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Incorporating the 12 senses into the design process

Updated: Jun 26


We should be able to recognize a covered object by touch.

After approximate sketches, feeling the surface texture and functional testing, we identified a fold-out African coconut grater.

In this experiment we learned how important touching is for humans.

The desiccated coconut was completely unknown to us and was only “discovered” based on the sensory impression of the touch.

Even though the sense of touch is unconscious, it still seems to say a lot about objects and our environment.

These experiences show how important the sense of touch is for people and therefore also for product designers in the design process.

Due to mass consumption, short-livedness and pressure to perform, a sensory overload has occurred in today's society, which is largely responsible for the fact that there is a deficit of emotionally high-quality products.

Humans' basic need for tactile, visual and emotional stimuli can only be inadequately satisfied.

The subconsciously perceived qualities also give the product a high emotional value, which is not only expressed in sales figures, but also ensures greater satisfaction.

When designing products, the designer's job should be to include them in the design process.

The importance of the senses shows how important it is not to neglect them and to recognize the needs of the user in order to be able to respond to them better.

“Knowledge that has not come through the senses cannot produce any truth other than one that is harmful.”

(Leonardo da Vinci)

By reading the book published by Prof. Schneider,


we come to the realization that there are far more than just the well-known five senses:

1.The senses of the action space

(volitional senses)

-Sense of touch

-Sense of life

-Sense of movement

-Sense of balance

2. The senses of the impression space

(emotional senses)

-Sense of smell

-Sense of taste


-Heat sense (psychic)

3. The senses of the meaning space (cognitive senses)

-Sound, sense of proportion

-Sense of shape

-Sense of thought

-Sense of identity

They are defined in more detail below:

1. The sense of touch

In the dark we rely entirely on our sense of touch.

Only tactile stimuli such as touch and pressure give us the information we need to understand our environment. That's why we are particularly dependent on this most primal of all senses, because it enables an elementary borderline experience between our own physicality and the "existence of things"

An indication of the original need for touch is expressed in shaking hands, patting the shoulder, dancing or kissing, as well as in the aversion that can be associated with it.

When sensory tactile experiences are lost, this sense atrophies, causing the person to lose connection to themselves and atrophy.

There is no feedback to the center of his organization

An example of this is staying in a sterile, “empty” room in a hospital.

Without tactile design there is a lack of stimuli, which counteracts a quick recovery.

Through conscious tactile design through the use of natural materials such as wood, people can regain their basic physical and spiritual trust and experience experiences such as smooth-rough, soft-hard, elastic-firm at the same time.

That's why it's important to draw on the resources of nature because through landscape, soil, rocks, earth, sand, plants, trees, water and air, it enables unlimited possibilities for the senses to experience.

A meaning can best be explained with the help of a shape circle. This arises from the impressions of the different sensations of curved (passive) and curved (active). Only the contrast between the qualities of the circle allows us to perceive the individual experiences in their special characteristics evaluate:

2. The meaning of life

This meaning is an expression of our well-being.

Our well-being is defined between depression and exhilaration, which is directly expressed in the way we live.

The movement is perceived as a feeling of freedom and lightness. Due to the continuous one-sided stress and restriction caused by technical progress, we have lost contact with nature. This is one of our basic needs.

The nascent life full of elasticity and strength combined with its inner dynamism shows itself, among other things, in the refreshing times of spring, where new life arises.

The difference is clear between a wilting plant and a fresh plant

Contrasting properties such as tense-slack, strong-thin, swelling-dwindling, flexible-stiff, stretched-kinked are particularly clear here. These conditions are not otherwise seen in objects and architecture.

Through the meaning of life we receive formative forces such as those that were previously achieved in ancient times through surface tensions.

Where the sense of touch only distinguishes between “curvature and hollowness” or a neutral plane in the form qualities of the sculpture, the sense of life can sense the inner flow of power in the primal polarity between construction and dismantling.

3. The sense of movement

As we move, we perceive the movement as sensual. After a trip into nature we feel a feeling of vitality and inspiration.

Only with a rhythmic design, whether space or object, does a quality arise that fills us with satisfaction.

We perceive this meaning through movement and could not act without it.

The movement shape perceived by the sense of movement is expressed through the voluntary acts of our body such as standing and sitting, walking and running, jumping and hopping, writing and digging, wiping and hammering.

Nothing living or inanimate is conceivable without the existence of shaping movements and forces.

For the sense of movement, the form is therefore something that has come into being, something that has become solid, which it moves in a comprehensible manner and whose character of movement it experiences.

The sense of movement lives in a form of time; he can only perceive by retaining the memory of the previous state.

