I think this is a fairly commonly touched subject that boils down to what's considered "design" and what's not.

REBOOT: What makes you think YOU'RE a sound designer?

Sound design by definition implies what design implies, which is "to give form to something". Of course, if one utilizes a pre-defined form (e.g. a sound created by someone else), there cannot be design with the same kind of sense as there's with sounds that are original. What then justifies the use of the word design?

It might be practically impossible to create everything from scratch given deadlines and all, but do you think there's some line of originality that still justifies "sound design"? Or does it even matter, to whom?

The question is fairly similar to what's considered art and what isn't.

  • It's worth something to be able to artistically match something pre-existing with the specific need. There are plenty of sounds already recorded in sound libraries, and using one of those sounds is not without its challenges. A sound designer who never made an original sound would still be doing important work, because putting the right sounds in at the right times with the right levels and EQ, etc. is still an art, regardless of where the sounds came from. Apr 3, 2016 at 6:30
  • @ToddWilcox But of a different kind compared to the more laborous path of defining and using "your own sound"? Musical artists are commonly categorized according to "their sound", why wouldn't this apply to sound designers?
    – mavavilj
    Apr 3, 2016 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


Honestly this is a question all artists/designers face. There are methods that can take the fun or creativity out of a project but allow you to meet your deadline, as you put it.

Sound design is no different when it comes to this question. I feel like it's the end that justifies the means. OK so you used a drum from a drum pack you bought online but now your song sounds incredible. No one cares if you did or didn't use an original sound. I mean if you did and it sounded great, that's probably a hit song. Quality and originality fused together.

So if you want to spend 100+ hours doing everything explicitly from scratch, go right ahead, it's probably going to sound great and it might even boost your ego. The final word is that everyone feels that way at some point down the path of artistry and there's no way around it. It just means you're starting to see things your own way and maybe even have become a better artist for all those hours you put in.

"True art" is in the eye of the beholder and that is, once again, the finished product. Not the process.

Edit: Sometimes you WILL or WANT to use a pre-made sound. This gets into copyrights and legal matters. For example, clearing a sample of someone else's song before you use it in one of your own. Not sure you were asking about this specifically but it's worth looking into if you'd like to use other people's sounds. Sound packs that are bought usually let you use the sounds scott free though, im pretty sure. Creative Commons (CC) sound files sometimes have no stipulation as well. You just have to read into the details of what type of CC license the artist has implemented for that particular file which is usually somewhere around the same page you find it on.

  • There are definitions for "art" that put weight on the process and e.g. technicality. The reason is that it's unfair to compare an artwork that took a year to produce and is technically pristine and e.g. novel to a technically less commendable piece of art that took only a month to produce. They are in different leagues. But I agree on your point that pre-made and unoriginal sources can also be used with taste and then the conception of originality is in "combining these", rather than "creating these".
    – mavavilj
    Apr 2, 2016 at 9:23

Talking about efficiency, I think there are plenty of cases where making your own sounds is simply faster then browsing through hundreds or thousands of stock sound fx.

Personally I think the most important part is to have an idea what you are looking for and then decide what is the most efficient way to get that.

For me (I am not a sound designer but a video editor so applying sound design occasionally comes as a part of my job) this part is a lot of fun. While certainly not NECESSARY to do your own sound design, foley etc. I think you are missing out on a very fun task if you just use pre-made sounds.

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