Object of Play
By its very nature, knowledge work can be a head-heavy, deeply analytical activity. Even when the results of the work are sensory, the process of getting there is often the opposite: we think our way to solutions and filter out the five senses as irrelevant or frivolous. Through Synesthesia role play, participants examine a topic through a sensory lens, and let this inform their decisions and designs.
Number of Players
Duration of Play
How to Play
Participants may choose to examine an existing topic or explore a new idea. It may be something as simple as “the interface for our new site” or as complex as “the user experience.”
Participants choose or are randomly assigned one of the five senses: see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Also consider including as choices temperature, position, and motion.
Participants are given a few moments to interpret a topic from the perspective of their sense and to move on to the other senses as they see fit. They then describe to the group what they perceived. For example:
- “The interface is warm to the touch. And it tastes like oranges.”
- “When the app launches, it’s as if I can hear an orchestra tuning up to perform. But I can’t see anything; I’d like to see what they’re doing.”
- “The user experience stinks. It smells like a stack of dusty papers, and there is no motion. I wanted to move forward but kept getting slowed down.”
The Synesthesia exercise gives participants a chance to describe in visceral, memorable terms how they feel about an object or how they imagine it to be. It can uncover overlooked aspects of an idea or product or lead to new ones.
The source of the Synesthesia game is unknown.