer, polystyrene microbeads; Courtesy of Studio Banana
This anti-pollution mask consists of a translucent plastic bubble covering the mouth and nose. On either side, brightly colored filters deliver clean air. Designed for children, the mask allows the user's face to remain visible. An engaging booklet tells the story of wearing Woobi. The current model doesn't block smell, but odor filters could be developed in the future. The mask is displayed two ways: disassembled and assembled. Designed by Kilo.
Kilo (Copenhagen, Denmark, founded 2005); Medical-grade silicone, plastic, hepa filter; Courtesy of Airmotion Laboratories
Hundreds of feathers rise and fall from a low, bowl-shaped base, seven feet in diameter. Air traveling across the floor of the base causes hundreds of feathers to rise and fall continuously. The feathers plink like raindrops as they make landfall. Fountains serve as sensory landmarks in urban design, offering visual and sonic wayfinding cues to passersby. Created by artist Daniel Wurtzel.
Daniel Wurtzel (American, born 1962); Feathers, mirrors, fan, fiberglass ring, air; Courtesy of Daniel Wurtzel
In two simplified maps of the city of Amsterdam, lines of color ripple around various points. The first map includes looping lines of text describing such smell impressions as "leafy fresh rain" and "nice winter afternoons." The second map only has colored lines. Kate McLean led walks through Amsterdam with local residents, who identified 650 smell impressions. McLean selected eleven scents to represent Amsterdam. Since smell sources are transient, the maps are plotted in a speculative manner.
Kate McLean (British, born 1965); Scents created by Gregoire Haussan, IFF (Hilversum, Netherlands); Digital prints, scent; Maps courtesy of Kate McLean; Scents courtesy of IFF, New York
Blind and sighted designers are creating new ways to communicate via touch. Tactile graphics use embossed lines, textured ink, 3D printing, audio-tactile interfaces, and raised alphabets. Designed for inclusion, these objects communicate across multiple channels — print, audio, and text.
3D-printed bronze models of buildings are situated on a map of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The map is printed with visible and tactile graphics. Touch a building or a graphic element to hear information. The bronze transmits an electrical charge to the touch screen below. The map is accessible to sighted and non-sighted users. Designed by Steven Landau, founder of Touch Graphics.
Steven Landau (American, born 1960), Touch Graphics (Elkton, Maryland, USA, founded 1997); Touch monitor, UV-printed tactile graphic overlay, translucent 3D prints, brushed aluminum bezel, stainless steel mount, Android Mini PC;Courtesy of Steven Landau
Tap once to hear a building's name. Double-tap for additional content.
These book pages were created by the Tactile Picture Books Project. The team is using tactile illustrations and braille to transcribe currently available children's books for blind and visually impaired children. A simplified, web-based 3D modeling platform enables parents and teachers to design, customize, and print tactile books. 3D models created and shared within this web-based system are easily copied and modified by others.
Explore the platform here: https://craftml.io
Penguin's Big Adventure, 2018
Jeeeun Kim (South Korean, born 1986) and Tom Yeh (born in Taiwan, 1977), Sikuli Lab, Computer Science Department, University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, Colorado, USA, founded 2012); Author: Salina Yoon; 3D-printed illustrations with braille text; Courtesy of Sikuli Lab
Penguin rolled up his adventure map.
Penguin stands next to a paper scroll.
Quilt Basket Rope
Three patterns are depicted: puffy squares with soft, rounded edges, a basket-weave pattern, and a braided rope.
Together they built ice forts. They went whale watching.
At the top, a domed igloo is made of rectangular blocks. Underneath, the round top of a whale and a curved, splashing tail emerge from a wavy shape. Curves spout from the top of the whale.
This timepiece has a round face with tactile markings. Two grooves—one around the side and one on the front—each hold a small ball bearing. Controlled magnetically, the ball bearings move around the clock face. The inner groove represents minutes; the outer groove represents hours. The timepiece is readable visually and by touch, enabling users to check the time silently without glancing at a device. Created by Eone Timepiece in Washington, DC.
Eone Timepiece (Washington, DC, USA, founded 2012); Titanium, stainless steel; Courtesy of Eone Timepieces
The round, white Dot Watch is a wrist watch with a dynamic braille pin display. It shows time in Braille mode (with traditional braille numbers) and Tactile mode (for non-braille readers). Dot Watch can also receive text messages in braille from a smartphone. Designed by Cloudandco for Dot Incorporation.
Designed by cloudandco (Seoul, South Korea, founded 2010); Creative Director: Yeongkyu Yoo (South Korean, born 1971); Industrial Design: Yeongkyu Yoo, Kihwan Joo, Youngwoo Choi, Jaesung Joo;Graphic Design: Yeongkyu Yoo, Nara Ok; Concept Editor: Michelle JY Park; Manufactured by Dot Incorporation (Seoul, South Korea, founded 2014); Anodized aluminum case, gyroscope, touch sensors, wireless MCU platform, leather
Video, 2:00 minutes
Watch and video courtesy of Dot Incorporation
An open magazine has two red pages. A poem is printed in Latin characters and in braille. A flat pattern of small black dots covers both pages. The exhibition includes a durable tactile replica of the magazine as well as a paper magazine displayed in a case. The poem was written by Vincent Bijlo for Plain Paper magazine. Braille, the world's most widely used tactile alphabet, was invented by Louis Braille (1809–1852), who was blind.
Trompe Le Doigt (Fool the Finger); Vincent Bijlo (Dutch, born 1965), Philip Stroomberg (Dutch, born 1967), Esther Krop (Dutch, born 1974), Plain Paper magazine; Offset lithograph and braille press on Curious Matter Désirée Red paper; Courtesy of Plain Paper magazine
Two panels are printed with visible and tactile lines and text. The first panel is a key; the second panel is a map. The black dot at the center represents Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, on Fifth Avenue. TMAP can generate a tactile map from any street address, using any tactile printer. The TMAP system was designed by Joshua Miele, a scientist and designer who is blind, with San Francisco's LightHouse for the Blind and Raizlabs, a Rightpoint company.
Joshua Miele (American, born 1969), with Scott Blanks, Greg Kehret, and Naomi Rosenberg, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1902) and Brian Vogelgesang, Raizlabs, a Rightpoint company (Oakland, California, USA, founded 2003); Embossed print; Courtesy of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
A tactile panel depicts Elia Frame, a tactile alphabet whose characters are based on Latin letters. Elia letters are presented here alongside Latin and braille equivalents. The Elia text is printed in several sizes. Elia Frames is readable at multiple sizes, whereas braille typically employs a single font size. User testing suggests that Elia Frames are easier to learn than braille, and may be helpful to people who lose their vision later in life. This tactile writing system was conceived by Elia Chepaitis and further developed by her son Andrew Chepaitis and his team at ELIA Life Technology.
Elia V. Chepaitis, Andrew Chepaitis, Reed DeWinter, and Hosea Jan Frank, ELIA Life Technology (Brooklyn, New York, USA, founded 2000); Embossed print; Courtesy of ELIA Life Technology
People experience sound differently. By translating sound into physical vibrations and graphic images, designers invite us to perceive sound beyond hearing. The word "haptic" refers to the physiology of touch. Haptic technologies use motion and vibration to communicate via different qualities of touch. New products are exploiting the close relationship between sound and tactility.
