Sirens Reading for Final Project

Please read this before class on Monday:

Siren—Aural Design.” Kunst & Museumjournaal 4, no. 6
(1993), pp. 12–18.

It can be found at:

Please post responses here.


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Instructor Wayne State University
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8 Responses to Sirens Reading for Final Project

  1. Ruwaida Ba-arma says:

    “Sirens” is an article about the success and failure of an artist, Max Neuhaus who attempted and succeeded at improving the quality and use of sirens. He invented a siren, which was designed to save lives by directing sound and making it heard by other vehicles that are using sirens.

    His persistence was impressive and I really enjoyed reading the part about the outcome of his design.

    It is really exciting when you work through the design phase and see the final product. The moment you test your prototype for that split second when you are standing on pins and needles praying for its success and then you realize it works is the most thrilling moment.

    I was very shocked that the manufacturers showed no interest in producing and testing a prototype and that they were more interested in saving money than saving lives. It is very clear that they have the attitude of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

    From this reading, I learned that even if you improve and increase the benefit of a product there is no guarantee that there will be a potential buyer. Moreover, if a potential investor or buyer does exist you cannot assure that they would want to change their current product.

    I guess the old adage is true…“Although you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make him drink.” I totally agree.

  2. Ashley Laskey says:

    I really enjoyed reading this ‘Sirens’ article by Max Neuhaus. I love how he expresses his desire as an artist to take an emergency siren and making it more functional for everyday life. Most of us as artist don’t thinking of taking our time or resources to improve something that’s already universally used and that everyone is hesitant to even view. To me, this story is very passionate; Max never stops believing his artistic ideas for the people. He begins to do much research on sound itself and how the siren delivers different quality of sound.
    Therefore, he learned, “One of the basic principles of our psychology seems to be to ignore the status quo and react to change. Every emergency-vehicle driver I have ever talked to has told me about his technique of switching to a different sound pattern before entering a dangerous intersection, to regain attention. It didn’t seem to matter which sound pattern was used – it was the change which got people’s attention.” Nobody was taking into consideration that a serious factor was not time but the distance, “no matter what the car’s speed, the sounds would always occur at the optimum distance: the faster the car was going, the faster the sounds would occur.” This could be a better set of sound signals that could save lives but unfortunately siren manufacturers are not interested in disturbing the status quo of the big corporations.
    In closing, with the world becoming more populated each day, I believe Max’s creative idea for improvement could make the future of urban life more livable and safer. It’s sad those great artists are not able to fulfill their works of art because of corporations and/or the elite stepping in the way of a new product that could be a potential competitor. These types of articles and artists are how amateur artists keep motivated and wanting to create their passions of art.

  3. Konrad Tenwolde says:

    The reading “Sirens” was interesting to me. Design and art appeal to me for different reasons. Speaking about design specifically I think the ability to use design for improvement is awesome. We can use design principles and the design process to improve anything. When improving on somethings design we are also problem solving. In the reading we read about a small portion of the problem solving that it took to finally arrive at the sounds they were looking for. This reading was great for offering insight into the actual process of a major project. It also offers the hard truth about people not accepting the hard work of others even if it may better society or bring improvement. Although it was disappointing that there project was not accepted it was an inspirational reading.

  4. Rabih Khalil says:

    This is a great article, for it doesn’t only speak of design, but of society, bureaucracy, and the refusal to change.
    The Artist had a solution for an antiquated model, The Siren on a police car or an ambulance, and the fact that there is no necessity for the loudness of it, because it confuses people as to where the sound is coming from. He speaks of the development of the sound system over so many years, and each time they made a new one, no design or thought process was considered for the product.
    The artist came up with a revolutionary Idea, that not only improves the sound, decreasing the level of annoyance, but also has the potential to save lives.
    The design was tested and passed with flying colors with actual servicemen that tested it, and he made a very valid point that men in uniform, and of authority, don’t have to be so loud.
    Unfortunately, the product was never made, because it was not profitable to make, the loud dangerous sirens they have are less costly if they were to replace the old, even if it’s at the expense of people’s lives.
    As important as design is, sometimes it can be faced with unexpected obstacles, but that’s because people are not susceptible to change.

  5. It was very enjoyable reading the process for figuring out what was needed, and then breaking down how the writer went about solving the issue of a safer, more locatable police siren. It’s unfortunate he was able to get an agency to adopt his siren, but the read was very informative.

    If I were to take something away from this reading and relate it to 3D design, it’s that in order to design anything, we should approach a problem and try to solve it. The solution doesn’t just lay in the form of an object, but we should examine why we are designing it that way. For example–a knowledge of dressing authority figures in scary costume was necessary for questioning why sirens are so loud and threatening. An academic and wordly knowledge is helpful when it comes to design.

  6. Lindsey Olah says:

    I really like the way in which this piece was written. The process is spelled out for the reader so it gets you on the same “page” as Max. As I was reading, I felt that I had a full understanding of Max’s vision and what he wanted to accomplish. I was pulling for him. The invention, or design, really is for the betterment of society so it’s frustrating to read the ending of this piece. However, I guess that’s life and it’s better to be aware of it now. Just like children have to learn to lose, designers have to learn to fail. This doesn’t mean that the person has to be OK with losing or failing, but they have to learn that it happens. The quicker one can accept that, the quicker they can move on and use their failures to their advantage. To clear things up, I do not believe the sirens are a “failure”, per say, however he did not reach the goal he set for himself.

  7. Jessica Haj says:

    The article “Sirens” by Max Neuhaus was very interesting. To go out of your comfort zone as an artist and design something that not much would put the effort into designing is what kept me anxiously reading through. Sirens back in the day were quite dangerous, and Max had come up with a genius idea. He put so much effort, time, and thought into creating a louder siren that can be distinguished from other sirens. It’s very shocking to me that the manufacturers were not interested in producing this project. It seemed to me like his idea could save many car accidents from happening, and it’s almost very unfortunate that the manufacturers would rather save money than lives.
    What I really loved was how Max never gave up on his idea. He formed the idea of design a better set of sound signals for emergency vehicles back in 1978. He started off with just a thought, no money and no help. Nothing stopped him though. His drive kept him going all the way till he accomplished what he had started. To come back 10 years later, in 1988, and give a talk at the International Conference on Design about the sirens, should show you how determined he was, a whole decade didn’t stop him.
    The closing statement, “Although you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make him drink.” is brilliant. It is so true, this artist practically invented Sirens that would be so much better for society, but he couldn’t drive society to use them.

  8. Zach Thompson says:

    The reading “Sirens” written by Max Neuhaus, was rather informative and inspiring. It describes how Max took something so common like the siren, and redesigned it to be more appealing to the publics ear. The whole process was a creative push to create a concept that most people wouldn’t think of attempting to recreate or alter. The reading was also a good insight on how to plan a procedure for construction. It was rather interesting on how he worked on this idea for over a decade and continued to pursue his idea. His concept on how if the car increases speed then the sound will increase was rather intelligent, despite that the public did not see so due to cost issues if the siren needed replacements or repairs. It was a enjoyable article to read pertaining to our 3-D design class.

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