Renault, in tune with the sound - Episode 1 : the interior sounds
Indicators, seatbelt warnings, reverse sensor beeps, etc: drivers hear these sounds on every journey. They're part of everyday life, and they might seem insignificant, but they're the result of rigorous work. William Rodriguez, Experience Manager at Renault Design, lets us in on the challenges and the creative process behind the development of interior sounds in the Renault vehicles of today and tomorrow.
Why put work into the sounds heard inside a vehicle? What sounds are we talking about exactly? How are these sounds made? These are not the sort of questions that are asked every day. But they are central to the overall in-car experience, so for Renault Design they are crucial. First, for the driver, who must understand what the sounds mean. Second, for the brand, which can reinforce its identity via these sonic features.
The car is an instrument that has to be tuned. It produces abstract sounds which need to be understood. We're not making music, we're communicating messages with an intentional aesthetic, while complying with and reinforcing the brand’s DNA.
William Rodriguez, Experience Manager, Renault Design
The purpose of sounds
Work on sound design inside the passenger compartment focuses on three major sound groups. ‘Regulatory’ sounds, which advise or warn, such as the indicators and the seatbelt warning. Driving aid sounds, such as the reversing sensor and Lane Departure Warning. And lastly, multimedia sounds, which respond to actions performed on the central screen.
Multimedia sounds respond to actions performed on the central screen
There are several reasons why it is important to formulate a sound design strategy. First, to provide a unique user experience by finding the ideal balance between sound and other visual or haptic stimuli. These sounds must obviously be pleasant for the user while also sending the right messages: inform, confirm, warn, alert. Instinctively interpreted, they allow the driver to adapt their behaviour appropriately.
Second, to create a sound environment that's specific to the Renault brand. The sound elements that enliven the passenger compartments and screens in vehicles all help to reinforce the brand identity, in the same way as a light signature or an advertising slogan.
The aim is to inspire emotions by providing a finely tuned, positive and enjoyable driving experience.
We've paid special attention to the iconic nature of sounds to create a true Renault sound identity. In terms of artistic direction, we wanted Renault sounds to be consistent with the brand identity: meaningful, of course, but also caring, positive and fun, says William Rodriguez.
Sounds of the future
The user experience department at Renault Design is currently working on a whole new generation of in-car sounds for production vehicles to be launched in the next few years, starting with the Mégane E-TECH Electric. As with a classic industrial design process, work on sound design is carried out with sound sketches created for each sound, in line with the overall artistic direction and the type of message to be conveyed.
Sound sketches are created for each sound
This work is based on a sound library of recorded sound effects. To embody compassion and to create attractive sounds, nature very quickly became the main source of inspiration. "We worked with a palette of sounds inspired by nature: pieces of wood rubbing together, percussive sounds, seeds pouring, drops of water, etc."
Next, these sound materials are stylised and mixed using sound processing software, then tested on target users who share their perceptions. This sound might be judged too ‘dark’ or too ‘sharp’, that one too ‘plastic’ or too ‘musical’.
Depending on user feedback, the sounds are reworked, sculpted, contoured, trimmed, etc., while making sure that they match the previously agreed strategy, based on caring and on the initial specifications. All this in close collaboration with other departments such as Product, Engineering and Marketing.
The total makeover of sound design for future Renault vehicles is close to completion. The result can be heard in new models in the range from next year.
Welcome sequence of the Renault Morphoz Concept’s cockpit