Written by Daniel Latto in Latest News

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  • TED: Jinsop Lee: Design for all 5 senses – Jinsop Lee (2013)
January 4, 2014

In an age of global strife and climate change, I’m here to answer the all important question: Why is sex so damn good? If you’re laughing, you know what I mean.

Now, before we get to that answer, let me tell you about Chris Hosmer. Chris is a great friend of mine from my university days, but secretly, I hate him. Here’s why. Back in university, we had a quick project to design some solar-powered clocks. Here’s my clock. It uses something called the dwarf sunflower, which grows to about 12 inches in height. Now, as you know, sunflowers track the sun during the course of the day. So in the morning, you see which direction the sunflower is facing, and you mark it on the blank area in the base. At noon, you mark the changed position of the sunflower, and in the evening again, and that’s your clock. Now, I know my clock doesn’t tell you the exact time, but it does give you a general idea using a flower. So, in my completely unbiased, subjective opinion, it’s brilliant.

However, here’s Chris’ clock. It’s five magnifying glasses with a shot glass under each one. In each shot glass is a different scented oil. In the morning, the sunlight will shine down on the first magnifying glass, focusing a beam of light on the shot glass underneath. This will warm up the scented oil inside, and a particular smell will be emitted. A couple of hours later, the sun will shine on the next magnifying glass, and a different smell will be emitted. So during the course of the day, five different smells are dispersed throughout that environment. Anyone living in that house can tell the time just by the smell. You can see why I hate Chris. I thought my idea was pretty good, but his idea is genius, and at the time, I knew his idea was better than mine, but I just couldn’t explain why. One thing you have to know about me is I hate to lose. This problem’s been bugging me for well over a decade.

All right, let’s get back to the question of why sex is so good. Many years after the solar powered clocks project, a young lady I knew suggested maybe sex is so good because of the five senses. And when she said this, I had an epiphany. So I decided to evaluate different experiences I had in my life from the point of view of the five senses.

To do this, I devised something called the five senses graph. Along the y-axis, you have a scale from zero to 10, and along the x-axis, you have, of course, the five senses. Anytime I had a memorable experience in my life, I would record it on this graph like a five senses diary.

Here’s a quick video to show you how it works.

(Video) Jinsop Lee: Hey, my name’s Jinsop, and today, I’m going to show you what riding motorbikes is like from the point of view of the five senses. Hey!

Bike designer: This is [unclear], custom bike designer.

(Motorcyle revving) [Sound] [Touch] [Sight] [Smell] [Taste]

JL: And that’s how the five senses graph works.

Now, for a period of three years, I gathered data, not just me but also some of my friends, and I used to teach in university, so I forced my — I mean, I asked my students to do this as well. So here are some other results. The first is for instant noodles. Now obviously, taste and smell are quite high, but notice sound is at three. Many people told me a big part of the noodle-eating experience is the slurping noise. You know. (Slurps) Needless to say, I no longer dine with these people.

Okay, next, clubbing. Okay, here what I found interesting was that taste is at four, and many respondents told me it’s because of the taste of drinks, but also, in some cases, kissing is a big part of the clubbing experience. These people I still do hang out with.

All right, and smoking. Here I found touch is at [six], and one of the reasons is that smokers told me the sensation of holding a cigarette and bringing it up to your lips is a big part of the smoking experience, which shows, it’s kind of scary to think how well cigarettes are designed by the manufacturers. Okay. Now, what would the perfect experience look like on the five senses graph? It would, of course, be a horizontal line along the top. Now you can see, not even as intense an experience as riding a motorbike comes close. In fact, in the years that I gathered data, only one experience came close to being the perfect one. That is, of course, sex. Great sex. Respondents said that great sex hits all of the five senses at an extreme level. Here I’ll quote one of my students who said, “Sex is so good, it’s good even when it’s bad.” So the five senses theory does help explain why sex is so good.

Now in the middle of all this five senses work, I suddenly remembered the solar-powered clocks project from my youth. And I realized this theory also explains why Chris’ clock is so much better than mine. You see, my clock only focuses on sight, and a little bit of touch. Here’s Chris’ clock. It’s the first clock ever that uses smell to tell the time. In fact, in terms of the five senses, Chris’ clock is a revolution.

And that’s what this theory taught me about my field. You see, up till now, us designers, we’ve mainly focused on making things look very pretty, and a little bit of touch, which means we’ve ignored the other three senses. Chris’ clock shows us that even raising just one of those other senses can make for a brilliant product.

So what if we started using the five senses theory in all of our designs? Here’s three quick ideas I came up with.

This is an iron, you know, for your clothes, to which I added a spraying mechanism, so you fill up the vial with your favorite scent, and your clothes will smell nicer, but hopefully it should also make the ironing experience more enjoyable. We could call this “the perfumator.”

All right, next. So I brush my teeth twice a day, and what if we had a toothbrush that tastes like candy, and when the taste of candy ran out, you’d know it’s time to change your toothbrush?

Finally, I have a thing for the keys on a flute or a clarinet. It’s not just the way they look, but I love the way they feel when you press down on them. Now, I don’t play the flute or the clarinet, so I decided to combine these keys with an instrument I do play: the television remote control. Now, when we look at these three ideas together, you’ll notice that the five senses theory doesn’t only change the way we use these products but also the way they look.

So in conclusion, I’ve found the five senses theory to be a very useful tool in evaluating different experiences in my life, and then taking those best experiences and hopefully incorporating them into my designs.

Now, I realize the five senses isn’t the only thing that makes life interesting. There’s also the six emotions and that elusive x-factor. Maybe that could be the topic of my next talk. Until then, please have fun using the five senses in your own lives and your own designs.

Oh, one last thing before I leave. Here’s the experience you all had while listening to the TED Talks. However, it would be better if we could boost up a couple of the other senses like smell and taste. And the best way to do that is with free candy.

You guys ready?

All right.


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