The World of ASMR

December 1st, 2022

Design 4Retail

Following a visit to the “WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR” exhibition at the London Design Museum, Interior Architecture & Design student and intern at Design4Retail, Kirsty Isaac, uncovers the importance of crafting retail interiors inclusive of sensory activations for a more engaging and memorable brand experience.

Interior Architecture & Design student and intern at Design4Retail, Kirsty Isaac

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, can you explain what ASMR is exactly?

“ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and refers to a “Physical sensation of euphoria or deep calm”. For many people, this presents itself as a tingling sensation that starts at the top of your head and moves down your neck and spine. You may have noticed that in recent years the online ASMR community has grown massively with people tuning into live streams or videos in their droves for a plethora of reasons.”

What inspired your trip to this particular exhibition?

“Since ASMR isn’t just triggered by sound, but also by touch and movement, the London Design Museum saw an opportunity to bring the world of ASMR from our screen to a physical environment. On my recent safari to the capital, I attended this unique exhibition for some valuable design inspiration and to experience hyper-immersive ASMR first-hand.”



What was your experience of the “WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR” exhibition?

“The exhibition consisted of a collection of interactive pieces and displays from several ASMR experience artists, including Tobias Bradford, Marc Tessier, and Julie Rose Bower. Work from Julie Rose Bowers included that of a semi-enclosed space that used a stage curtain to create a sound barrier. Within the space were several speakers spaced apart, some placed very high up, that would mimic the sound of you clapping at different intervals – creating the perception of an echo so that it felt as if you were in a very large and empty space. Other displays were purely visual, such as Tobias Bradford’s “immeasurable thirst”. This visual display saw a life-like tongue slowly drip liquid to evoke the feeling of thirst among spectators. Other exhibition works included a set of visual cartoon-like motion displays that were paired with several loud audios. If you were looking at the correct visual display that fit with the audio, then it became a very satisfying experience.

“The star of the show was a large amphitheatre structure clad with soft intestine-like walls and floors for guests to lounge around on whilst they listened to and watched a selection of ASMR videos. Some of these videos were of people eating, whispering or brushing things against their mic, which is very synonymous with what you might find in the online ASMR community. Laying in this centrepiece, it felt as though every part of my body was supported to the point that it created the sensation of floating. Feeling completely comfortable, I was able to focus more of my attention to the sounds that the headset and videos were providing us with. It was almost as if the feeling of comfort had heightened my hearing and brought us closer to that physical sensation of euphoria and deep calm mentioned previously. “

James & Josh enjoying the exhibition

online ASMR community
online ASMR community
ASMR exhibition

What was your biggest take-away from the exhibition?

“What the exhibition did very well was demonstrate how you can create an overwhelmingly calm environment that doesn’t diminish a visitor’s sense of excitement and intrigue. Even though much of the exhibition was dominated by soft textures and there was an overall library-like hush, I became immersed in each and every display I walked passed. The exhibition really helped me to understand the power of ASMR and how it’s only when all senses are activated that a truly immersive experience can be had.”

“The popularity that the world of ASMR has garnered proves that sensory stimulation is an important Key to holding the attention of others. Creating emotions or prying a reaction is a notable effect of sensory stimulation. One of the stands at the ASMR exhibition (by Marc Tessier) was showcasing a skin like material that had been applied to a mobile phone and several other objects; some people found this interesting and satisfying to the touch, other visitors disliked how it felt. Either way it produced a reaction.”

ASMR exhibition

What are the benefits of leveraging ASMR within brick-and-mortar retail environments?

“Sensory stimulation is important because it opens multiple pathways to engage someone. For example, if a brand is trying to convey a message or provide information about their products, they often do it in a visual way, however, pairing this information with an elevated sensory experience that engages more than one sense at a time will undoubtedly hold a shopper’s attention for longer. This heightened sensory stimulation at physical retail might be achieved by engaging a customer’s sense of smell. Most obviously, this type of sensory exploitation could be applied to a retail activation selling perfumes. However, scent stimulation could be used to provide a backdrop of emotion for a product that does not necessarily have a scent in and of itself.

From visiting the exhibition, we can conclude that when a sensory experience is offered, and customers can engage their touch or smell, it is more likely that they will remember the brand or become interested in them and what they are trying to achieve (whether that’s the purchasing of a product or becoming invested in the brand’s future endeavours). When we stretch beyond just visual stimulation, it can become much easier to create a lasting impression.

“We owe it to the brands that we work with to create elevated retail experiences that are constantly pushing the boundaries of interaction and engagement in order to attract customers. The punctuation of sensory stimulation via instore touchpoints is a valuable addition to any customer journey, and when designed with foresight, can transform a form of display into an inclusive brand experience.”


Vaishali in Julie Rose Bowers’ semi enclosed space

ASMR within brick-and-mortar retail environments
ASMR within brick-and-mortar retail environments
The Importance of ASMR at Retail