Product design requires an open mind. Daniel Kerris’ Synaesynth project isn’t the result of stale and narrow thinking. The product is quite straight forward: a camera with connected computer turns colors it registers into sound. If you have a painting for example, you can move the camera over the painting and you will hear sounds, music. Synaesynth is in some ways similar to Matsui & Miyazaki’s ‘Sound for Colours’ project we featured earlier. Kerris’ take on making music from colors is more geared to turning your surroundings and images into music as opposed to making music by arranging colors as Matsui & Miyazaki did. How do you get to that idea and turn it into a product anyone can use? Daniel explained his Synaesynth project to us.
Have you ever thought of a musical street? A blue car passing will make a sound, followed by a green one making it’s own sound, and a grey one, and then a red car also making sounds. All of the sudden your street is making music! (mind you, people will need to be more ‘experimental’ in their paint selection) Or imagine a shopping street in the spring: when the sun comes out many people start wearing more colorful clothes. What would the music sound like if you would turn spring clothes into sounds. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons will be put into an entirely new perspective.
If you’re not familiar with how IT-product design works, if you think it’s just a matter of one’s and zero’s and techies: you’re wrong. The source of Kerris’ idea behind the Synaesynth project lies in a tram ride where Kerris pondered about turning the landscape passing by into music. Similar to Jennifer Greenburgs’ feelings on what makes a good photographer the product designer needs to be skilled in much more than just writing code. Anyone can learn writing code. You need inspiration, you need to look at the world around, question it and be inspired by it. You need to see connections between a problem you want to solve and areas that are completely unrelated to find solutions. And you need to experiment. From making the camera recognize the right colors (Daniel chose not to use average colors of an area but exact pixels), to selecting what a color sounds like (how does blue compare to red in sound? Blue and red are complementary colors visually speaking, but do they also need to be opposites sound wise?). Daniel stuck to opposites and was inspired by the the Doppler effect to add sound to blue and red: blue would be like a car driving away from you and therefor creating a lower tone, whereas red would get a higher pitch like a car moving towards you. He also asked people about people about their associations of colors and sounds. Not only people on the streets, but also orchestra’s. One thing he learned is how incredibly subjective people are when it comes to colors and sounds. Did you notice we haven’t mentioned writing code for a while? There’s more to the apps we use than writing code.
There needs to be harmony to make the sounds of color something you want to listen to. That harmony is something Kerris needed to create in the code but he wouldn’t solve it by writing code, he needed to make choices and translate them into code. To solve the problem of harmony Kerris let the hues determine the scale and the brightness the octaves to be selected. And there are many more challenges like this that Kerris needed to solve to create sound from colors, sounds that actually make sense, music. Many of his choices could have been made differently, but all of his choices we’re inspired and thought through. And Synaesynth will need some more development, it will need more ideas. Or considering that Kerris already has several ideas on which way it could develop further, it’s needs choices. Choices only Kerris can make for the project. Because he is the product designer.