Only by distinguishing between beginning, directing and completing can he move a designed object

experience when these qualities are present.

Without perception and feedback, the movement breaks down into meaningless partial movements and attempts at movement.

Unfortunately, today's usual design methods on the drawing board all too often ignore this need for self-experience in rhythmic, organic movement.

4. The sense of balance (symmetry)

You have to determine your own “rightness” and “center” in order to create dynamic qualities that are common in nature in the form of symmetry in the formation of shapes.

In order to find and determine oneself, people strive to create something that is calmly present and timelessly valid. This validity can be found in Egyptian and Greek temple architecture, among others.

Through symmetry, the complex quality of sensory perception can be defined not only as an aesthetic concept, but also as another sensory perception.

The appeal of danger or risk to people's sense of equilibrium through balancing can be seen, among other things, in the joy of a small child when trying to walk for the first time.

The primal polarity of the sense of balance shows itself in order and deviation. But in its functional dynamics it wants to be kept constantly active.

Therefore, the equality of symmetry cannot be its “ideal goal”, but a balancing act from a necessarily unstable, open zone of its own determination.

The floating state of the opposition equal-unequal, even-odd, even-uneven enables people to feel the deviation from symmetry as a positive sensory experience.

Our own, free creation of balance during the design process is crucial in order to better correspond to our organism and its moving center.

5. The sense of smell

The sense of smell also has something tactile. Whether by “sniffing” or normal smelling, we receive sensory impressions from our environment long before any of the other senses can pick up the “weather”.

The sensory qualities of the sense of smell are much more difficult to define in their form-like order than the more easily defined qualities of other senses and we usually have to name the objects that give off smells, such as “the smell of apples,” “the smell of lavender,” “the smell of resin,” etc., in order to understand ourselves make.

Therefore - in the aesthetic sense - we do not smell the smell as such, but never something that gives off this scent.

Every object exudes its own scent sphere to which our sense of smell is exposed.

Smells can convey messages to us about things and their properties from far away, such as a fire or the nearby sausage stand, convey properties and qualities to us. The psychological impression of this sense can be seen, among other things, in the statement “not being able to smell someone” and clearly illustrates the expression of our emotional attitude when smelling

That's why it's so important to recognize the importance and take it into account in the design process by using natural, pleasant-smelling materials.

6. The sense of taste

In addition to the sense of smell, the sense of taste is the second and weakest chemical sense in humans. Only in combination with the sense of smell is he able to go beyond his four narrow judgments - salty, sweet, sour and bitter. When we have a cold and a stuffy nose, we clearly see the importance of this interaction.

The four qualities that the sense of taste distinguishes do not merge into one another, unlike the “form circles” of other senses. Your mixture is always just a compositional addition and the individual qualities remain intact, e.g. “sweet and sour”

In combination with the sense of smell, the harmony of individual components is always assessed compositionally

However, taste can also be defined differently, namely as aesthetic judgment, which is based on the appropriateness of a material, a substance - the person, the place, the context; it asks about salary, character and honesty.

This question cannot be asked in nature, because here aesthetic appearance and essence form a unity; Nothing can seem random or artificial here because everything is “real” from the start. The less we are surrounded by the “tasteful”, true forms of nature, the more important in civilization the task of the designer is to create aesthetically valuable products so that “good taste” does not atrophy.

7. The sense of sight

Without the light and color of things, which contrast in form, the world would be nothing to the eye.

That is why the sense of sight can be seen as the most important and comprehensive, because it supports and complements all other senses.

The eye initially serves as a mediator of stimuli that directly affect the autonomic nervous system and the hormonal processes of the organism via the brain in the pituitary gland.

That is why this has far-reaching consequences for lighting and room design and for the influence of environmental design on the regeneration or stress of the organism. In interaction with the sense of touch and the sense of movement, the brain intervenes in the chaos of the visible with the help of the eye - selecting, ordering, replicating and shaping.

The actual, optical vision is a fixation of bodies and their body color, a feeling of light and light colors that humans internally recreate.

The hidden multicoloredness of the monochrome colors is the actual perceptible color for humans.

Discovered by Goethe, color can only be perceived at the boundaries between light and dark, and the process of color creation from its original polarity of light and darkness is a relativization and contrast of the opposite pole.

For the aesthetic experience of color this means:

Only the polychrome colors that are visible as hidden polychromy are colors in the true sense. Monochrome, pure colors, in which the red is only red, the green is only green, are not complete colors without shape and the design process.

Only through rhythmic change and contrast are shadows and brightness, transitions and levels of light presented to the eye.

