Design TEDTalks

The 5-senses showdown: How to grade your experiences

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
Jinsop-Lee-and-toothbrush

At TED2013, Jinsop Lee shares his 5 senses theory. One of his ideas? Make brushing your teeth more exciting by creating a toothbrush that tastes like candy—until it needs to be replaced.

Jinsop Lee: Design for all 5 senses Jinsop Lee: Design for all 5 senses Sight. Sound. Touch. Taste. Smell.

We all know the five senses by heart and yet, points out designer Jinsop Lee in today’s talk, few products and experiences tick all five. And thus he created “5 senses graphs” to grade objects on how well they play to each of our assorted senses on a scale of 1 to 10. Riding a motorcycle = good on all but smell and taste. Instant noodles = good on all but sight and sound.

Watch this whimsical talk, which will have you grading almost everything as you go about your day. (Reading email = low on sound, taste and smell. Walking down the street = low on touch.) And below, we asked Lee to use his scale to compare some great experiences to explain why some are just a little more compelling.

Five-senses-Video-games

In 2007, I visited a friend’s house for a chat and he showed me the Nintendo Wii. We didn’t end up chatting at all. Within a week I had my own Nintendo Wii — my first video game console in 15 years. The 5 senses theory helps to explain why I jumped to make this purchase.

Five-senses-Charlie

The book versus movie debate is one we can all relate to. I’m not one of those snobs that always proclaims the book is better. Often, the movie version is far more enjoyable and allows me to pretend that I’ve read the book. Except for one of my favorite stories, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What the 5 senses graph cannot show is this; when I was reading the book, I was Willy Wonka. Obviously, the movie destroyed that daydream.

I chose this last comparison because they are two of the highest rated experiences from my 5 senses diary. And both involve falling. Not only do these graphs look similar, but many other action-packed activities also rank low for smell and taste. Great sex is almost the perfect 5 senses experience because it is one of the very, very few activities that also includes these two senses to a high degree. Also, great sex does not require a highly-trained pilot.

I chose this last comparison because they are two of the highest rated experiences from my 5 senses diary. And both involve falling. Not only do these graphs look similar, but many other action-packed activities also rank low for smell and taste. Great sex is almost the perfect 5 senses experience because it is one of the very, very few activities that also includes these two senses to a high degree. Also, great sex does not require a highly-trained pilot.