In this episode, Aidan Simpson interviews Google Sound Design Lead Conor O’Sullivan about the nuances of crafting product sounds and the choices that shape everything from notification pings to haptic feedback. The conversation also covers the elements that make up Google’s sonic branding, including resolving G chords and piano music. A few highlights:
On the value of sonic subtlety, 9:31 “I do think your goal as a sound designer is to provide feedback that doesn’t jump out too much. It sounds very counterintuitive—you’re designing sound that you don’t want to be heard—but in a lot of cases, it makes sense.”
On working with a multidisciplinary team, 15:57 “We have a team of writers—the UX content team—and they’re absolutely awesome at naming our ringtones. They really capture the feeling of the sound. Our default notification sound is called Popcorn. It’s such an awesome name for that sound. If you’re to imagine what popcorn sounded like musically, you’d pick something like that.”
On using sound to build a brand, 10:22 “I really think about creating sound as creating a soundscape. You want to be able to tell a story from end to end.”
Conor O’Sullivan is a sound designer and composer originally from Ireland, now based in San Francisco, CA. Conor is best known for his work in the emerging field of sound design for consumer products, including interface sounds for the Google Pixel phone.