The Web Platform
March 7–8, 2016: Training
March 8–10, 2016: Conference
San Francisco, CA

Buzz, beep, and blink: Designing across the senses

Christine Park (Basis, An Intel Company), John Alderman (supereverywhere)
3:00pm–3:30pm Wednesday, 03/09/2016
Average rating: *....
(1.91, 11 ratings)

Prerequisite knowledge

Attendees need a working knowledge of designing and developing products and usability, some knowledge of sensor- or hardware-enabled experiences, and an interest in connected devices and the IoT.


Multimodal design is an approach that reflects how we use our senses together in the physical world. People don’t use the complete capacity of all of their senses all of the time—that would be overwhelming and exhausting. Instead, we use subsets of our senses in specific combinations during different experiences. By focusing on the subset of senses used, interfaces can deliver more meaningful, intuitive experiences that better suit their context and use. Understanding multimodal design can help teams build products that engage people more intuitively and integrate into real-life situations in a more focused, relevant, and understandable way.

Christine Park and John Alderman outline the framework of multimodal design and explain how to apply it to connected-device experiences. Christine and John review new products that utilize a multimodal-design approach, discuss the benefits of this approach to users, and summarize the key technologies and design practices that enable multimodal interactions. Two key concepts of this approach are modalities—specific subsets of senses used to perceive different kinds of experiences—and cues—the individual units of perception or communication within these modalities.

Photo of Christine Park

Christine Park

Basis, An Intel Company

Christine Park works on wearables at Basis, an Intel company. As a designer, director, and strategist, she has won a Cannes CyberLion for her work on Touchwall, a public interactive installation, and has two patents for her work designing Vudu’s SmartTV and Playstation 4 applications. She has worked on a broad range of natural interfaces, including touch, gesture, and speech, for companies like Xbox, HP, and Panasonic. Christine’s background in industrial and fashion design has informed her approach to experience design, particularly around natural interfaces and context-specific design in the physical world.

Photo of John Alderman

John Alderman


John Alderman is a writer, creative director, and strategist. He has written two books about technology and culture, Sonic Boom (a New York Times notable book) and Core Memory (a Design Observer book of the year), and contributed to Domus, Etapes, Rhizome, Wired, and the Guardian. John is a regular speaker on technology, design, and culture and has been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, CNN, and many others.