Sensory systems and innovative design

Summary:Designer Tom Dixon's interesting twist on the topic of sound and the design of everyday objects.

How can sensory systems help us design more innovative products that enrich our everyday lives? As part of the Be Open's Sound Portal installation at the London Design Festival, Wired Magazine's Tom Cheshire hosted a panel on the subject, with a focus on sound. Perrin Drumm for Core77 recounts designer Tom Dixon's interesting twist on the topic.

Dixon described how he developed a luxury vibrator, commissioned by clients who wanted to inject design into an industry where design was seriously lacking.

He observed that most sex toys "are so far removed from the pleasure and sensuality of the act." By Dixon's estimate, 50% of sex toys are based on the male phallus, which 70% of women think is "an ugly object." Once you surround that object with more ugly design, from the packaging, materials, graphics and photography, you have a product category ripe for redesign.

What moves did he make to build a better sex toy?

  • Rethink the shape - Instead of the usual phallus, Dixon looked to the sculptural curves of a hipbone
  • Change the material - Eschewing plastic and silicone, Dixon's vibrator is made of hygienic resin
  • Fill in the luxury category - The £120 price, about five to ten times the average price of an adult toy, reflects the quality
  • Good design inside and out - Conventional blister packaging was replaced by a sleek, dark box.

And the sound thing?

Dixon also found the motors used in most sex toys are far too loud. "In a time when your senses are heightened, the motor only becomes that much more distracting." Thanks to the ubiquity of cell phones, miniature, motorized vibrators are not only reliable but readily available as well.
...He used a more powerful yet completely silent motor that can be recharged with a phone charger.

London Design Festival 2012: Tom Dixon On How To Design a Vibrator [Core77]
Image: BeOpen

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow he... Full Bio

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