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

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...
Image features telephone comprising wedge-shaped black plastic body, the front with clear circular rotary dial with finger holes and surrounded by white numerals and letters; handset with earpiece at one end and speaker at other, set in cradle at top rear of telephone body; coiled black plastic-covered cord connects handset to body. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Before There Were Ringtones There Were Rings
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. Today’s blog post was written by Cynthia Trope and originally published on March 7, 2013. If you grew up in America in the mid-1950s – 1980s, you no doubt...
Image features an off-white rectangular speaker, the front with two rows of vertical slits; left and right sides faced with square, blond wood panels. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
“Less, but better”
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. Dieter Rams, Chief Design Officer for German consumer products manufacturer Braun AG from 1961-95, designed the neutral and unassuming L1 speaker in 1957. Influenced by Braun’s...
Image features a circular silver form covered in bright green flocking with decoration of pink, red, and orange balls of various sizes scattered on its surface. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Pops of Color and Texture
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 whimsical bracelet from Daniel Jocz’s Candy Wear series reminds us that one of the most important aspects of jewelry is the joy it brings to both the wearer...
Image shows a high magnification of vertical cords printed in monochrome pink. Please scroll down for more detailed information on this wallcovering.
Strike a Cord with your Walls
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. Today’s blog post was written by Greg Herringshaw and originally published on October 22, 2015. Cord #1 is a greatly magnified image of vertical cords or yarn which...
Image features basic circular form with raised shaped rim, indentations in rim; light brown glaze. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Organic Ashtray
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. Traditionally formed by hand, ceramic vessels possess inherent organic characteristics. Their forms have often been influenced by or imitated the shapes of human bodies since the...
Cooper Hewitt Takes on Verbal Description
Cooper Hewitt’s exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision (April 13–October 28, 2018) is one of our museum’s early explorations in developing exhibition design that is accessible to all visitors, including people with sensory differences. Many museums do a good job making their facilities wheelchair-accessible and meeting basic ADA requirements, but it’s another matter to offer...