OPPO is one of the world’s leading innovators in smart devices. They have since then embraced the attitude and mindset of “Inspiration Ahead”. An attitude that represents OPPO’s wish to empower their users in an ever-challenging world and environment. We live in a world full of uncertainty and challenges, therefore OPPO wants to encourage their users to brave those difficulties by always making quality products and doing the right thing.
With great power comes great responsibility, even when it comes to audio. Especially when we seek to empower and elevate the users.
We were approached by OPPO and Epic Sound to help lay the auditory strategic groundwork for their new UI sounds, act as a creative sparring partner and to be audio coordinators throughout the process.
Based on this, we assembled the following team together with Epic Sound:
Frederik Max (Sonic Minds) – Creative Lead/Sound Designer
Anton Sherar (Sonic Minds) – Creative Lead
Epic Sound – Sound Designers/Composers
The Flow of Life
With the new and improved operating system “ColorOS 14” in their products, OPPO also wanted new and improved sounds to accompany it and represent the new direction of the brand. OPPO already had a clear vision for what they wanted to represent and how they wanted their products to feel, a vision that was defined by its ability to be flowing, intelligent and nourishing. They called it “Aquamorphism 2.0”.
Water is the essence of life. It’s alive and able to move naturally with fluidity while nurturing everything. Water is inherently human, impacting our emotions in a soft and effortless way. This is the basis of Aquamorphism and the basis of what OPPO wanted to express in their new sound as well.
Our challenge was now to design a suite of new UI sounds for the operating system, that consisted of everything from small button sounds, to lush and beautiful ringtones.
But before we could begin production, we first needed to define how Aquamorphism would be represented in sound.
“In sound it would be distinguished with elements such as soft and slow attacks, surprising elements similar to ripples of water”
Defining A New Sound
To help establish a solid foundation for the sounds, we needed to find what elements of Aquamorphism we were able to express and the individual auditory attributes of each of those elements. Through a thorough process of workshops, here are the elements that we ended up with.
We ended up defining the keyword “Alive” as the mother of movement. This would encompass the flowing elements of water and sound, and in sound it would be distinguished with elements such as soft and slow attacks, surprising elements similar to ripples of water and overall morphing sounds that could quickly and seamlessly move from one sound to another.
This would be the keyword that highlighted the logical elements between sounds. Water is both dynamic and intelligent. It is able to take on many forms while overcoming obstacles and challenges effortlessly. Our sounds needed to do the same through logical relationships that made it very clear for the user what was happening, how it impacted them and what was required for them in terms of an interaction.
Not only did we want our sound to move and communicate a certain way, we also wanted them to have a specific sound design attached to them. This overall sound design can be summed up into two words, Elegant and Enriching. What this meant, was that the sound had to be experienced as beautiful, rich, complex and full of texture.
In practice, this meant utilizing reverbs, delays and reversing to give a sense of elegance to the sound while also making sure that the sound was experienced as being warm, human and consonant. The effects have the ability to add both space and complexity to a sound. Reverb puts you in a space and even a specific state of mind, while effects like delay and reversing give added life and movement to a sound. If the instrumentation is soft and beautiful to begin with, then this combination adds a richness to the sound that is experienced as elegant.
With these in place, we were ready to start turning words into sound.
“We determined that we needed to separate these [ringtones, alarms & notifications] into distinct groups that each represented the OPPO brand in different ways.”
Together with Epic Sound, we began production with the clear cut goal of making Aquamorphism 2.0 come to life through the new UI sounds. We established that there was a need for two main categories of sound, namely “Core UI Sounds” and “Groups”. Core UI sounds would be the main system sounds that you would hear when pressing a button, snapping a photo with your camera or inserting a charger into your phone and so on – basically sounds for when the user interacts with the products.
