Sensory Storyteller

Max Stockdale
9 min readSep 6, 2022

Environ. III - Fall 2022


In this project we will be developing multi-sensory experiences inspired by stories recorded by StoryCorps. “StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.”

to evoke emotions and personal memories in the participant that mirror or
complement your assigned story by stimulating multiple senses.

- design should be for 1–10 people at a time
- choose to directly reference the story or not
- augment the assets you have with artifacts, images, sounds, type,
smells, tastes, etc.
- utilize technology that exists today. Consider how you will convey your
ideas (e.g. prototypes, videos, storyboards, gifs, etc.)


How might we use spatial experiences to trigger memory and imagination?
How might an experience be a catalyst for empathy and compassion?
How might sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, and space interact?
How might we design an experience that is inclusive?

Sep. 4

Things to keep in mind:

  • amplifying ordinary sensory inputs
  • sense of smell is closely linked with human memory and emotion
  • objective: foster our innermost human instincts for physical exploration
  • contribute of thought, ideas, emotions from the visitors
  • challenge: a sense of resonance with meaningful questions, ideas, and values larger than ourselves
  • new ways of telling stories
  • light, color, sound, texture, movement, vibration, and smell(sensory experience)



  • two friends and their adventures around the world
  • hit their goal of visiting all seven continents
  • 37 years of travel
  • over 205 countries
  • St. Petersburg, South Africa, Figi, Germany
  • themes: exploration, adventure, travel, and friendship

Initial Ideas:

  • senses associated with traveling
  • creating unique experiences for people who are not as fortunate to be able to travel around the world
  • combine the sense of smell and sound to experience what it’s like living in places that are predominately unfamiliar to the majority of people
  • learning more about different cultures, seeing different perspectives, telling stories through rich experiences
  • focus on a couple specific places, more difficult to focus on the broader themes of travel and adventure
  • 1–3 places that I can develop meaningful experiences
  • restaurant pop-up concept(tasting menu from a unique travel location)

Sep. 6

Studio Feedback(restaurant concept)

  • two places minimum
  • how do I get away from just designing a restaurant?
  • go into a door & try to guess the obscure location
  • taste + smell
  • focusing on unique travel locations
  • how many places should be included in this experience?
  • dark rooms, sensory, minimal lighting(to increase curiosity and engagement)
  • unique tasting menus(getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new)
  • spices/produce from that location
  • Focus: sound, taste, and smell(possibly no visuals)
  • suppressing certain senses(sight?)

Sep. 7


Storyboard Ideas

  • escape room style; each room focuses on a different location
  • 3–4 rooms; go into depth in 2 of the rooms
  • who am I designing this experience for?
  • colors, lighting, and atmosphere reflect that travel location
  • tasting menus(blind taste test?)
  • nature themes(plants, aromas, spices)
  • cooking workshop?(learning traditional cooking techniques and then being able to taste the food); the intimacy of being part of the process, creates a new appreciation for the culture and traditions(touch & taste)
  • a great way to experience culture is to see how different cultures express themselves; create art inspired by each culture, using traditional tools and materials(sense of touch)
  • clips of audio from different travel spots; moving away from music and more towards ambient and environmental sounds

molecular form food?(create a baseline for the food so that it is unrecognizable but made from the cultures local spices and resources)

  • subscription food box; need country each week/month; at the end, you can figure out where the food is from and also learn more about the culture

Sep. 8

Refined Concepts

  1. escape room style experiencing tastes, smells, sounds of unique cultures around the world; tasting menu, ambient/environmental sounds; goal: to learn more about the culture and guess where it’s located
  2. cooking workshop, where you are introduced to the traditional tools and techniques to create food native to a uniquer/unfamiliar culture
  3. art classes, learning how other cultures express themselves through art; working with your hands and touching the texture of materials; being a part of the process creates a deeper appreciation
  4. subscription food box; shipped to your home once a month/week and gives you an introduction to a new culture. After you finish making your meal, you can figure out where the food is from and also learn more about the culture

Sep. 10

Sep. 12

Refined Concept

~Mystery Bites~

  • super sensory tasting menu experience
  • senses: smell, taste, sound
  • goal: guess the location based on clues
  • promotes conversation between strangers
  • dark room; focus on non-visual stimuli
  • takeaways: recipes + hidden gems about the locations
  • 3–4 locations; focus on 1–2 for the presentation
  • environmental/ambient sounds
  • themes: adventure, curiosity, and collaboration
  • target audience: adults with an interest in trying new foods; more affordable way to experience travel


