The tactile and audible experience of BMW’s i3

“You can hear the faintest murmur of wheel bearings and axles whirr, of suspension heaving, of wind rustling, of tyres swishing – first with slush under the wheels and then later you can hear that it’s just water. Occasionally you can hear the wipers quietly ‘wup’, and the indicators softly ‘plick-plick’. You can hear the motor ‘mew’ gently or slightly less gently. You can hear the car working in high-fidelity – but always quietly. And you can hear other traffic, as if instead of being part of their world you’re an observing interloper.”

Sam Livingstone’s article on the sensory experience of driving the BMW i3 concentrates on the importance of tactile and audible elements in forming an overall impression of a product. It is an evocative and recommended read to help understand the way a product makes someone feel.

Livingstone runs Car Design Research, a consultancy which advises the automotive industry on design. He spoke at MEX in September 2012 alongside his colleague in Car Design Research, Joe Simpson.

The role of non-visual interactions in forming user experience is often underestimated, particularly with digital products, yet can be transformative. Haptics and audio design can become as much a signature of a user experience as the visuals, and indeed often connect with users at a deeper emotional level.

This theme has been explored in several previous MEX sessions, part of our programme to engage the MEX community in considering non-visual user interface techniques – relevant articles are archived here on

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