Since the user could also change out which ringtone they wanted to hear, which alarm they wanted to wake them up and even which notification sound they wanted, we determined that we needed to separate these into distinct groups that each represented the OPPO brand in different ways. Each of these groups would consist of a selection of ringtones, alarms and notifications that all sounded like they came from the same musical universe. So the user had the choice to either choose sounds from only that group, or mix and match as they wanted.
Here’s how we went about designing each group.
“As water and its movement was a core reference in Aquamorphism, we had to find a way to introduce this into sounds that could potentially be very short and small.”
Core UI Sounds
A key part in our design of the core UI sounds was to keep them subtle, pleasant and minimal while still retaining the functionality and clear communication of the sounds. We knew that the sounds still needed to be emotionally evocative to the listener, so the goal was to find a balance between the sound guiding the user interaction efficiently while having enough emotional content to please the listener.
As water and its movement was a core reference in Aquamorphism, we had to find a way to introduce this into sounds that could potentially be very short and small.
The concept of a water drop sound turned out to be the best solution for the smaller sounds, as it is both very short but is also very pleasant sounding with a lot of movement. Along with Epic Sound we synthesized (made sounds electronically) a lot of smaller sounds that would give the same warmth and pleasantness, but making it abstract enough that you wouldn’t immediately think of water when listening to it.
All of the sounds were designed to have a soft attack with a frequency range that was very comfortable for the human ears. We didn’t want any sounds to be experienced as harsh or disturbing. We did utilize mechanical sounds in some places to make the interaction as clear as possible for the user. One example of this would be in the “Camera Shutter” sound, where whenever you take a picture you hear a classic sounding “Click-Snap!” that you would expect to hear from a camera. To fit these kinds of sounds into the Aquamorphic world, we layered in the same sorts of water drop sounds to soften them up and make them less mechanical sounding.
For longer core UI sounds, a swell-like structure was employed to call back a wave of water. In praxis, this meant that all of the longer UI sounds would have a more flowing feel which contained the same softness and emotional content, but allowed for a more lush and beautiful soundscape to enter.
“Ripples of water signaled speed, something we decided to represent using fast moving rhythmical elements and arpeggios in the sounds.”
When it came to designing the different groups, we wanted each of the groups to have its own personality and represent something different in relation to Aquamorphism and its key attributes. Some were leaning much more towards “Alive” and its movement, while others delved into the lush pads of “Elegant”. Each of the groups were focused on communicating the movement and feeling of water in different ways, and with different sounds. Each group would have its own unique soundscape, but due to their common auditory devices they would be experienced as coming from the same family and the same home.
Ripples of water was a key inspiration in many of the groups, due to its ability to highlight the “Alive” attribute. Ripples of water signaled speed, something we decided to represent using fast moving rhythmical elements and arpeggios in the sounds. It gave a seemingly random feeling to some of the groups, that was a perfect fit to how ripples move in reality.
It wasn’t just ripples that was an inspiration, the general flow and beauty of water also heavily inspired how the group sounded. Since the ringtones and alarms were much longer than your standard UI sound, there was a lot of space to explore long and flowing pads morphing into one another seamlessly.
While some groups were more fun and others were more melancholic, we focused on making each group distinctly beautiful. We wanted users to enter into a beautiful space, one that would enhance their daily lives and make them feel better. One that would de-stress them, empower them and make the new ColorOS 14 a trusted daily companion.
If you want to have a listen to some of these groups, you can find them here.Listen to the OPPO sounds
It was a true pleasure working together with OPPO and Epic Sound to make the vision and project come to life. Through a collaborative effort we made Aquamorphism 2.0 come to life. By leveraging the fluidity and nurturing qualities of water, we meticulously designed UI sounds that seamlessly combined softness, logic, and elegance. Our focus on infusing each sound with beauty and functionality aimed to elevate users’ daily interactions with OPPO devices. Ultimately, our collaborative effort sought to deliver an immersive and emotionally resonant experience within the ColorOS 14 and OPPO ecosystem.
We truly hope that you enjoy the sounds and that they enhance your daily lives!