You’d think that a flying shoe would get plenty of attention. But making the impossible possible is commonplace in ads today, where special effects make even airborne footwear seem pedestrian.
Done well, haptic design can turn regular ads into something tangibly more interesting. The tricky part is knowing how to design well, as Kayla Buchanan explained when describing her work on an ad for Adidas shoes.
“Because ads can vary so widely, there’s no specific haptic design,” Kayla said, adding that the consumer goods and electronics vertical covers an impossibly wide range of creative possibilities. Even in a product line as narrow as running shoes, there are many ways to promote the unique attributes of the products.
But most product ads share one common challenge: the ads must make static objects interesting. On their own, shoes don’t move. They require a moving camera, an active runner, or — in the case of the Adidas ad — assembly.
The ad depicts a colorful shoe under construction. Fabric and plastic whirl together to form the final product, which then flies around a city, spaceship-like, accompanied by music. Kayla wanted to draw inspiration from all that motion to create haptic textures. But which were best to feature?
“You want to focus on the product and not get lost in the haptic possibilities. If there are competing haptics, you default to what shows off the product and follows its story,” she explained.
The final haptic treatment balanced textures originating from both visual movement and audio cues. Textured “wooshing” effects as the shoe flew near to the camera gave way to subtle haptics based on the rhythm of the music as the shoe grew more distant.
“Haptics can draw attention to the product in a visually busy ad,” Kayla said. “Sometimes you let a commercial wash over you. But haptics can emphasize parts of an ad, telling you what’s important.”