About the exhibition

Explore experimental works and practical solutions designed to inspire wonder and new ways of accessing our world. Wander through a scented snowstorm, play a furry instrument in a Tactile Orchestra, investigate the sonic properties of glass, and experience many more multisensory experiences from some of the world’s most creative thinkers, including Christopher Brosius, KunstLAB Arnhem, Studio Roos Meerman, Maya+Rouvelle, and more. With over 65 design projects and more than 40 objects and installations to touch, hear, and smell, The Senses is an inclusive celebration of the sensory richness of design.

Sensory design recognizes that we understand and navigate the world with all five of our senses. Organized into nine thematic sections, The Senses demonstrates that by opening up to multiple sensory dimensions, designers reach a greater diversity of users. Maps that can be touched as well as seen facilitate mobility and knowledge for sighted, low-vision, and blind users. Audio devices translate sound into vibrations that can be felt on the skin. Tableware and kitchen tools use color and form to guide people living with dementia or vision loss. These innovations are beneficial to all users as sensory design enhances awareness of the body and creates new emotional terrain through its stimulation of our visceral responses.

Designed to be an accessible experience welcoming to visitors of all abilities, The Senses’ exhibition features labels with key elements in braille and a custom smartphone app that will connect visitors to exhibition content via text or audio. Additional accessibility features include T-coil–complaint audio devices and audio descriptions explaining the visual content of videos. The museum will also offer dynamic descriptive exhibition tours of The Senses with trained museum educators, as well as programming for visitors with sensory differences.

Find out more about accessibility at Cooper Hewitt.

DOWnload the accessible exhibitions app

Use the free Accessible Exhibitions app to access descriptive and interpretive content in streaming text and audio formats for The Senses. A visitor can enter a content number and choose to read the text, hear it with a screen reader, or listen to an audio recording. The content number entry will also deliver videos and images with accompanying verbal descriptions.

Download the app for iOS.

Highlights

A selection of objects and installations in the exhibition.

The Senses: Design Beyond Vision Exhibition Book

The cover of the exhibition book with a list of words describing sensory experiences, such as lemony, rubbery, icky, etc., against a dark grey background.

A call to action for a multisensory design practice, with thematic essays on topics ranging from inclusive design approaches to creative uses of sensory experiences. Order now from SHOP Cooper Hewitt.

Supporters

The Senses Design beyond Vision is made possible by the generous support of Delta

The Senses blog

A museum gallery is filled with large, undulating partitions composed of colorful threads. Through the nearest partition, a man can be seen leaning forward to smell scented objects housed in glass domes. A sign on this partition reads "Inclusive Environments".
The Senses: Descriptive Audio Tour
Ellen Lupton, co-curator of the exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, provides a descriptive audio tour through two dozen projects in the exhibition, with step-by-step guidance for visitors with blindness or low vision. Approximately 30 minutes. Part 1: Getting Started Part 2: Shaping Sound Part 3: Tactile Library Part 4: Wrapping Up (Also available on Soundcloud)....
The image is a detail shot of a monochrome white wallpaper composed of torn and layered strips of paper. Please scroll down for a further description of this piece.
Topographies: “Landscape on the Wall”
Topographies dazzles our eyes and walls with a trompe l’oeil effect that successfully tricks our senses—the seemingly three-dimensional surface is deceptively flat. To create the pattern, designers stacked multiple sheets of paper and tore away portions of the surface by hand, forming canyon-like valleys of various widths and depths. The wallcovering’s name refers to the...
Image features three figures in 18th century dress situated in a pastoral setting. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
L’Odorat
In celebration of our new exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post explores the multisensory experience of an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. This bright, hand-colored print dated to about 1750 and signed by François-Thomas Mondon depicts a group of figures in a landscape composed of trees, flowers, and...
Image features button in the form of an open-topped wooden crate containing four pears in tones of yellow to pink, with two narrow green leaves interspersed among them. Pease scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Juicy Pears
In celebration of The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post takes a multisensory approach to an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. Jelly candies in the form of fruit? Toys for children? Miniatures? This whimsical and colorful object is actually a button made of celluloid plastic. In an open-topped crate, a...
Image features short pitcher of unglazed clay in tones of tan to brown, the thin-walled body rippled and folded into an irregular form with short spout at one side, tab-like handle at opposite side. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Unorthodox Pitcher
In celebration of The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post takes a multisensory approach to an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. In George E. Ohr‘s studio in Biloxi, Mississippi, a sign announced, “Greatest art potter on earth.”[1] Ohr’s talent matched his moniker—today, he is recognized as a pioneer of American...
Image features one-piece table lamp consisting of a bulbous cap and tapering stem, its body made of alternating white and orange-brown vertically striped glass. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
And then There Was Light!
In celebration of our new exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post explores the multisensory experience of an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. The invention of the incandescent light bulb in the nineteenth century not only advanced technology, but also design, especially into the twentieth century. This bulbous, blown...
Image features a cut and folded white paper sphere that sits upright upon the center fold of a piece of paper. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Kirigami Intricacies: More than Folding Paper
In celebration of The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post takes a multisensory approach to an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. This cut and folded paper sphere created by Masahiro Chatani in 1980 is a complex example of “origamic architecture,” a type of kirigami (切り紙)—from the words kiru (to cut)...
Image features Prototype for a two-part package consisting of cylindrical sleeve (a) over cylindrical box (b), both parts with painted decoration depicting colorful birds in an aviary or bird cage. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Perfume Packaging by the French Couturier
In celebration of our new exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post explores the multisensory experience of an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. The name of Lucien Lelong unquestionably conjures up the luxurious world of French fashion. Born in Paris as the son of a textile shop owner, Lelong...
Image features the letter-form Y and the Yale bulldog mascot in rows of descending sizes with varying rotations. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
How sharp is your vision?
In celebration of our new exhibition, The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post explores the multi-sensory experience of an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. In this poster, graphic designer Paul Rand plays with the iconography of eye charts to create a clever advertisement for Yale University. He incorporates the school’s mascot, an...