Carlos Velasco – Researcher of the Month

Carlos Velasco

Working with leading brands like Salma, Asahi Breweries, Kvikklunsj, and Nordic Approach to design distinctive experiences.

Why does your research matter?

What does luxury smell like, feel like, or look like? The most compelling experiences we have involve several senses in working together. In my research I try to understand how our senses interact, how what we see influences what we taste, or how what we hear influences what we smell.

This matters to everyone designing experiences. From breweries to chocolate producers.

What do you want to contribute to changing in business or society?

My research helps companies define and differentiate their brands. Let’s say you want customers to identify your beer as premium, or market the sustainability of your brand. Selecting the right sensory inputs on websites, physical shops, packages, and ads, will help you get your message across and attract customers.

Looking to the future, I expect the boundaries between physical and digital to blur even more, and more of our experiences to take place in mixed and virtual reality. This offers exciting new possibilities, but also raises important ethical questions. For example, the fact that experiences are more digitized also mean that they can, in a way, be ‘programmed’. What does this mean for consumers, firms, and our societies at large?

How do you use research to engage your students?

I try to practice what I preach by creating multisensory learning experiences. For example, in some tasks I give my students virtual reality headsets, 360 degree cameras, smell kits, paper with different textures, and other sensory materials and ask them to design brand experiences.

What are some things you’ve found out?

Round shapes communicate a sweet taste. Louder sounds and the colour black communicate luxury.

In a project with the Japanese brewery Asahi, we helped them figure out that a more premium beer experience involves characteristic opening and pouring sounds.

In another project with the Norwegian salmon producer Salma, we found, for instance, that the sound of premium salmon involves classical music, Norwegian folk music and opera. This can be used to differentiate the brand in different marketing communications.

What would you do if you couldn’t be a researcher?

I’d probably be a philosopher, musician, or painter.

Published 29. April 2022

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