Design : Social Media and Sound

Frequently at my day job, I create ads and graphics for use on social media, specifically Facebook. Over the course of a year and a half in my position, I have had the opportunity to watch the platform morph into what it is today both in aesthetic and in terms of accessibility.

[Facebook increasingly provides] more surface area to
manipulate as designers define and refine a brand

As a designer who values aesthetic, Facebook has expanded Page layouts to be a richer content experience. Pages has features like pinned posts and featured videos to provide more surface area for designers to define and refine a brand. From an array of post types (status! photo! carousel!…) to the subtle custom features like a custom video cover photo, Facebook is increasingly useful for more creative brand experiences. This is good news–our digital world will probably need designers for unforeseeable future.

Accessibility is one of my personal values that I hold as a designer. For many Deaf and hard of hearing individuals like myself, information is not readily accessible without captions or transcripts. I am keenly aware when brands opt not to include captions or produce videos with voice overs or poor audio quality. Normal perception of sound is a barrier to entry for information and communication. Deaf artist Christine Sun Kim defines the position sound in society with the term social currency: “sound is like money, power, control — social currency.Without sound there is no communication is what society would have us think.

Normal perception of sound is a barrier
to entry of sorts for information and communication.

Interestingly, the direction of technology I have noticed on Facebook is surprisingly the opposite. Facebook news feed videos auto-play with the sound muted. This lack of sound is a symbolic win for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. It validates our experience and relationship to sound while still being able to communicate. Without relying on sound, designers and advertisers are by necessity creating to more visual solutions. As my sister described it, now “you have to been seen to be ‘heard.'” Our feeds are constantly bombarded with sponsored posts and advertisers, we’ve grown to tune most of it out and in this, I think people get a glimpse of what it means to be deaf. You have to get our attention before we understand you. I hope that in the future we will see more brands and technologies considering accessibility when developing products.

Facebook news feed videos auto-play with the sound muted…
This lack of sound is a symbolic win for
the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community
and validates our experience.

Want to read more perspectives on closed captioning in digital media?  Read this.

Below is Christine Sun Kim’s full TEDtalk.