A cup-shaped speaker points inward at a larger parabolic bowl, which resembles a horn on a gramophone. The bowl directs sound waves back toward a listener. Whereas most sound systems are designed to envelop a room in sound, this speaker by Sanne Gelissen isolates sound to make it intimate and personal.
Sanne Gelissen (Dutch, born 1988), Sanne Gelissen Geeft Vorm (Eindhoven, Netherlands, founded 2016); Glass, fiber, laminate, wood, metal, electronics; Courtesy of Sanne Gelissen Geeft Vorm; Songs, "So Young (instrumental)" and "Mr. Lonely (instrumental)"; Performed by Portugal. The Man; Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Occupy the carpeted area directly across from the speaker. Experience the focused character of the sound.
Bumpy lateral ridges cover the surface of two softball-sized spheres. The spheres are physical representations of recorded sound. The ridges represent the high, mid, and low tones of a piece of music. Low-frequency (bass) ridges occupy the bottom of the sphere. High-frequency (treble) ridges occupy the top. Each song is 60 seconds long; the ridges around the sphere denote the time. Intensity or loudness is represented by how far the ridge sticks out from the sphere. This 3D visualization of music was designed by Eujin Pei, Lorenzo Picinali, and Chris Feakes.
Eujin Pei (Singaporean, born 1979), Lorenzo Picinali (Italian, born 1981), and Chris Feakes (British, born 1983); SLS-printed nylon; Courtesy of Eujin Pei
Pick up the Soundstik to hear the music. Touch the sphere's ridges to explore the shape of sound. Please touch gently.
Four white, cone-shaped speakers, each the size of a large coffee cup, have different textures, ranging from smooth and hard to rough and fuzzy. By amplifying and reflecting sound in different ways, the speakers create different auditory effects. Small-scale prototypes show the cross-sections of each horn. This study in sound, shape, and materials was designed by Eason Chow and Pravar Jain.
Eason Chow (Singaporean, born 1989) and Pravar Jain (Indian, born 1993); 3D-printed nylon, wool, ceramic, plastic, electronics; Courtesy of Eason Chow
Press a button to hear music. Do not touch the speakers.
Non-porous plastic printed with resin stereolithography creates a basic, untouched sound.
Silicone creates a warm, natural tone.
Dense wool dampens and limits sound to a zone around the user.
Glazed ceramic maximizes the reflection of sound waves, creating a distinctive tone.
A six-inch square transducer board is mounted to the table. A monitor behind it shows bubbles rising and popping. The Ultrahaptics transducer board emits ultrasonic audio waves, a sound frequency inaudible to the human ear but perceptible on the skin. Sound waves become a tactile interface. This innovative technology is created by Ultrahaptics, located in Bristol, United Kingdom.
Ultrahaptics (Bristol, UK, founded 2013); Ultrasonic transducer array, motion sensor, monitor, electronics; Courtesy of Ultrahaptics
Place your hand about ten inches above the board. Feel the sensation of ultrasonic audio waves against your skin. The image on the screen reinforces the effect.
A plane of wavy material hangs from the ceiling over the table. It is made from gray compressed felt. The wave shapes and the felt material absorb sound waves. This acoustic panel helps diminish noise and make the sounds of speech or music more crisp. The wavy shape is inspired by corrugated iron panels, a common building material in Iceland. Designed by Anya Sebton for Abstracta.
Anya Sebton (Swedish, born 1966); Compressed felt, filler; Manufactured by Abstracta (Småland, Sweden, founded 1972); Courtesy of Scala
Two circular pods are attached to the table. Touch the pods with both hands to feel music as vibration. Vibeat was designed by Liron Gino, a graduate of Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Israel. These jewelry-like pieces are designed to be worn as a bracelet, brooch, or necklace. The device can be used while wearing a headset (i.e. listening and feeling simultaneously) or by itself, without hearing.
Liron Gino (Israel, born 1989); Courtesy of Liron Gino
Press the button. Touch a pod with each hand. To hear the sound while feeling it, wear the headset. Experience music as vibration.
Metal, plastic, electronics
These objects represent how the product will look and feel when manufactured. Two small, round, black disks fit in a lozenge-shaped carrying case. The bracelet and necklace each have a black cord and a silver-toned clasp. The pin attachment clips to the user's clothing.
Video, 2:00 minutes
Photography and editing: Alexandra Vakovleva; Soundtrack: Yaron Eigenstein
In four posters, tall white letters spell out the names of composers. A line of motion wipes across the letters, distorting their shape. Behind the letters is a spiky mass of lines and planes, rendered with 3D graphics software. The Partners in London created this graphic identity for the London Symphony Orchestra's 2017/18 season. The typography and illustrations are inspired by the bodily movements of the conductor and by parts and pieces of musical instruments.
The Partners (London, UK, founded 1983) for London Symphony Orchestra; Courtesy of The Partners
Video, 41 seconds
Posters, Prokofiev, Berlioz, Stravinsky, and Debussy
Two saucer-shaped black amplifiers are attached to a clear glass screen surrounded by a dark frame. On the screen, the text of a song's lyrics are animated, appearing in time with the music. An algorithm analyzes the music for its soft/hard and positive/negative characteristics, guiding the design of the animations, which vary each time the song plays. For music with no lyrics, the software generates geometric compositions. Designed by Naoki Ono; concept by Jin Saito.
Naoki Ono (Japan, born 1981), COTODAMA (Tokyo, Japan, founded 2016); ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), galvanized steel, acrylic plate; Courtesy of COTODAMA; Songs, "Number One"; Performed by Portugal. The Man; "Don't Love Me"; Performed by Janine; "Sticky"; Performed by Ravyn Lenae; Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Products are designed with materials meant to influence our emotional and physical responses. Materials have shape, texture, hardness, and weight. A substance can be hot or cold, fuzzy or slick. A glass vessel or a slab of metal makes a distinctive sound when plunked or pinged. Visible textures applied to flat surfaces entice viewers to touch the world with their eyes. New materials sense and react to their environment.
Inside two display cases are glass volumes in the shape of cones, domes, and droopy tubes. Tiny metal spheres roll around inside the vessels, tapping lightly against the glass. These little spheres are powerful magnets. Installed underneath the tabletop are electromagnets. The tiny spheres change direction when the electromagnets switch their polarity from north/south to south/north. Created by Lili Maya and James Rouvelle, the piece sounds delicate and irregular, like falling rain.
Lili Maya (American, born 1965), James Rouvelle (American, born 1967), Maya + Rouvelle (New York, New York, USA, founded 2009); Glass, neodymium magnets, electromagnets, electronics; Courtesy of Maya + Rouvelle
Touch Component: Pulse, Drift, Ping, Echo, 2018
Glass shapes are exposed on the tabletop. Artists Lili Maya and James Rouvelle created this special touch component of their piece especially for this exhibition.
A soft, bendable hexagon is made of glowing, quilted silicone. It has twenty-four LEDs hidden within. This rechargeable, portable light can emit light in a steady glow or in a variety of pulsing patterns. Designed by Studio Banana.
