Sound design

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Sound Design ( English sound design ) is the creative work with sounds and noises . Today the English term sound design , or more rarely sound design , is also more common in German-speaking countries.

A digitized sound signal - the basis of many sound design processes

Areas of application for sound design are, in addition to films and radio plays, open-air performances, operas, musicals and speaking pieces as well as radio media such as radio and television, increasingly newer areas such as multimedia applications and computer games. In addition to the expansion of the possible uses, the technical processes that are used have also expanded, so that other fields of activity in media production have now developed. These include advice on sound and music, the production of functional music , and the editing and restoration of historical recordings.

When designing music , sound logos , sound marks and soundscapes , in addition to technical and artistic aspects, Gestalt theory and Gestalt psychology come into play.

Sound design for films

In the post-production of films , this is understood as the creative work on all acoustic elements with the exception of music, i.e. on dialogue, noises, atmospheres and sound effects . Depending on the budget and intended use, these sound elements are recorded and / or taken from sound archives and then processed. The sound of a spaceship can emerge from a Tibetan monk's song, and the siren of a police car from the future can emerge from a gibbon roar .

The design of the sound is determined by dramaturgical requirements and should support the visual effect: it reproduces the real components of the film, for example the dialogues of the actors, the babbling of a brook, the take-off of an airplane. These noises are necessary to create the illusion of being “in the action” for the audience. However, it can also contain additional information that cannot be seen in the picture, for example a crowd of people talking, standing behind a locked door and not visible in the picture.

In addition, sound elements can address the audience's emotional level directly. This happens first through the acoustic dimensions such as certain frequencies, a rhythmic shape and / or the volume or dynamic development. Among other things, high-pitched whirring sound objects can have an annoying effect, while deep rumbling noises can be threatening. Certain sounds can also evoke unconscious memories.

Another factor that can influence the sound design are genre conventions , because each genre has produced its own sound repertoire, which is also constantly being expanded.

Modern digital audio mixer

Sound design in the media

In radio , the term sound design is used to denote the “ layout ” of a transmitter, the technical sound (setting of processing devices such as Optimod ) and the production of the associated elements ( jingles , trailers , transitions, etc.). The Sound Design department is responsible for the production, updating and further development of the station sound .

In addition, the characteristic sound of a brand or a company can be designed. The corporate sound as an acoustic part of the overall corporate design concept can be found e.g. B. in large companies and television programs such as Das Erste or ProSieben . So-called separators also play an important role in radio and television, as they either separate individual programs from one another acoustically, for example when a new program starts, or signal the beginning and end of an advertising block. These sounds are also mostly part of the corporate design and stylistically fit into the overall acoustic picture.

Sound design for speaking pieces, musicals and operas

Since the early 1970s, microports have also been used in theaters, starting on Broadway and starting in 1974 for the first time in Europe in the Jedermann performances of the Salzburg Festival with Curd Jürgens . Since his smoky voice did not reach the entire cathedral square without amplification, this form was chosen. For the musical A Chorus Line , first shown on Off-Broadway in 1975 and immediately thereafter until 1990 on Broadway, dancers were mostly hired without vocal training. Microports were therefore essential and quickly became the standard in other Broadway productions. Most of these microphones are designed flesh-colored so that they are as invisible as possible.

The Bregenz Festival also set technological standards in two ways: On the one hand, the orchestra was housed in its own orchestra house around 2006 and has been broadcast via microphones and loudspeakers ever since. This protects the instruments from sudden rain. On the other hand, the Bregenz directional hearing was developed, which enables the actors acting on the world's largest lake stage to be localized acoustically and optically by the audience. The Bregenz innovations were decisive for all open-air theaters in the world.

After 2000, the spread of microports also gradually started in spoken theater, especially in large houses and in theaters with difficult acoustics. Today, sound design and sound amplification are among the standards of the Burgtheater in Vienna, for example , but also of the Schaubühne on Lehniner Platz in Berlin. In particular, directors such as Andreas Kriegenburg , Katie Mitchell or Jette Steckel use microports to enable intimate scenes and to adapt their staging to the aesthetics of the cinema.

