Creating and designing signature sounds is a skill that is definitely pivotal for setting yourself up as an audio professional. But how do high-quality professional sound designers actually come up with this kind of sounds? It all starts with the nature of the project they have to work on.

The Project

There are many projects out there that require a sheer array of signature sounds. Ranging from animated series to videogames, signature sounds are as essential as any other sound element that makes it into the final cut. Audio professionals are normally brought into the process at a very early stage, especially during animated series, more specifically during the first animatic. For those who are not familiar with the term ‘animatic’, an animatic is a crucial element within the animation industry; is basically a video of storyboard panels timed to work in sync with the dialogue.

Adding sound elements and sound design to an animatic can serve a number of purposes: it can provide the animatic with the life it needs for the animation studio to better understand how to animate crucial moments. It also can provide executives with a much deeper and better understanding of the action when going through the whole animatic for final approval. And last but not least it can definitely set signature elements early enough so that sound elements can shed some light on the process the animators must follow.

The Process

First: Brainstorm About Aesthetics

Depending on the nature of the project, as an audio professional you need to first identify what are those key elements that are present in the series or the audiovisual project. The idea, of course, is to come up with a way to incorporate sound elements in a way that these are nuanced and special.

When it comes to designing sounds for a project, it’s also important to consider the audience, as it would also help to determine what kind of soundscape the project needs. This step is crucial, for the audience needs to be familiar with the sounds they will be hearing, otherwise, storytelling might be affected. If the project is geared towards a much younger audience, for example, then creating sounds that are familiar to kids or preschoolers would be more suitable.

When it comes to crafting signature sounds, the set locations normally look way different than traditional sets —they look really high tech, which makes the process always entertaining. Since signature sounds are often used in audiovisual projects that rely on the same technology (animated series, video games, etc.), incorporating sound aspects always depend on creating new sci-fi sounds for all the elements that are present in the project. This, of course, boosts creativity as there are many challenges and hurdles to overcome.

Second: Separate Stand-Out Signature Sounds From The Rest

Although many would say that every sound that appears in projects like these is definitely a signature sound, there are several nuances to that assertion. Some also might think that it is definitely a waste of time to come up with a special sound for traditional sounds such as a door being opened or hand grabs. However, creating a whole new soundscape from scratch for all reusable elements can ensure not only stand-out sound design elements but also a solid signature aesthetic for the entire project.

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Many audio professionals are fond of this idea, and they normally decide that the sounds for all the things in the main set should be signature: hand grabs, opening doors, furniture, mechanical elements, etc.

Third: Come Up With A Custom Recording List

When coming up with a custom recording list, it is always a good idea to brainstorm elements to record which might provide the overall aesthetic with more support. It is advisable to map out what to record for each signature element that will be present in the project, and for that, it’s advisable to think about the general aesthetic that needs to be achieved. What items help achieve the soundscape the project needs?

Focus on all the elements the project demands and try to create a checklist of what will be needed. And for that we mean: go outside (literally). Some audio professionals pay stores a visit looking for interesting items that will help them create the sounds they need. Test every element out, paying special attention to how it sounds. In animation, for example, the best recordings are normally made from items which are different from what the audience sees on the screen.

Audio professionals, regardless of whether they work on crafting signature sounds or not, always focus on one single thing: achieving a certain texture and a certain sound. They don’t simply want to just record the exact same element that will be shown in the moving images and on screen. Foley plays a vital role in this part of the process. When choosing items to record, it’s highly important to shut off the visual part of the process, as the brain always tells to go for the obvious.

*The images used on this post are taken from