Studio Banana (Madrid, Spain; London, United Kingdom; Lausanne, Switzerland, founded 2007); Silicone, LEDs, lithium-ion battery; Courtesy of Studio Banana
Vinyl wallpaper is printed with high-resolution photographs of layers of torn white paper. To create the non-repeat pattern, the designers at Snarkitecture stacked reams of oversize cotton rag paper and tore each sheet by hand, exposing the fibers. The contours of the torn sheets resemble an excavated territory—a landscape discovered within the wall's surface. The design adds three-dimensionality and visual texture to a flat wall.
Snarkitecture (New York, New York, USA, founded 2008), manufactured by Calico Wallpaper (Brooklyn, New York, USA, founded 2013); Vinyl; Non-repeating custom print; Museum purchase
A textile is mounted to a flexible frame, resembling a room divider. Small perforations in the textile open and close in response to heat and light. The Self-Assembly Lab at MIT investigates materials that can "sense" and respond to their environment without robotic mechanisms. This Active Textile, created with Designtex and Steelcase for the exhibition, shows how programmable materials can enter our spaces. The perforations could close in response to bright sunlight, or open up on a cloudy day.
Self-Assembly Lab, MIT (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, founded 2013); Designtex (New York, New York, USA, founded 1961); Steelcase (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, founded 1912); Textile combined with active polymers; Courtesy of Self-Assembly Lab, MIT + Designtex + Steelcase; Self-Assembly Lab Team: Schendy Kernizan, Andrew Moorman, Bjorn Sparrman, Jared Laucks, Skylar Tibbits; Designtex Team: Matthew Noterman, Kyle Wilson, Shaina Garfield, Carol Derby; Steelcase Team: Paul Noll, Sharon Tracy; Courtesy of Self-Assembly Lab, Designtex, and Steelcase
Video, 1:47 minutes
Courtesy of Self-Assembly Lab, MIT
Nine digital prints each present a single large letter conjoined with unusual materials: clumps of frog eggs, strands of human hair, and hair nets. Monique Goossens, a graphic artist from the Netherlands, created these meticulously photographed prints. She uses visual imagery to elicit a tactile, visceral response.
Monique Goossens (Dutch, born 1971); Digital prints; Courtesy of Monique Goossens
Frogspawn Typography, 2014
A, B, and E are submerged in transparent blobs of frog eggs.
Hair Typography, 2013
Strands of hair clump together to form a, g, and p.
Net Typography, 2013
Hair nets cloak the letters U, C, and T.
Sonic vibrations can resonate through our skin, bones, and body. Designers use graphic patterns to explore the behavior of sound and the textures and rhythms of music. Touch merges with scent, light, and sound as we interact physically with products and environments.
Four wooden spheres hang from above. The spheres vibrate against a user's head. Each sphere vibrates with a unique pattern, similar to the way four audio speakers might project different sounds from different directions in a room. Sound artist Alessandro Perini created two Tactile Headsets for this exhibition: one for standing, and one for sitting.
Alessandro Perini (Italian, born 1983), executed by Rossella Siani, VAHA (Naples, Italy, founded 2015); Wooden spheres, metal chains, vibration speakers, ceiling mount; Courtesy of Alessandro Perini; Photo by Michela Benaglia
Place your head in the middle of the suspended spheres. Experience the sensation.
A pillow and two chairs are stationed near a wall. Hold the pillow or sit on a chair. Through a set of headphones, a voice describes an odd sensation, such as "falling backward into a tub of Jello." This message is also projected on the floor and on the wall behind the user. Vibrations travel through the chair or pillow to stimulate the user's body and evoke the described sensation, combining language and touch. Designed by Eric Gunther, Sosolimited.
Eric Gunther (American, born 1978), Sosolimited (Boston, Massachusetts, USA, founded 2003); Wooden chair, pillow, transducers and electronics, headphones, projectors; Courtesy of Sosolimited
Sit on a chair or hold the pillow. To hear a message, wear the headphones. To read the same message, look at the floor. Experience language and vibration together.
Seven album covers designed by Guy Featherstone represent music with abstract shapes and typography. He explains, "I'd examine the music and try to work out, almost through a process of synesthesia really, what does that sound ‘feel' like? What does it look like? And it's not just the sound, it's the ‘experience' of listening to that music. How can I visualize that sonic terrain?" Diagonal Records produces electronic dance tracks, post-punk, and noise music.
ON WALL Album Cover Flats
Guy Featherstone (British, born 1974) for Diagonal Records (London, UK, founded 2011); Offset lithograph; Courtesy of Guy Featherstone
Russell Haswell: 37 Minute Workout (DIAG007), 2014
Thick horizontal and diagonal lines in black, red, and green correspond with an underlying grid of dots.
Shit and Shine: Powder Horn (DIAG012), 2013
Black text on a bright green background is obscured by white dripping shapes.
Consumer Electronics: Repetition Reinforcement (DIAG019), 2015
Even, horizontal slabs of color (black, orange, and blue) stack up across the surface in a staggered rhythm.
Not Waving: Animals (DIAG025), 2016
A bright orange background is covered with a grid of thin black lines. Pink, green, and striped or dotted shapes are layered on top.
IN CASE Album Covers
Guy Featherstone (British, born 1974) for Diagonal Records (London, UK, founded 2011); Offset lithograph; Museum purchase
Shit and Shine: Shit and Shine (DIAG004), 2013
Back: A black fly sits near a white star-like shape on a yellow background. Front: Letters made from abstract shapes spell out "Shit & Shine."
Skull Defekts: Street Metal (DIAG014), 2014
Back: A white box sits on a black background. Front: A green box is surrounded by exploding shards of white on a black background. Letters spelling out "STREET METAL" appear on front and back.
Green Gums: Black Tongue EP (DIAG020), 2015
Back and front: A circle inside a square is the centerpoint of a black-and-white arrangement of dotted and striped shapes.
Dozens of pale blue balls made of felted wool hang from above. They are infused with a scent inspired by winter. Chimes wrapped inside the balls add gentle sound. A wool carpet underfoot releases glimmers of scent with each step. Scent has become an intentional element of interior design, offering a gateway to physical places and personal memories. Wool is a natural material that holds scent for a long time. Created by Christopher Brosius.
Christopher Brosius (American, born 1962), I Hate Perfume (Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, founded 2004); Wool, chimes, ribbon, scent; Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Eight round light fixtures hang from above at different heights. Observe the color temperature of the light changing from a cool, energized blue to a soft, warm yellow. Light is tactile. We describe it as warm or cool, soft or hard. Light alters the qualities of a space and affects our productivity and mood. Bright light and blue wavelengths can promote feelings of alertness in a workplace, while warmer, dimmer lighting is often culturally associated with intimate settings. Designed by Rich Brilliant Willing.
Rich Brilliant Willing (New York, New York, USA, founded 2007); Light emitting diodes, aluminum, glass; Courtesy of Rich Brilliant Willing and Ketra
Occupy the space under spotlight to make the color of the light change. Each location controls a different set of lights. Discover what happens when all three spots are occupied.
These armless plastic chairs have a blade-like base that lets them tilt backward and forward. The chairs are designed for use in schools. The forward position, created for desk work, helps students sit with their spines straight. The back-leaning position supports rest during lectures or breaks. Changing position often helps students focus. Lightweight plastic limits noise and makes the chairs easy to stack and move. Designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Barber & Osgerby.