Everything else is a superficial signal, information about trivialities and becomes a tiring image of emptiness and a lack of reference. The eye is overloaded.

Cool light colors have a three-dimensional, concave and calming effect, while warm body colors form the opposite pole.

Due to the great dependence of life functions on light and color conditions, the division into day-night and the seasons is an expression of people's sensitivity to colors and their effect.

That's why it's important to see color as an important means of expression, whereby a natural balance between color and form content already exists in nature.

8. The sense of heat

The perceptual aim of the sense of heat is not to determine a time-independent, measurable temperature, but is directed towards the relationship between the poles of its quality field.

A simple experiment can clarify this:

To do this, both hands are placed in cold and warm water at the same time. Then both hands are placed in water with the same temperature and we notice that the right and left hands still show the same feeling as with the different water temperatures.

The differentiation between sensations and the flow between heat and cold in the life processes of our own body and the environment are the achievements of our heat sense.

The activity of this sense is based on an internal heat balance - your own vital heat.

The perceptual flow of the heat sense shows the shape of a polar arc of tension, at the outer ends of which there are “hot” (painful) and “icy” (painful).

There can be overlapping sensations that also influence other sensory areas.

Just as the sense of balance regulates the qualities of touch, life and movement in the architectural spaces of action, the sense of heat particularly tempers the smell, taste, color and light design in the architectural space

We experience color and light as being directly tempered, for example the perceived temperature is estimated to be up to 3 degrees higher for red colors and 1-2 degrees lower for blue colors.

If we ignore this organic functional dynamic, the body reacts with weakness, such as reduced ability to think.

Clear thoughts can be conceived in cool rooms and imaginative ones can be conceived in warm rooms. The climate of design is in

direct connection with the social climate when designing (cold, calculated - warm, emotional design process)

9. The sense of proportion

The sense of proportion and tone opens up our own world of perception of qualities that takes us beyond the tangible, material existence of things.

Hearing represents the qualitative basis for the area of the cognitive senses.

The characteristic tone of each object makes it recognizable. It's not just the character of the noise and sound that's important, but also the pitch.

The human ear can perceive a huge range of frequencies, which means that an almost infinite variety of sounds can be heard.

The fact that music only uses tones in very specific frequencies from this diversity points to the internal and external laws of the sense of tone: proportion.

The natural order of tones is based on simple vibrational proportions, which can be used differently depending on culture and time, but always have clear regularities. This shows that certain vibration ratios such as the octave or the fifth can be perceived as pleasant by all cultures.

Less clearly defined sound phenomena, such as the rustling of trees, are perceived as just as pleasant and illustrate people's orientation towards the order of nature, which enables a connection between the inner and outer worlds.

The “Golden Ratio”, for example, is another proportional order that is based on findings from nature and enables aesthetic design through certain numerical ratios.

We perceive the right proportion as beauty and a function of life.

10. The sense of thought

The thoughts and the word form a unity, the core of meaning, which Scheuerle calls the “primary meaning” and Wigotsky calls the “inner side of the word”.

The basic intellectual content is formed by the word cores, which are not interchangeable, but they can detach themselves from verbal language and find expression in forms and symbols.

The word cores form the basis of languages and the perceptions of our sense of thought apply to them.

Not only are the forms examined for their symbolic content, but also for their inner truth: the agreement of all forms of expression with the “core meaning”

In architecture, one can only speak of a “style” if its forms are identical to the intellectual attitude and the main ideas of a certain cultural epoch. The intellectual life of a time must be expressed.

Above all, it is the search for truth that moves our sense of thought in the face of symbols, signs and traces, the meaning of design.

The clarification of conflicting meanings, the search for agreement between word (symbol) and thing (reality) is his perceptual goal

11. The sense of identity

With the sense of identity we take the “being” that was the identity of another person.

After a long time, we can still recognize a person, even though they may have changed a lot internally and externally. We recognize it as an individuality that remains constant over time.

Through the artistic manifestation of the self, his musical, painterly, sculptural works, she reveals to us his “handwriting”, which we perceive in the act of identifying through the material as the expression and style of the person.

In the perception of a person's identity, all the sensory data that we perceive through his physicality, the mental mood that surrounds him, his speech and thinking, flow together to form a supreme unity.

Anonymous cities lack a “face”, an atmosphere and a history that is necessary for identification with them.

This perception illustrates the lack of familiarity and strangeness, triggered by hard, geometrically frozen shapes that are out of balance.

Sterile rooms without smell, taste, colorless, lukewarm or cold create a spiritual emptiness in us and we are deprived of the resonance with the environment.

Human identity is destroyed by disproportionality, anonymous shapelessness and senseless superficiality of forms.

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