When Windows Vista,
Those are pretty high stakes for a few notes. So how to come up with the right sound? "I knew from day one that it would be a tricky process," says project maestro Steve Ball, group program manager for Vista. In the end, it took 18 months--and a team of 20 composers, sound designers, engineers, and developers.
Ball began by asking 10 artists, designers, and musicians--among them Kid Crimson's Robert Fripp, drummer Pat Mastelotto, composer Tucker Martine, and Oscar-winning sound designer Randy Thom--to come up with three to six sounds that were uplifting and unique, energizing and authentic. They submitted 500 entries, some orchestrally ornate, others weird and sound effect-y.
The key insight that helped the team focus came when Martine, listening to one riff, mimicked it, clap-clap, clap-clap. It was a rhythmic breakthrough, echoing the message, "Win-dows, Vis-ta." They determined that a peaceful theme was what the hypercaffeinated, overstimulated PC users of the world needed now. "It needed to be a soft light from the corner, rather than a spotlight," Ball says.
After focus-group testing in Los Angeles, the team picked three finalists. Jim Allchin, copresident of the Windows Group, made the final call: a Tucker Martine rhythm, with dual glassy, ascending melodies in four chords (echoing the four colors of the Windows Vista "window") atop a short, harpy Robert Fripp soundscape, with orchestration by Ball.
That wasn't so hard.
Correction: This article should have identified Robert Fripp's band as King Crimson.
According to studies by branding guru Martin Lindstrom and market research firm Millward Brown, sound has a 41% chance of influencing how people perceive brands.