The Power of Multisensory Design

Even though design perception is mostly associated with our sight, it appears that instead we approach the design evaluation more holistically. As we all know, humans have five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. All of these can unconsciously influence the emotion associated with a specific object or space – let me explain how.

Starting with the obvious choice of sight, color psychology is a very powerful tool when it comes to customer influence. Various colors are often unconsciously associated with a certain type of product, price point, gender or emotion. For instance, green often implies the connection with the naturalness of the product, whereas black showcases formality, luxury and power (Batagoda, 2017). It is not a coincidence that the color blue is so frequently used among various companies and products. It encourages the feeling of trust and safety, which is very much desired in the design industry.

Among other properties, the shape plays a significant role as well. Personal preferences aside, round shapes are often perceived as more friendly and cute. Contrary to that, products with sharp lines seem way more strict and harsh.

The next one – smell. I am sure we have all experienced the feeling of how encountering a certain smell brings back an old memory or association. The brain smell center is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, which are responsible for emotions and memories (Walsh, 2020). Therefore, the power of smell is very significant in this sense. A pleasant fragrance can positively influence the perception of a product and emphasize the emotions connected to the design. Additionally, after smelling the same fragrance again, the product might be recalled. 

The inclusion of taste is a bit more difficult unless you design food packaging. However, sometimes including a color or visual that consciously or unconsciously evokes something tasty can make the design more favorable. Creating a product display accompanied by tasty food around it (it has to be relevant of course) can help to demonstrate the contents of the product as well as create a suitable taste association.

On the other hand, sound is a design element that is used relatively frequently. Especially when it comes to promotion. Presenting the design piece accompanied by cheerful music can significantly change the whole experience. Most of us probably encountered a commercial which we especially liked not because of the product that was being advertised, but because of the music. Similarly to color, music has a great psychological effect on humans. The right choice of music can complete the atmosphere and truly sell the product to the desired audience. 

Lastly, let's talk about the touch. Touching various textures can again evoke specific emotions as well as make the experience more interesting. Contrasting or unusual materials are a great way to attract customers, especially when it comes to product design. Additionally, the material of food packaging, for example, can affect how healthy the product seems. It is a great way to nonverbally convey the characteristics of the product. Specifically, shiny materials seem less healthy because of their resemblance to greasy food (Ye, Morrin, Kampfer, 2019). Contrary to that, matte packaging with natural appearance helps to convey the feeling of healthy, organic food inside (Ye, Morrin, Kampfer, 2019).

Us designers always want to create a memorable design. As we know, not all people have the same type of memory - some people prefer visual information whereas some prefer auditory information etc. By involving multiple senses in the design and its promotion, we make it memorable for a wider range of audience.

Katerina E.

March 29, 2022


Batagoda, M., 2017. Color, psychology and design. [online] Medium. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 March 2022].

Marsh, M. and Mueller, K., 2022. Multisensory Design: The Empathy-Based Approach to Workplace Wellness. [online] Work Design Magazine. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 March 2022].

Walsh, C., 2020. How scent, emotion, and memory are intertwined — and exploited. [online] Harvard Gazette. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 March 2022].

Ye, N., Morrin, M. and Kampfer, K., 2019. From Glossy to Greasy: The Impact of Learned Associations on Perceptions of Food Healthfulness. Journal of Consumer Psychology, [online] 30(1), pp.96-124. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 March 2022].

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