November 29th, 2016
After a series of frustrating experiences with Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s defect ridden store-brand bike lights, I recently splurged on something nicer. I’d preferred the cheaper bike lights because I have a tendency to forgot to remove them upon arriving at my destination, leaving them vulnerable to theft. I tend to turn off the lights before I lock my bike so that they do not shine in my eyes, and then I don’t remember them. I considered, however, that perhaps if I had a higher-quality bike lights, I’d be more concerned about theft and less likely to forget them. This has not been the case. As pleased as I am with my new lights, I still forget about them often. As the famous entrepreneurial saying goes, “There must be a better way!” and I’m convinced that sound design has a key role to play.
A bike rider will user bike lights when riding in the early morning, late afternoon or evening. They will place them on the bike handles and frame, fasten them and turn them on. At the end of their ride, they will turn them off, remove them, and if necessary, charge or replace the battery. There is one point in this interaction, in which sound design could accomplish two functions. When the light is turned off, I propose that there be a series of beeps that indicate low battery, and a series of beeps that indicates sufficient battery. Not only would this let the rider know if they ought to charge or replace the battery, but it will also serves as a reminder not to leave the lights on the bike. After all, they are used in conditions where visibility is limited, and are usually designed to be inconspicuous. An audio signal would be an effective solution to this issue.
The sound I design would be a series of two beeps that last for about ten seconds. When the battery is sufficiently charged, the beeps would ascend in pitch. This would give a connotation of the lights being charged up, ready to go, and all good! When the battery needs to be recharged or replaced, the beeps would descend in pitch. This would give a connotation of the light dying, going to sleep, and being low. The pattern would last ten seconds, as this is roughly the amount of time it might take to lock up a bike, and certainly long enough to be noticed and remembered.