Sound design for computer games

Due to the rapid development of the video game industry, which strives to be as realistic as possible, the profession of sound designer has become increasingly important. So z. E.g. in first person shooters attempts to optimize the noises of the weapons, in car racing simulations the driving and accident noises are almost indistinguishable from real ones. In computer role-playing and action games, the course of the game is also dramatized by music, which gives the interactive events on the screen comparable emotional stimuli to those in the film sector.

Clay design in an industrial context

The term is also used in the industrial context and product design. It is about the definition and implementation of acoustic qualities of individual components and assemblies in order to signal certain properties or certain functions to the user of the product. Examples:

  • In the field of automobile manufacturing , engine noise is designed through the exhaust, the tuning of the engine mounts, the engine mounts and the intake tract in order to meet the expectations of different target groups. Accordingly, doors are also optimized acoustically through insulation and a lock. The noise of an automobile was analyzed as early as the 1920s, but at that time not in the context of sound generation, but rather a sound assessment. For example, on December 28, 1926 , the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee had a vehicle drive through central junctions in central London and use a wax plate to record the noises that entered the vehicle interior. The dominant noise was the cracking of the gearbox when changing gear, while only a diffuse "roar" and no pedestrian noises penetrated from the outside.
  • The shape of beverage bottles creates a special sound when opening and pouring the bottle.
  • In the case of sausages, the cracking noise when bitten is examined and optimized.

Sound design for synthesizers and sample-based hardware and software instruments

Sound design for synthesizers and sample players is a separate profession in which the sound designer invents sounds for a specific synthesizer or sampler or realistically reproduces an acoustic instrument using the multisampling process. Many software companies now employ sound designers and offer the produced sounds as accessories for their virtual instruments. Many sound designers also set up their own businesses and offer their creations for sale on the Internet. Numerous composers and musicians then use these sounds and virtual instruments in their own compositions.


Sound design is available internationally at various universities as an independent postgraduate course or as a focus of a design course.

  • FH Joanneum Graz, Sound Design, (MA)
  • Kunstuni Graz, Sound Design, (MA)
  • University of the Arts Berlin, Sound Studies, (MA)
  • University of Glasgow, Sound Design, (MSc)
  • University of Edinburgh, Sound Design, MSc


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Görne: Sound Design - Sound Perception Emotion . Carl Hanser Verlag GmbH Co KG, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-446-44904-6 , p. 93 ff .
  2. ^ Regina Tamm: ARD Corporate Design and Brand Strategy. Attitude and image . In: ARD yearbook , 3rd year 35th (2003). Pp. 82–87, here: p. 83
  3. ^ Andi Gleichmann: Sound design in television using the example of the station ProSieben . In: Jan Neubauer, Silke Wenzel (Hrsg.): Aside from music. Contributions to music in film and television. Hamburg 2001. pp. 61-82.
  4. Udo Badelt: How microports are changing theater. In: Retrieved March 19, 2016 .
  5. Sound design in the car: roar nicer . In: . ISSN  0174-4917 ( ).
  6. London Traffic Sounds Recorded. In: The Times , December 29, 1926, p. 8; Issue 44465.
  7. Sound design: "Bobbelboppel, blubelitsblubelits, zammandassah ..." In: Spiegel Online . Retrieved March 19, 2016 .
  8. Martin Zips: Krach, purr, dröhn: The sound of things . In: . ( ).
  9. FH JOANNEUM Sound Design. Retrieved on February 7, 2020 (German).
  10. Communication, Media, Sound and Interaction Design - Sound Design. Retrieved February 7, 2020 .
  11. ^ Sound Studies (Master of Arts) - Berlin University of the Arts. Retrieved February 7, 2020 .
  12. University of Glasgow - Postgraduate study - Taught degree programs A ‑ Z - Sound Design & Audiovisual Practice. Retrieved February 7, 2020 .
  13. Sound Design - MSc | Edinburgh College of Art. Retrieved February 7, 2020 .