Edward Barber (British, born 1969), Jay Osgerby (British, born 1969), Barber & Osgerby (London, UK, founded 1996); Vitra (Birsfelden, Switzerland, founded 1950); Polypropylene, polyethylene; Courtesy of Vitra
Have you ever drooled at the sight of something delicious? We eat with our eyes, responding to color, texture, and shape. How might food be grown, harvested, prepared, and consumed in new ways? Design can arouse our desire with tantalizing allusions to food and seduce us into gluttony—or it can encourage us to slow down and savor the moment.
FlavorFactory is an installation occupying the corner of the gallery. Cut-outs in the white walls are shaped like oversized candy, ice cream, and machine parts. Inside each shape is an animation, which changes when visitors adjust the factory control beneath the animation. Created by food artist and designer Emilie Baltz for this exhibition, FlavorFactory plays with our perceptions of sweetness and disgust.
Emilie Baltz (French-American, born 1978), UNICORN EXISTS (New York, New York, USA, founded 2015); Animation design by Kamil Nawratil (Polish, born 1985); Sound design by Antfood (Brazilian-American, founded 2008); Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Adjust the colored knobs and levers to change the animations.
People use their senses to navigate places and understand products. Because sensory acuity diminishes with age, older people can especially benefit from sensory design. A colorful button, handle, or grab bar stands out from its surroundings. Smell can trigger memory and appetite.
Feelipa is a graphic system that translates colors into tactile shapes. Red is a square, yellow is a triangle, and blue is a circle. Additional colors are created by combining shapes. Horizontal lines express shades of gray. For someone who can see some color, the shapes and colors reinforce each other. This simple system could enable people to add tactile stickers to various products, from clothing to food packages and pill bottles. The system is designed by Filipa Nogueira Pires.
Filipa Nogueira Pires (Portugal); Graphic system; Redrawn by David Genco; Courtesy of Filipa Nogueira Pires
Video, 1:09 minutes
Ode is an oval-shaped device for display on a tabletop. This personal scent player diffuses food smells into a room at mealtimes to stimulate appetites for those with dementia. The Ode in front of you is not displayed "on." Instead, three containers hold smells from Ode's Nostalgic menu—pink grapefruit, cheese pizza, and Black Forest cake. Designed by Rodd Design.
Ben Davies (British, born 1973) and Lizzie Ostrom (British, born 1982), Rodd Design (Lyndhurst, UK, founded 2000); Scents by Demeter Fragrance Library; Mixed materials; Museum purchase; Scents courtesy of Demeter Fragrance Library
Nine colored door handles, designed and manufactured by HEWI, are installed in a vertical column. Each color contrasts differently with the wall. Installed in the corner is a white sink with red details, accompanied by red bathroom hardware. HEWI's Dementia Care Bathroom collection uses color to accent the functional parts of a wash basin, a soap dispenser, a support rail, and other fixtures. Color makes these elements easier to recognize and understand.
Door Levers in Assorted Colors
HEWI (German, founded 1929); Polyamide, corrosion resistant steel insert; Courtesy of HEWI
Dementia Care Bathroom Fixtures
HEWI (German, founded 1929); Courtesy of HEWI - Color & Memory
Mineral composite material
L-shaped Support Rail
Polyamide, white transparent synthetic material
Toilet Roll Holder
The dining table is theatrical. It is rooted in rituals, embellished by tableware, and activated by social life. We eat not just with our tongues, mouths, and noses but also with our eyes, fingers, lips, and ears. Creatively designed vessels and utensils stimulate desire and underscore the drama of the table. A bowl made from flexible materials quivers in response to touch. A bumpy spoon stimulates the mouth.
Two spoons, a fork, and a knife have a texture that was made from casting knitted textiles. These rich surfaces envelop the part of the object we cradle with our hands and fingers. A cast porcelain cup appears to be softly wrapped in a cozy knit. The visual cue of a perceived textile softens our tactile expectations, beckoning the eye toward a comforting meal. Designed by Verena Schreppel.
Verena Schreppel (German, born 1977); Courtesy of Verena Schreppel
Soup spoon, dessert spoon, fork, and knife
A cake platter consists of concentric circles—one orange and one cream—nested around a chocolate brown center plate. Designer Matali Crasset and chef Pierre Hermé created each ring as a movable part, recalling the nested cutters and baking pans used in pastry making. Made of melamine, the rings come together with a satisfying "clack."
Matali Crasset (French, born 1965) and Pierre Hermé (French, born 1961) for Alessi (Italy, founded 1921); Melamine; Courtesy of Alessi
The bottoms of four glass pitchers and six goblets and drinking glasses are bathed in a creamy wash of color, as though a milky, colorful concoction had been swirled inside each piece. The colored bottoms create a playful evocation of taste. Created by Bitossi.
Pitcher, tumblers, and goblets
Bitossi (Montelupo Fiorentino, Tuscany, Italy, founded 2007); Glass; Courtesy of Bitossi
Jinhyun Jeon's Sensory Spoons are edged with bumps or rippled like waves to catch and pool food. Some have rough interiors and handles to stimulate the fingers holding them. Texture and shape change what we taste. Bulbous utensils recall lollipops and sex toys. The materials of the spoons were chosen for their temperature and sonic properties, lulling the tongue or clinking against our teeth. The utensil tips are bathed in bubble gum pink or strawberry red.
Jinhyun Jeon (South Korean, born 1981), Studio Jinhyun Jeon (Seoul, South Korea, founded 2012); Courtesy of Studio Jinhyun Jeon
Diet Spoons, U-A III, 2016–18
Alumina, enamel finish
Front Volume N
The handle of the spoon is white. Its head is peach and grows more bulbous towards the tip.
Candy Volume N
A small utensil has a bulbous head, like a lollipop. The head and two-thirds of its handle are peach. The remaining third of the handle is ballet-slipper pink.
Rear Bump N
The spoon has a peach handle and a white head. Small bumps, dotted in red, are studded along the rear side of the spoon. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Inner Rough N
The handle of a spoon is white, its head is peach. The interior of the spoon is covered in a course texture. The handle is partially covered in the same rough texture.
Dessert Spoons, AEIOU I, 2015–18
Stainless steel, lacquered and/or 24-carat gold plated
Rear Bump OR
The dessert spoon has a stainless steel handle and a lacquered, cherry red head. Small bumps are studded along the rear side of the spoon. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Rear Bump OP
The handle of the dessert spoon is stainless steel, its head is lacquered in bubble gum pink. Small bumps are studded along the rear side of the spoon. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Rear Bump G
The dessert spoon is plated in 24-carat gold. Small bumps are studded along the rear side of the spoon. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Rear Gump Gh
The dessert spoon has a gold handle and a lacquered, bubble-gum pink head. Small bumps are studded along the rear side of the spoon. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Rear Bump RBh
The handle of the dessert spoon is lacquered in deep red, its head lacquered in cherry red. Small bumps are studded along the rear side of the spoon. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Dessert Spoons, AEIOU VII, 2015–18
Plastic, lacquered Ottchil
Inner Bump 0.5
The dessert spoon has a black lacquered handle and a pink head. Small bumps, each sized .5mm, are studded along the interior of the spoon. One small bump appears on the underside of the handle tip.