  • blindfolded participants; low lighting
  • environmental/ambient sounds
  • 6–10 people at a time
  • lighting changes while you’re in the space


  • enter the exhibit
  • individual/group experience
  • once everyone is in their seat, the lights dim and the experience begins
  • first round of tasting plates are set in front of the audience
  • lights dim completely and environmental/ambient sounds begin to play
  • encourage conversation and theories about where the food might be from
  • using clues and hints to figure out the location
  • locking in guess on the interactive table and discussing with table mates
  • 5-10 minutes per plate

Current dark dining experience:

Next steps:

  • 3D model of the space; interactive tour
  • sketch video(experience)
  • storyboards and sketches
  • decide on unique locations

Sep. 13

Small group discussions:

  • including chocolate/dessert and wine
  • common themes(breakfast from each region)
  • heat(hot vs. cold plates)
  • material of utensils?
  • street food(finger foods, experience of picking up the food)
  • Yash’s favorite street food: Pani Puri(Delhi, india street food)
  • Regions: Ethiopia, Morocco, Thailand(mango sticky rice), North African street food(Harissa), Oaxaca(black mole), Spam musubi(Hawaii)

Street Food

  • Oaxaca(black mole + chapulines)
  • Ethiopia(Injera + Beyainatu)
  • Delhi(Pani Puri + Chole Bhature)
  • Chengdu(Sichaun flavors, dan dan noodles)

Regions: Mexico, Africa, India, and China

Next steps:

  • decide on story
  • interactive team vs. individual
  • presentation
  • supersensory experience

Sep. 14

Sep. 15

Sep. 18

concept ideas in collab with Pitt business

  • they guess after each meal(figure out who was the closest)
  • waiters/waitresses have different outfits based on the locations
  • the environment of the room changes for each meal
  • lighting
  • scent diffuser
  • instrumental music playing in the background

Sep. 22

story: The visitor will make a reservation online and schedule their party for this unique tasting experience. Each group will have 4–6 people per event. The overall end goal of this experience is to experience what it is like to travel to another country and explore their culture. The takeaway is to get out of your comfort zone, try something new, and affordably learn about a new culture. Cost: $45–$60 per person.

Who? -people interested in learning about new cultures and trying new food

What?-food from 4 different cities, guess based on: taste, smell, texture, ambience, and music

Where?-restaurant based concept

When?-6–9 pm, 3 days per week(30–40 minute experience; 20 minute reset)

Why?-experience different cultures, be more adventurous, try new foods,

  1. book online and check in at front desk 10 minutes before your time slot
  2. front desk worker explains the experience “Welcome in. If you will please follow me to your table(visitors sit down). Here you will experience food from four unique cities around the world. Today you will work as a team to guess those cities. After discussing, please place your magnet on the projected map(this will count as your vote). During this time, the staff will remove the previous plates and begin to bring out the next course.
  3. lights dim and the first tasting course begins
  4. staff brings out first course and the restaurant ambiance + instrumental music from oaxaca begins to play
  5. discuss, lights get brighter(projected map appears)
  6. place magnets(votes) on top of the map
  7. once everyone votes, a light indicates the correct location
  8. city name is revealed


Is it better to encourage movement in a space or to be more accessible?

How do I make this experience more interesting?

How to balance between too much and too little?

How long should this type of experience be?

What transitions should happen between each meal?

How much room is needed for a comfortable experience?

Sep. 23

Sep. 24

flow chart
surround sound diagram

Sketch Video


Main tools:

sketchup 2017, procreate


This project really taught me the importance of moving through ideas quickly and looking into as many different scenarios as possible. It was very open-ended and because of this, I had some problems making decisions and being confident with my designs. Once I was able to trust myself, the design process went by a lot smoother. I think for next time, I will want to do more systems thinking and continued research throughout the project. I also need to do more sketches. I’ve constantly hear, “show, don’t tell” and this is something I can definitely improve on. Overall, I this project gave me a lot more to think about in terms of emotional design and how we can connect to people on deeper levels. In the next project, I hope to use what I learned, to create more meaningful connections and tie people to a larger system and sense of community.