Showcasing the work of Evan Benway at Moodsonic, a firm specialising in biophilic design.
Words by Emily Martin
Evan Benway is founder and managing director of Moodsonic, which he describes as delivering ‘biophilic design for the ears’. Moodsonic works with architects, designers, strategists and commercial real estate to transform workspaces, schools, healthcare using soundscapes to create better workspaces. Benway says: ‘Some workspaces are too loud, while others are unnaturally quiet. You can hear someone’s conversation from across the room and it’s impossible to ignore. Even tiny sounds can grab our attention and trigger fight or flight responses. Once we’ve been distracted, it takes around 20 minutes to refocus. We spend most of our lives indoors and much of this time is spent trying to cope with unnatural, stress-inducing noise.’ Clients can choose from a library of existing soundscapes or commission bespoke ones to ‘root the building in its local surroundings or bring visual designs to life’, adds Benway. ‘Moodsonic creates distinct sensory zones to accommodate different people, sensitivities and activities. The soundscapes are algorithmically generated and content can be driven in real-time by sensors, so as the environment changes so do the precise characteristics of the sound.’
‘My background really begins as the child of musicians – my father is a classical pianist and my mother a cellist – and as a jazz musician myself,’ explains Benway. ‘I think musicians tend to listen to the world a bit differently, and it was my first experience working in an open-plan office for a large technology company in Silicon Valley that caused me to think about how we could better design such spaces for our ears.’ Benway knew that the right product needed to be customer-centric and as well as drawing upon his several years of running innovation and product teams he needed to learn quickly and formed a new company with this singular focus. ‘I formed a team comprised of the top talent in this field – software and audio engineers, designers – and with investment incubated the technology for two years prior to launching Moodsonic as a standalone business this year,’ he says. ‘In that period, we’ve managed to partner with some of the world’s leading companies, including three of the world’s ten largest companies, and four out of ten of the US’s largest, with buildings commissioned through the UK, USA, Europe, Asia and Australia.’ Moodsonic has received an Innovate UK grant award to further develop its technology, including advancing the methods by which Moodsonic receives information from building sensors and uses that information to dynamically change the soundscape output. Benway adds: ‘The most exciting developments ahead are in our technology and partnerships, and we have some very exciting news coming throughout this year, all about creating more and better experiences delivered by increasingly simple processes.’
The product ranges: Moodsonic has been on a discovery journey, creating new technology and improved user experiences. Benway explains: ‘[Moodsonic’s] first product range was minimally viable…We were doing things like introducing the soundscape of an English meadow to clients in Australia, and…there was some cognitive dissonance. We responded by developing experiences that are increasingly personalised.’
Major healthcare company in the US: Moodsonic has now completed a number of sites with a major healthcare client in the US and is working on numerous upcoming office projects. Its work includes fully soundscaping a 14-storey building to accommodate a post- Covid hybrid workplace, which has been zoned to provide various sensory needs in a diverse workforce.
Sydney Catholic School: Located in the heart of Sydney, Australia, Moodsonic has delivered biophilic soundscapes to aid agile working and user wellbeing. The scheme has been zoned for quiet work, open work, as well as hospitality. Plus – and this is a first for the company – Moodsonic has developed a bespoke Gregorian Chant soundscape in the chapel.