Inner Bump 2.0
The dessert spoon has a black lacquered handle and a pink head. Small bumps, each sized 2mm, are studded along the interior of the spoon. One small bump appears on the underside of the handle tip.
Inner Bump 4.0
The dessert spoon has a black lacquered handle and a pink head. Small bumps, each sized 4mm, are studded along the interior of the spoon. One small bump appears on the underside of the handle tip.
This wooden spoon is edged with bumps to tickle the mouth. The handle is tipped with a single bump to stimulate the fingers. This spoon is from Jinhyun Jeon’s Sensory Spoons collection on display in the case across from you. Touch the spoon and imagine how it would change the experience of eating.
Dinner Spoon, TSS II, 2016
Edge Bump A spoon made of maple has small bumps along its interior rim. One small bump appears on the handle tip.
Jinhyun Jeon (South Korean, born 1981), Studio Jinhyun Jeon (Seoul, South Korea, founded 2012); Maple; Museum purchase
The warm colors and delicate folds of Roxanne Brennen's sensual Dining Toys invite erotic foreplay with food. Sauces and soups puddle in the crevices of vessels. A graceful cone is designed to be cradled in the hand. Fleshy colors evoke skin.
Roxanne Brennen (American, born 1999); Glazed stoneware; Courtesy of Roxanne Brennen
ON TOUCH TABLE
The beige ceramic vessel is oval in shape and has an opening at one end. A red, tongue-like protrusion extends from the opening.
Plate and vessel, Willow and Rae
The walls of a round, purple dish are low in front and higher in back. A pink cylinder-shaped vessel sits inside the purple dish. The top of the vessel dips inward towards a hole at the center.
Utensil, vessel, and stand, Aurora, Carmen, and Teagan
A thin protrusion of a small oval-shaped vessel with curled edges perches on a blue ceramic stand. A long, flat utensil, thin at one end and wider at the other, is displayed in front of these objects.
Vessel and holder, Kleio and Kalliope
The vessel has a cone-like shape and is small enough to fit in the hand. The vessel nestles into a slightly larger holder with a similar cone-like shape.
Vessels, Thalia and Calandra
The vessel has a circular shape with a raised, off-center, cone-shaped protrusion. The back of the vessel is higher than than the front. It sits on a flat, circular dish.
Designer Lina Saleh's Living Plates quiver in response to touch. They bend and conform to the weight of food. Saleh made the plates from silicone. One bowl flutters. Another dish pops into position. We might jiggle the table to set the plates in motion or caress their sides. The objects change our expectations of plateware as no longer inanimate, static vessels for food, but responsive objects to enhance eating.
Living Plates collection, 2017
Lina Saleh (Saudi Arabian and Italian, born 1991); Silicone, porcelain; Courtesy of Lina Saleh
The smooth, flexible white surface resembles a hat with a wide, flat rim. Food nestles in the top of the crown.
The surface of the plate is clear and flexible. It resembles a low dome with a depression in the top, where food is gathered.
The round, deep vessel is small enough to hold in one hand. It has translucent, flexible sides.
A small, flexible, transparent bowl with a narrow base perches on a white dish that resembles a saucer with a raised inner circle.
A white ceramic bowl, cup, and plate each have a slanted bottom, making them tip one way or the other. The undersides are neon pink, casting a soft glow on a table. Designer Bilge Nur Saltik created this collection to highlight social interaction. Users seated across from one another tip the vessels toward their companion in a ritualized offering of food and drink.
Bowl, cup, and plate
Bilge Nur Saltik (Turkish, born 1988), Studio Bilge Nur Saltik (London, UK, founded 2013); Ceramic; Courtesy of Bilge Nur Saltik
Color and shape can amplify taste and smell. A bulbous lollipop tastes extra sweet. We associate red with the smell of cherries and brown with the smell of chocolate, spice, or tobacco. Designers stoke our appetites and craft our memories by associating flavors or smells with textures, patterns, and colors.
Eighty-five colorful chocolate bar packages are mounted to a wall. Ten naked chocolate bars are displayed in a case below. The packaging primes our desire for what's inside. The designs brim with bold, playful collages and drawings of magical worlds and fantastic landscapes. Owner and designer Jonathan Grahm carries this visual opulence to the design of the bars themselves. Some are covered in edible gold leaf; others are studded with dried fruit or rainbow sprinkles.
Designed by Jonathan Grahm (American, born 1984), Compartés Chocolatier (Los Angeles, California, USA, founded 1950); Assorted chocolate bar packaging and hand-made chocolate bars; Courtesy of Jonathan Grahm
Four buttons play short musical compositions inspired by the sense of taste. Bruno Mesz, Marcos A. Trevisan, and Mariano Sigman asked musicians to create improvisations in response to basic taste words. "Sour" compositions tend to have short notes that are high pitched and dissonant. "Bitter" compositions tend to be slower, lower, dissonant, and continuous (legato). The study found similar correlations for "sweet" (long, consonant, soft) and "salty" (staccato, with short, discontinuous notes). These qualities are demonstrated in the sounds presented here, designed by Bruno Mesz.
Research: Bruno Mesz, MUNTREF Centro de Arte y Ciencia, Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Argentina; Marcos A. Trevisan and Mariano Sigman, Laboratorio de Sistemas Dinámicos, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Universitaria, Argentina
High pitch, short duration, high dissonance
Low pitch, low articulation (legato), dissonant
Long duration, consonant, low articulation (legato), low loudness
Short duration and high articulation (staccato)
Red glossy cherries pop against a yellow chrome background on this scented wallpaper. Scratch and sniff technology was introduced in 1965. Designed by Michael Angelo for Flavor Paper, Cherry Forever is hand-printed and seeded with microcapsules of fragrant oil. Rub the cherries in the framed section of the wallpaper. The microcapsules break open to release the fruity scent.
Michael Angelo (American, born 1970) for Flavor Paper (New York, New York, USA, founded 2003); Screenprinted, microencapsulated scented oils; Courtesy of Flavor Paper
A small aluminum cylinder, about the size of a teacup, has vents on top. The vents emit smell. A disk inside the device diffuses a changing sequence of scents. By playing a scent "melody" rather than a static smell, Cyrano combats olfactory fatigue, which is the phenomenon of losing awareness of a smell over time. When we enter a new space, we quickly stop noticing the odor of flowers, pets, or cooking. New odors catch our attention. Cyrano is created by oNotes.
oNotes (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, founded 2013); Aluminum, plastic, electronic components, scent cartridge; Courtesy of oNotes, Inc.
Come close to the cylinder to experience the smell. Now playing: Central Park.
Plant Bones are palm-sized objects with boney, ribbed structures shaped like leaves. This speculative project by Marije Vogelzang proposes a future of plant-based protein grown on the boney scaffolds of a mutant plant species. Imagine spare ribs, without the pig. Rather than using traditional utensils, could we one day grow food on bone-like structures to finger and nibble, our tongues wrestling the food from between the ribs?
