musical identity

AX Designer Matt Hobbs Talks about Audio Experiences and Service Design in Dublin

Perhaps one of the most popular elements of Irish culture is traditional Irish music - carrying momentum, constantly driving, building and evolving in a cheery, major tonality, often telling some kind of story. And for AX Designer Matt Hobbs, it was music and audio that were common threads throughout his visit to last week’s Service Design Global Conference in Dublin.

Service Design Global Conference in Dublin

Service Design Global Conference in Dublin

Hobbs spent four days in Dublin alongside design industry leaders, sharing experiences using design practices in different organizations, exploring service design case studies, and (of course) having a few pints with other folks from the global design community.

“I was blown away by the quality of the content,” shared Hobbs. “In hearing how people are using design, research and collaboration to solve problems, my brain kept coming back to the similarities and parallels between design and music.”  


Hobbs explained how a few case studies, but not many surprisingly enough, highlighted the role of audio within service prototyping - including one example in which a design team piped in background noise to simulate real airport environments when developing a service prototype for new way-finding and signage for Southwest Airlines.  

Music and Design share so many common threads:

  • Service Design is construct-driven, similar to musical constructs.

  • Great design must be steeped in real insights drawn from generative research, similar to how great audio and music are driven by human stories and emotions.

  • Both are highly collaborative, often tying in improvisation.  

  • Both use the word jam in productive sessions.

  • Audio and Design share some common vernacular, including orchestrate, harmonize, on stage, backstage, and performers.

  • Design and Audio share an emphasis on terrible first drafts - a necesssary step in the iterative creative process to create meaningful output.

  • The culture of the group doing the work has tremendous impact on the results.  Orchestrating musicians to work together is remarkably similar to coordinating and harmonizing an organization to design a remarkable experience.

“Music and audio are too powerful to ignore in designing the world we all want to live in.”  Hobbs explains. He looks forward to applying his learnings from the SGDC to his work at Tunewelders to develop meaningful audio experience that, much like the services stemming from traditional design engagements, have a truly positive impact on people and society.  


Tunewelders partner, Jeremy Gilbertson describes Matt as “the ultimate two-headed monster. He comes from the brand side as a design expert, and he is one hell of a composer. Matt developed his mad scientist musical skills in improv theatre, musicals and through releasing and performing his own records. He is a game-changing addition to the Tunewelders team as we continue our work developing audio strategy and musical identity for major brands”.

Musical Activations Transform Branded Experiences

Every audio experience begins with a simple vibration. Our eardrum acts in similar fashion to the diaphragm of a microphone by vibrating in response to a signal. Then, in the middle of our ear, three bones called the hammer, anvil and stirrup act as an amplifier to that signal as it proceeds to the inner ear landing on one of the most fascinating organs in the human body. The basilar membrane acts as a biological patch bay organizing these vibrations by frequency onto one of 30,000 pathways for their transformation into information the brain can understand. With this information, we process an experience of the reality around us.

During this roughly 7 millisecond trip from ear to brain, these vibrations from our environment are converted into emotional elements of our consciousness. How do these vibrations have such a profound effect on the experiences surrounding them? We are collections of vibrations from our heartbeats, cellular activity and the inner workings of the subatomic realm that is the foundation of our existence. We are built upon a series of rhythmic instances and interactions. We feel the power of connected rhythm as we clap along with thousands of people during our favorite band's performance. We experience the communitas of the collective whole as the bass drop lands in our chests sending us into a spirited frenzy carefully orchestrated by a DJ in a small club. The timbre and melodies rising from a string ensemble complement the visible frequencies in the colors of a cinematic landscape and in the hearts of the characters of the story. Immersed in digital realities generated by groundbreaking technology, authentic audio environments lend believability to a meticulously crafted visual experience.

Audio is the biological and neurological language for the human experience.

Whether you are a brand, artist, screenwriter or game developer, authentic live activations are quickly becoming an innovative approach to connect with your target audience. While the results can seem less tangible, these curated events can build trust in a way that traditional advertising cannot. These experiences can be transformational moments for attendees who are quick to capture it and spread the word through their social networks. Many of these activations include live music or intentional audio.


Here are a few interesting examples:

The ARC of the Composition - Deloitte Digital and Dave & Gabe built an interactive experience that gave five non-musicians the ability to collaborate to create music together.

ARC Installation at SXSW -

Sleeping with Max Richter & Beautyrest - Beautyrest partnered with composer Max Richter who performed his 8 hour opus, Sleep for 150 people resting easily on Beautyrest mattresses carefully arranged on stage around the ensemble at the Bass Concert Hall.

More on this activation -

Welcome to Westworld - HBO created a version of the 1800s town of Sweetwater in an undisclosed location outside of Austin, TX. Upon arrival, the Hosts take you through a personality assessment to determine the nature of your character. From there, your adventure begins through saloons and a horse-filled town center immersed with the law abiding and the lawless.

More on this activation -

These carefully crafted audio environments turned non-musical participants into songwriters, delivered a one-of-a-kind VIP sleeping experience, and brought a dose of realism to an otherworldly event. One simple vibration can lead to a groundbreaking interaction and deeply meaningful connections. What could an innovative and intentional approach to audio bring to your project?