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.


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.

An accessible ePub with verbally described images is available for free by visiting Cooper Hewitt’s publications page.


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

The Senses blog

Featured Image: Left to Right: Dot Watch, 2017; Dot Incorporation (Seoul, Korea, founded 2014); Anodized aluminum case, gyroscope, touch sensors, wireless MCU platform, leather; Courtesy of Dot Incorporation. Cotton Candy Dish, 2017; Virginia San Fratello (American, born 1971) and Ronald Rael (American, born 1971), Studio Rael Fratello (Oakland, California, USA, founded 1995) and Emerging Objects (Oakland, California, USA, founded 2012); 3D-printed sugar, aromatics; Courtesy of Emerging Objects. Dot Watch, 2017; Prototype, exhibition design for The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, 2017; Studio Joseph; Curtain made from Bolon fibers