Marije Vogelzang (Dutch, born 1978), Studio Marije Vogelzang (Dordrecht, Netherlands, founded 1999); Paper-based clay, marzipan; Courtesy of Studio Marije Vogelzang
Bulbous objects with small protrusions resemble sprouted potatoes. Designer Marije Vogelzang created Volumes to change our visual perception of food quantity. Inspired by consumer psychologist Brian Wansink's research on portion control, the Volume objects are intended to nestle among food, giving the illusion of a fuller plate. When perceiving more food, we feel more satiated after eating.
Marije Vogelzang (Dutch, born 1978), Studio Marije Vogelzang (Dordrecht, Netherlands, founded 1999); Rocks, silicone, porcelain; Courtesy of Studio Marije Vogelzang
Video, 2:47 minutes
Courtesy of Studio Marije Vogelzang and Lieke Li
This series of benches and stools by Kollektiv Plus Zwei evokes the sensory table. The designers layered wood, plastic, foam, and resin and cut them like cakes and nougat. A stool's strata of colored resin resemble hard sugar candy. A bench made of layered foam and polystyrene conjures an ice cream finger topped with nonpareils.
Matthias Borowski (German, born 1983), Kollektiv Plus Zwei (Vienna, Austria, founded 2014); Courtesy of Kollektiv Plus Zwei
Bench, Yellow-Rosa Pie Cut with Crumbs
Layers of pink and yellow foam topped with crumbled polystyrene resemble a slab of cream pie.
Stool, Bon Bon
A shiny cube has been sliced from layers of transparent, candy-colored resin.
A block of off-white resin has been cut from a larger slab, revealing slices of wooden logs mixed into the resin. The piece resembles a cube of nougat candy mixed with hazelnuts.
Bench, Foam Roll
Layers of red and white foam are rolled up and wrapped in wood veneer, like a jelly roll. Foam puffs out like cream and jelly from the ends of the roll.
Sensory Material Samples, 2013
These samples were created by Kollectiv Plus Zwei in their quest to make materials seem good enough to eat. These explorations led to the series of benches and stools located on the pedestal to your right.
Matthias Borowski (German, born 1983), Kollektiv Plus Zwei (Vienna, Austria, founded 2014); Courtesy of Kollektiv Plus Zwei
Unwrapped Chocolate Material Sample
Two pieces of chocolate-brown wood, each the size of an individual Kit Kat bar, are embedded in a small block of tin.
Pink Gum Material Sample
Pink foam is squeezed between two blocks of wood, puffing out like chewed bubble gum from the top.
Wood, polyurethane foam
Rosa Sour Laces Material Sample
Strands of pink textile are embedded in a small block of cloudy plastic.
Milky Cloud Material Sample
Swirls of white resemble smoke frozen in a pink brick of translucent plastic.
Nougat Material Sample
Wood, polyurethane foam
Three round diagrams visualize experiences of smell. Perfumers, food scientists, and smell researchers have often used charts and wheels to categorize aromas. Human beings can distinguish at least one trillion distinct smells, yet many people find it difficult to precisely describe them. Although odors are invisible, these diagrams build on intuitive associations between smell and color.
Fragrance Wheel, 1983
The circle is divided into wedges and rings of color, labeled with names for different smells. This diagram was created by a perfumer to describe the sensory components of a fragrance. At the center, a small white circle is labeled "aromatic" and "fougère" (fern), establishing two broad categories. The next ring has four wedges: floral notes, oriental notes, woody notes, and fresh notes. The outer ring contains another level of detail. Designed by Michael Edwards.
Urban Smellscape Aroma Wheel, 2017
Wedges of color radiate from the center of the circle, labeled with categories such as "food," "waste," "emissions," and "animals." Researchers collected hundreds of smell words during walks with participants in the UK, Europe, and USA. These words were matched with thousands of geo-referenced messages on social media, yielding the words occupying the outer ring of the diagram.
Kate McLean (British, born 1965) with Daniele Guercia, Rossano Schifanella, and Luca Maria Aiello; Courtesy of Kate McLean
Anosmia: The Monotony of Smell Loss, 2015
A circle divided into quarters is hand-colored in brownish gray and labeled with texts such as "burning non-stick frying pans in outer space." Texts around the edge include "all smells are like an assault." Loss of one's sense of smell is called anosmia. Christine Kelly became anosmic after a sinus infection. She documented her experience with a series of smell wheels. For her, smells didn't simply disappear but became noxious and muddy. Eventually, her sense of smell returned.
Christine Kelly (American and British, born 1959); Watercolor and ink (original); Courtesy of Christine Kelly
Seven scented candles are displayed on a shelf. Printed cardboard packages for each candle are stacked above in columns. The packages are printed in rich colors that reinforce the scent of each candle. Cannabis is the color of marijuana resin. Mojito is Caribbean-sea blue. Neroli (orange blossom) is a rich, tropical red. The packaging system was designed by 2x4 for MALIN+GOETZ.
2 x 4 (New York, New York, USA, founded 1994), for Andrew Goetz (American, born 1962) and Matthew Malin (American, born 1967), MALIN+GOETZ (New York, New York, USA, founded 2004); Courtesy of MALIN+GOETZ
Smell a candle. What color sensations does it evoke? Does the scent suggest a texture, temperature, or material?
Color contrast and tactile feedback can help people build confidence with cooking and dining. Color enhances object recognition for people with low vision or dementia. Vividly colored dishes with varied textures can stimulate the appetite, while tools designed for touch can make everyday tasks easier.
The Leaven Range of kitchen wares are designed for people with impaired vision. Product designer Simon Kinneir has partial sight in one eye. For his graduate degree project at the Royal College of Art, he conducted research on vision loss, which occurs gradually for many people. His prototypes use touch, temperature, movement, and color contrast to support "self-confidence in the kitchen." The products offer passive tactile pointers and sensory feedback during kitchen tasks.
Simon Kinneir (British, born 1984), The Everyday (London, UK, founded 2013); Museum purchase
Chopping Board, 2013
Black grooves run across the surface in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal directions. Visible and tactual contrast guides users.
Two shot injection molding
Cutlery (Knife, Fork, Spoon), 2013
Three pieces of white plastic cutlery each have a tactile mark on the handle. The spoon has a raised horizontal line, the fork has a raised vertical line, and the knife has an indent. These marks help users recognize each piece by touch.
The ceramic cup has thumb-shaped indentations that invite touch. The mug is thinner at these indented areas, allowing the user to feel the temperature change. A thin black line provides a visual target.
Hob Guard, 2013
Two barriers shaped like arcs of a circle attach via magnets to a range top. This device provides tactile feedback for positioning a pot.
A dinner plate with a raised edge guards against spilling.
Drinking Glass, 2013
The transparent glass with a pattern of black and white markings stands out against different backgrounds.
Manufactured glass, silkscreen transfer
A cylindrical jug with an angled bottom is supported by a box-like frame. The frame indicates through balance and touch how much liquid is inside. The frame serves as both a handle and a base, keeping the jug from tipping over.
Brushed aluminum, powder-coated stainless steel
Color plays a powerful role in Eatwell Assistive Tableware. Designer Sha Yao's grandmother lived with Alzheimer's disease. Her cognitive and sensory impairments caused her to eat less than she should. The Eatwell bowl uses the color blue, which does not appear in food, helping people with Alzheimer's distinguish food from the dish. On the exteriors of the bowls, red and yellow stimulate appetite. All pieces stand out from the table setting to enhance cognition.
