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Public transport in Vienna is attentive to passenger ears too

wiener linien sound strategy audio branding marketing sound design post soundidentity blog

We all know the difference between an efficient public transport system and one that just doesn’t meet the real needs of a city.

Here in Italy, we’re quite used to comparing ourselves to the great cities of northern Europe, where we imagine punctual and frequent metros, trams and trains. Perhaps we even imagine them to be lightning fast, clean and pleasing to the eye. But there is a place that has gone beyond even those standards, perhaps taking them for granted as the basic requirements for decent public service.

The Viennese public transport agency (Wiener Linien) launched a sound project in 2012, to improve the quality of the service offered to citizens.

Let’s just pause to reflect on how often we have been irritated by the sound from the loudspeakers whilst waiting for the metro or trying to work out which tram stop to get off at: the barely comprehensible voice, sudden squeaks, annoying jingles and so on.

The Viennese company wanted to find a pleasant and clear way to pass information on to their passengers. They focused their efforts on the announcements, the voice and a wide range of sounds. To find the right audio identity, they turned to the city’s history and the well-known Viennese waltz, the ‘Donauwalzer’. The 6/8 tempo was the basis for the company’s sound strategy. Another milestone within the project would be finding the voice that would become so familiar to passengers on their daily commute.

In order to investigate every possible option, a casting was held based on criteria that respected the characteristic tone attributed to the brand. After an initial selection, the two best voices went through an online voting process which garnered huge media coverage. In the end it was Viennese actress Angela Schneider who came out on top. Here is an interesting video recap of the project:

The ‘Wiener Linien Sound Branding’ project developed by Sound Strategy agency / Why Do Birds was recently awarded the Audio Branding Academy (ABA) award at the Audio Branding Awards 2015.


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