March 22, 2023

[On the Job] Creating the Sound of Life’s Good

In this installment of On the Job, we meet with UX sound designers from the Strategy UX Governance Team at LG Corporate Design Center’s UX Lab to learn how they use sound to enhance the usability and accessibility of LG products.

How do you know when a load of laundry is finished? Most likely, it’s because of a melody played by the washing machine – something simple but catchy that instantly tells you your clothes are ready to unload. But it’s not just washers. Most electrical devices, from laptops to TVs and refrigerators, employ tunes or sounds to provide helpful feedback that enhances the user experience.

Jeong Byoung-zoo and Chung Soo-yon, senior sound designers at LG UX Governance Team working at the office with their headsets on

As people have become so accustomed to their appliances and gadgets using sound to communicate all kinds of information, the importance of sound design where products are concerned is often overlooked. However, the process of developing these sounds is not as simple as the experts responsible make it appear. Each melody or alert sound must convey a clear message, be pleasant (or at least not irritating) to the ear and match with the product making it. At LG, this task falls to the highly skilled user experience (UX) sound designers from the UX Governance Team.

While their work also concentrates on verifying the results of previous research and the usability of user interface (UI) or UX across all LG products and services, developing UX sound is one of the team’s most important tasks.

Chung Soo-yon, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team, explaining her work as a sound designer
Chung Soo-yon, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team

“We spend more than half of our working hour with headsets on since it’s our job to adjust and optimize UX sound, as well as to learn about the newest trends in the industry,” said Chung Soo-yon, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team.

Musical score sheets and synthesizers are also must-haves for the team’s UX sound designers, enabling them to easily record any melodies that come to mind and allowing other designers in the team to collaborate and refine each tune or sound.

An illustration depicting essentials for UX sound designers at LG including a headset, musical score sheets and synthesizers

Most home appliances emit sounds using buzzers rather than speakers, so UX sound designers have to ‘translate’ the melody they have created to work with a buzzer. This is when a note frequency chart comes in handy. The chart lists the twelve notes of the chromatic scale and their corresponding frequencies in hertz across different octaves. This helps the designers to find the standard frequency value of each note and convert their melody to a simple yet catchy tune.

Jeong Byoung-zoo, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team, working on his laptop
Jeong Byoung-zoo, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team

“UX sound designers here possess the ability to recognize a product and the brand it belongs to just by hearing the sounds it makes,” said Jeong Byoung-zoo, senior sound designer at the UX Governance Team. “Even when watching a TV show or a movie, my ears are the first things to tell me when there’s an LG product in a scene.”

Among the many kinds of UX sound developed by the UX Governance Team, the sound that a device emits when powered on or off is considered one of the most important. Played more frequently than practically any other UX sound, not only does it notify the user when their device is switching on or shutting down, but it also represents the identity of both the product and brand. From the second half of 2021, LG has applied a set of standard sounds to its products to deliver a consistent brand image to its customers. This set of sounds could be described as the very own language of LG appliances and solutions.

Chung Soo-yon, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team using a synthesizer

By applying the appropriate tone to the UX sound it creates, LG UX Governance Team aims to help make products more convenient to use while also communicating a friendly brand image. The recently introduced LG ThinQ UP appliances consider the unique needs and tastes of each user, providing them with a variety of alert sounds and melodies to choose from. For example, users who have a light-sleeping baby in the house or just prefer something subtle can select alert sounds that are gentle and short in length. Conversely, users who like to make a statement (and don’t have little ones to worry about) can choose a lively melody that fits their personality or expresses a desired mood.

Jeong Byoung-zoo, senior sound designer at LG UX Governance Team, using a synthesizer

UX sound can enhance accessibility and usability, help forge a stronger sense of brand identity and foster brand affinity among customers. Deserving more recognition than they typically receive, the dedicated experts at LG UX Governance Team will continue to refine the sounds and tunes they lovingly – and painstakingly – design for the company’s wide range of premium appliances and living solutions.

To learn more about how teams across LG are working to build better user experiences, stay tuned to Beyond News for the next episode in the On the Job series.

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