Sha Yao (born in Taiwan, 1983), Sha Design LLC (Redwood City, California, USA, founded 2013); Polypropylene, thermoplastic elastomers, silicone; Courtesy of Sha Design LLC
Red Cup with Lid
The red cup has a clear lid and a blue stabilizing base.
Red Bowl, Yellow Bowl
The red bowl and the yellow bowl each have a blue interior to contrast with food, a slanted bottom to collect food, and a right-angled side wall to enable scooping.
Red Spoon, Yellow Spoon
The spoons each have one side that matches the curvature of the front wall of the bowl and another side that matches the basin.
Yellow Mug with Lid
The mug has a clear lid and a roomy handle that stabilizes against the tabletop.
Materials are the flesh and bones of objects and buildings. Plastic, metal, ceramic, and glass have distinct qualities of hardness, roughness, and shine. A material's ability to conduct heat or trap air makes it feel warm or cool to touch. Textures speak to the eye as well as to the skin, enriching surfaces with real or simulated depth.
Inside five glass domes are vessels printed from coffee, tea, sugar, curry, and the skins of Chardonnay grapes. Each dome has an indented opening, inviting visitors to sniff the objects inside. These pieces were designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello in Oakland, California. They use 3D printing processes to invent forms with unique tactile qualities.
Virginia San Fratello (American, born 1971) and Ronald Rael (American, born 1971), Rael San Fratello (Oakland, California, USA, founded 2003) and Emerging Objects (Oakland, California, USA, founded 2013); Courtesy of Emerging Objects
Each glass container has an opening on top for smelling. Carefully find the opening and smell.
Tea Pot and Tea Cups from Utah Tea Set, 2015
The low, rounded teapot and teacup are a rich reddish brown color with a coarse, gritty texture.
Coffee Pot and Coffee Cup, 2018
The pot and cup are printed from coffee. The pot is tall and curvy. The cup is low and rounded. The surface is a rich brown color with a rough texture.
Furry Curry, 2017
The vessel is oval in shape and has an opening on the top and a lid. There are circular handles on each side and on the top. A bumpy texture covers the vessel. The exterior is a deep, reddish brown, and the interior is orange.
Chardonnay Wine Goblets, 2017
The goblets have wide, low stems. They are a rich, deep red with a rough texture.
3D-printed chardonnay skins and seeds
Cotton Candy Dishes, 2017
Two pink candy dishes have rough, grainy surfaces. The first dish resembles a stack of bubbles. At the top, half of one bubble serves as a lid. The second is a footed, rimmed bowl with a cone-shaped lid.
3D-printed sugar, aromatics
Five 3D-printed tiles have an intricate textured surface resembling loops of yarn. Each tile is printed with the same texture, but the underlying material is different. As you touch each tile, experience its unique quality of roughness, hardness, and temperature. The tiles were created by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello. They use 3D printing to create new design and construction processes.
Virginia San Fratello (American, born 1971) and Ronald Rael (American, born 1971), Rael San Fratello (Oakland, California, USA, founded 2003) and Emerging Objects (Oakland, California, USA, founded 2013); Courtesy of Emerging Objects
Touch each tile. How do the different materials change the experience?
Loopy Tile 1
Loopy Tile 2
Loopy Tile 3
Loopy Tile 4
Smooth glazed ceramic
Loopy Tile 5
A roughly textured wallcovering is covered with Alpine hay mixed with herbs and flowers. The surface is rough, raw, and natural. The Organoid line of surface materials is used for flooring, wallcoverings, and acoustic panels. The natural materials introduce gentle scents into a room.
Martin Jehart (Austria, born 1973), Organoid Technologies Gmbh (Fliess, Austria, founded 2012); Alpine hay, rose petals and buds, self-adhesive foil backing; Courtesy of Organoid Technologies Gmbh
A sheet of pink wallpaper is printed with an enlarged, high-resolution photograph of fuzzy twine. Petra Blaisse is known for designing large-scale curtains that move and breathe across the expanse of a stage or an architectural facade. Her Touch series of wall coverings feature detailed photographs of wool, felt, fur, and knitted or woven fabrics. The flat surface invites the eye to touch.
Petra Blaisse (British, born 1955); Made by Wolf-Gordon Inc. (New York, New York, USA, founded 1967); Rotogravure-printed on vinyl; Collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Gift of Wolf-Gordon, 2004-26-1
Every human being has unique capacities to see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and explore the world. Inclusive design acknowledges sensory differences by offering people multiple ways to communicate and navigate. Sensory differences are an essential aspect of the human condition. By embracing these differences, designers are contributing to inclusive design languages.
Four wall graphics feature architectural diagrams. A large, full-color digital rendering depicts a public atrium in a new academic building at Gallaudet University. Deaf culture shares a common language and cognitive sensibilities. The DeafSpace design guidelines were developed by Hansel Bauman and his colleagues at Gallaudet University. Principles include providing ample space for people to communicate visually, offering open views and visible destinations, and using light, color, materials, and reflective surfaces to enhance wayfinding.
Courtesy of Hansel Bauman, Gallaudet University
The rendering shows a multi-story atrium. A low flight of circular stairs becomes impromptu seating. Interior balconies connect people visually. Fins in the ceiling diffuse light. Hall McKnight, an architectural firm located in Ireland, won a competition to design this campus building at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. According to the architects, "We want to make places that offer a unique sensory experience conducive to, and expressive of, Deaf culture and people of all abilities."
Hall McKnight (Belfast, Ireland, founded 2003), AECOM (Los Angeles, California, USA, founded 1990); Digital print; Courtesy of Hall McKnight
A video, two visual diagrams, and a tactile map and key present Tactile City, a proposal for a citywide tactile communication system. The system would use paving with different textures to indicate points of interest, such as a bus stop, a garbage can, a sign, or an entrance to a building. Tactile City also includes a solution for guiding pedestrians through construction sites. Tactile City is conceived as a standard system that could be learned. Tactile City was designed by Theodore Kofman and a team of students and alumni at The Cooper Union.
Project Instructor: Theodore Kofman; Students: Charlie Blanchard, Chris Taleff, Thomas Heyer, and Ratan Rai Sur; Alumni team: Emilie Gossiaux and WaI-Jee Ho; The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union (New York, New York, USA, founded 1859), with support from the New York City Department of Design and Construction
Video, 2:05 minutes
Urban construction sites generate pedestrian detours throughout New York City. A combination of braille graphics, ramped platforms, and motion-activated sound devices would signal the presence of short-term and long-term construction barriers, guiding pedestrians with information about the shape and duration of detours.
Tactile graphics by Touch Graphics
This display consists of two tactile drawings, four handrail models, four stair tread models, and an audio-visual spatial model. These elements reveal the process of creating architecture for non-visual experience. Architect Chris Downey became blind after surgery for a brain tumor. Downey, who continues to practice architecture, consulted with Mark Cavagnero Associates and Arup to design a new facility for San Francisco's LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Downey says, "I'm interested in how to convey delight in architecture whether it is seen or not."
Acoustic Model Video, 2018, 2:00 minutes
The video shows how architect Chris Downey and acoustic designer Shane Myrbeck (Arup) modelled the sound of the LightHouse environment.
