“i'm covering my ear to hear you better”

Sony makes this headphone with Quick Attention Mode, which lets in ambient noise when you cover one of the ear cups.

who the hell designed this?


usually, if you’re pressing on on your ear cups, it means you’re trying to block out outside noise so you can hear your audio better. that’s the exact opposite of what you want here. did no one on the design team realize that putting your hand over your ear makes you look like you’re intentionally ignoring the person you’re trying to listen to?

a feature that lets you quickly let in ambient noise is a good idea. but that doesn’t excuse the stupid design for using it. i would never use this because it would simply make me look rude. i’m far more inclined to just do the more human thing—take the headphone off.

just like how looking at your smartwatch makes you look like you’re checking the time and in a hurry, design affects and is affected by social interaction, and designers need to consider that.

i can think of at least one better option for activating Quick Attention Mode: a button on the upper back of the ear cup.


it would have to be high enough to make people press it with their fingers and not their thumbs, yet also low enough to be behind the ear and not above it.

this way, pressing the button would look like you were cupping your ear, which is the natural gesture for trying to hear things better, not trying to block them out. this gesture would fit into social interactions far less unobtrusively, which is what they were going for originally.

if Sony had actually shipped this gesture, i might have actually liked it, and maybe even found it charming. i don’t understand why they instead shipped a design that in real-life situations is exactly counterproductive.