UI sounds for the DSB app

Checking In

Travelling can be a hectic and confusing experience, with lots of info that you need to grasp and understand. DSB knows this all too well and wanted to make the journey even easier to grasp using sound in their app.

The DSB app has existed for a long time and has long helped users keep track of their journeys and order tickets. When the new “Check In” feature was coming, sound was an obvious thing to consider from a UX perspective. The “Check In” feature allows users to check in and out of a journey using the touch of a button, without having to go through the process of buying a ticket.

Our goal was to create a series of UI sounds that supported the new actions of the app, while making a callback to the old fashioned way of buying physical paper tickets. The sounds would act as a bridge between times of old and the new way of checking in instead.

Based on their needs, we assembled the following team for this project;

Our job being to figure out how to have a natural transition from how the audio logo and brand music sounds, to how it could be translated to UI sounds.

Expanding On The Identity

DSB already has a strong audio identity, one that has existed for decades. This audio DNA had to be in mind when crafting UI sounds, to achieve a level of consistency across all DSB touchpoints.

This meant that we already had a foundational instrumentation that we built the sounds around, with our job being to figure out how to have a natural transition from how the audio logo and brand music sounds, to how it could be translated to UI sounds.

We needed to create a range of sounds for the app that included:

  • Buy Ticket
  • Check In
  • Check Out
  • Confirm
  • Error
  • Notification

All of these sounds had to clearly communicate their function, whilst not confusing the user in what could already be a stressful environment.

Adding to that, the check in and check out sounds had the potential to be heard thousands of times per day becoming a mainstay of a travellers soundscape, so the sounds had to very clearly communicate what the user had initiated without disturbing other people around you too much.

On his involvement, Lars Bork says this;

“The primary challenge lay in striking a delicate balance between minimalism and symbolic resonance. Excessive minimalism risks rendering the sounds nondescript and devoid of character, while overly intricate compositions may prove cumbersome upon repeated exposure. Similarly, crafting melodic structures that epitomize DSB’s identity while remaining unobtrusive posed a formidable challenge. Consequently, navigating this intricate interplay between symbolic value and practical functionality emerged asthe most demanding aspect of the project.”.

The utilization of skeuomorphic and tactile sounds serves to infuse a sense of tangibility into the user experience. Recalling the distinct sound of old punch cards, familiar to many Danes, evokes a sense of confirmation upon check-in.

Designs Pillars

To figure out how to translate the core audio identity into UI sounds, we established some fundamental design pillars together with DSB that both extended on the core personality and sound of DSB.

Here are the core design pillars that we established:

  • We wanted a mixture between abstract and skeuomorphic sounds.
  • For the skeuomorphic part, we wanted to tap into the representation of an old-school punching card ticket system. A sound that is still embedded into the minds and easily understood by many people in Denmark, no matter their age.
  • We wanted a soft and warm sound.
  • We also wanted a focus on being a bit traditional in terms of communication, while still being easy to understand.
  • The sounds needed to be short and precise, without having too long of a tail.

Lars sums up the objective of the sound like this; “With these principles in mind, my objective was to conceive a softly minimalist sound imbued with profound symbolic resonance. The composite sound comprises tactile organic elements interwoven with subtle digital nuances.”.

And continues; “The utilization of skeuomorphic and tactile sounds serves to infuse a sense of tangibility into the user experience. Recalling the distinct sound of old punch cards, familiar to many Danes, evokes a sense of confirmation upon check-in, thus encapsulating a nostalgic yet contemporary essence. By amalgamating metallic, plastic, wooden, and other rudimentary mechanical sounds, I endeavored to reinvent this familiar auditory cue.”.

With these design pillars established, we set out to create the new UI sounds for the DSB app.

We took inspiration from the contour of the bell instrument, the overall volume shape of the sound, and applied it to the new softer soundscape.

The Solution

For the Sonic DNA we ended up taking inspiration from the existing audio logo and its bell-like sound. However, we took the instrumentation in a more warm and gentle direction to make sure that we didn’t annoy the user, and also to make sure the app sounds didn’t conflict with the existing notification sounds inside the train itself.

We took inspiration from the contour of the bell instrument, the overall volume shape of the sound, and applied it to the new softer soundscape. However, since the bell has a relatively sharp attack we wanted to soften that up, while still retaining the longer tail of the contour.

In terms of the skeuomorphic elements we knew we had to keep it very light, as the visually skeuomorphic elements in the app are equally light, so we wanted the sounds to match. Therefore, the volume was kept to a minimum so the sounds provided more of a tactile experience that gave a subtle hint to the real world equivalent action. To align the skeuomorphic sounds with the sound of the melodic tones, we introduced some warmth and general softness to those as well.

Lars puts the goal of the skeuomorphic elements this way; “I integrated gentle synthesizers harmoniously blended with piano and organic bells. This synthesis aims to evoke a modern yet familiar ambiance, with synthesizers symbolizing the future and DSB’s role as a vanguard in Danish transportation, while the organic components, notably the piano, evoke the historical continuum of DSB within Danish society.”.

Take a listen to the DSB Audio Logo below:

Let’s dig into a few of the sounds here.

Check In

The check in sound happens when a user checks in a new journey, functionally meaning that their trip has started. Functionally this is supported by a swipe motion.
For this we chose to have a simple structure of two melodic notes moving upwards, signalling a positive movement and confirmation. To further enhance the understanding of this sound, we used the classic punching card sound to highlight the meaning behind the action that was just taken.

Check Out

The Check Out sound is the opposite of “check in”, and represents that the user has finished their journey. Functionally, this is also supported by a swipe motion, where the user actively finishes their journey.

We felt this was a perfect place to highlight the audio logo of DSB, as the melody of the audio logo has an up/down structure that feels like you are ending a sequence of sorts. This was perfect for the feeling of finishing a good journey aboard a DSB train.

At the very start of the sounds, you also hear a slight paper sound. This represents both the imaginary process of receiving a receipt after the journey is over, but also the visual process as the app has a receipt animation that itself looks like paper.

Buy Ticket

Buying a ticket is different from checking in/out, as when you are buying a ticket you are technically buying a preset trip. Where in the check in/out system, you can basically take whatever trip you want.

From an audio point of view, we wanted to represent a journey starting along with the feeling of buying and owning a ticket.

For the feeling of a journey starting, we employed three upwards melodic notes that give a feeling of something beginning alongside a slight anticipatory edge. This also works nicely from a functionality standpoint, as this movement also quite clearly communicates that your order has gone through correctly.

In terms of highlighting the feeling of buying and owning, we decided to use the sound of an altered version of a cash register.

Conclusion

Overall, we ended up with a selection of new UI sounds for the DSB app that highlights and further expands on the DSB personality, while also increasing the accessibility and comfort of using the app. We can’t wait for you all to hear and experience the new sounds!

Thanks to DSB for yet another great collaboration!

Words from Client

Sonic Minds were really good and professional to work with. They are clearly really good at sound and the expression of sound and made it clear what sound means in respective situations. We had a perfect and very suitable sound package made for our app in line with DSB’s already established sound design. The process was easy, smooth and efficient and with a really good result. Many thanks for the good cooperation.“.

Signe Elin Gram, Senior Brand Manager, DSB

Interested in learning about how we made the DSB audio identity?

Read our DSB case

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