Shane Myrbeck, Arup, with Chris Downey (American, born 1962) for San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1902); Courtesy of Arup
Embossed Digital Prints, 2015
Two tactile drawings depict floor plans. Drawings like these enable communication between sighted and non-sighted designers.
Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1988) with Chris Downey (American, born 1962) for San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1902); Courtesy of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Railing Section Prototypes, 2015
Four 3D-printed models represent different approaches to designing a railing for a staircase. The first three designs displayed here were tested with users and evaluated for their tactile properties. The fourth sample is the final design.
Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1988) with Chris Downey (American, born 1962) for San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1902); Courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects
Stair Tread Prototypes with Alternate Nosing Profiles, 2015
Four wooden stair treads have different front edges. The first design has a metal edge—this would have been too loud when tapped with a mobility cane. "The stair's acoustic attributes animate the space," Chris Downey says. "We intentionally didn't carpet the stair. If you carpet the stair it disappears to a blind user."
Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1988) with Chris Downey (American, born 1962) for San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco, California, USA, founded 1902); Courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects
Smells are difficult to describe. We often use metaphors from the other senses to describe a smell as bright, sharp, round, warm, cool, or green. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel describes scent as architecture: "Scent designers build volume and textures. A scent can be cold, fuzzy, or fluffy." Touch the surface and smell the two scents. What qualities do the scents share?
The top of a white pedestal has a texture that is sharp and pointy on one side and curvy on the other. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel selected a different scent to accompany each texture. A scent called Fear is cold and electric, "like touching a knife," while Volatile Marilyn recalls the white dress, soft skin, airy freshness, and hidden torment of Marilyn Monroe.
Scent fountain mechanism designed by Dmitry Rinberg, NYU Neuroscience Institute (New York, New York, USA); Surface designed by Studio Joseph (New York, New York, USA, founded 1996); Scent, CNC-routed MDF (medium density fiberboard), fans, electronic components
Touch the surface and smell the scent. Experience the relationship between texture and smell.
Air Sculpture: Fear SD2, 2011
Christophe Laudamiel (French, born 1969); Scent
Air Sculpture: Volatile Marilyn #17, 2014–17
Christophe Laudamiel (French, born 1969), Ugo Charron (French, born 1992); Scent
Designers, animators, and filmmakers use color, line, shape, motion, and texture to visualize sound and touch. The animations and short films shown in this theater space explore interactions between sound and architecture and between visual form and other sensory realms. Audio descriptions make these videos accessible to people with vision loss.
Audio descriptions voiced by Michele Spitz, and generously provided by Woman of Her Word
Andy Thomas went to the Amazon to collect audio. He used particle effects animation software to visualize the sounds of birds and insects.
Andy Thomas (Australian, born 1976); Sounds recorded by Andy Thomas and Reynier Omena Junior in and around Presidente Figueiredo, State of Amazonas, Brazil, 2016; 2:00 minutes; Digital audio, 3D particle effects software; Courtesy of Andy Thomas
Alexander Chen used data from the New York City subway system to generate musical compositions. A plucked string plays when two train paths intersect. Sound by Tim Kahn.
Alexander Chen (American, born 1981); Sound by Tim Kahn; 15 seconds; Courtesy of Alexander Chen and Tim Kahn
Ran Zheng collected sounds from a cafe and an office. She created letters that respond to the loudness and pitch of the sounds.
Ran Zheng (Chinese, born 1988); 2:00 minutes; Cinema 4D and Processing software; Courtesy of Ran Zheng
The imaginary objects in this 3D animation behave like real things. They swell, bounce, melt, and fold as if they were made from physical materials.
Anny Wang (Swedish, born 1990), Tim Söderström (Swedish, born 1988), Wang & Söderström (Copenhagen, Denmark, founded 2016); 1:00 minute; 3D software: 3Ds Max, Vray, Modo; Courtesy of Wang & Söderström
Computer-generated 3D objects such as eggs, balloons, and a glass of milk look familiar but they bounce, melt, move, and react in unexpected ways.
Chris Hardcastle (British, born 1975), Ben Black (British, born 1985), and Jack Brown (British, born 1986), Mainframe (Manchester, UK, founded 2008); 56 seconds; Autodesk Maya, V-Ray; Courtesy of mainframe.co.uk
Karen van Lengen created drawings inspired by sounds recorded in the New York Public Library. James Welty created animations of the drawings.
Karen van Lengen (American, born 1951) and James Welty (American, born 1950); 1:15 minutes; Collection of the Museum of the City of New York; Courtesy of Karen van Lengen and James Welty
A singer performs in different locations, from a cozy bedroom to the nave of a church. The sound changes as it interacts with the architecture.
Directed by Vincent Rouffiac (French, born 1981); Produced by TOUCHÉ Videoproduktion (Vienna, Austria, founded 2015) for Joachim Müllner; 2:44 minutes; Courtesy of TOUCHÉ Videoproduktion Creative
People with synesthesia can see music in color or connect letters to sounds or textures. This video visualizes unique ways of recalling numbers.
David Genco (Luxembourgian, born 1985); 32 seconds; Courtesy of David Genco
A blond wood bench with an upholstered seat absorbs sound. Johan Kauppi designed the Wakufuru bench to be quiet both visually and acoustically. Produced by Glimakra, each bench has three layers of sound-absorbing material beneath the top surface. An air gap further dampens the sound.
Johan Kauppi (Swedish, born 1975); Manufactured by Glimakra of Sweden (Glimakra, Sweden, founded 1948); Wood, top in veneered MDF; Acoustic filling: formfelt, perforated board and polyether; Courtesy of Glimakra of Sweden
Round panels and square panels are wrapped in yellow and gray wool fabric. Designed to hang on a wall, these acoustic panels absorb waves of sound. By preventing echoes from bouncing around the room, acoustic materials control the overall loudness of the room and also make the sounds of speech more crisp and intelligible. Designed by Lievore Altherr Molina for Arper.
Lievore Altherr Molina (Barcelona, Spain, founded 1991); Manufactured by Arper (Treviso, Italy, founded 1989); Wool, powder-coated aluminum; Courtesy of Arper
The materials used throughout this exhibition enhance the sensory journey of visitors as they travel through the galleries. Each material has its own way of reflecting light, absorbing sound, and appealing to our sense of touch.
This carpet has a ribbed structure. The fibers are composed primarily of Cashmere goat hair. Softness, toughness, vibrancy, and richness are delivered in a blend of white, blue, and black colored threads.
Designed and manufactured by Tretford (Waterford, Ireland, founded 1971); Cashmere goat hair, felt; Courtesy of Tretford
Tassels are made by gathering threads and letting them hang free at one end. The loose white and light blue threads tickle the skin by their softness and thinness. Similar thread is used throughout the exhibition as the primary material of the curvy, woven, colored dividers.
Designed and manufactured by Bolon (Ulricehamn, Sweden, founded 1949); Vinyl
A full-color layer of visible ink has been printed over white braille dots and raised-line tactile symbols. The visible layer and the tactile layer co-exist for all users. Touch Graphics worked with Cooper Hewitt to develop accessible labels for this exhibition.
Labels designed by David Genco, Ellen Lupton, and Touch Graphics;Produced by Touch Graphics