They say necessity is the mother of invention, but what is the mother of creativity? As music tech continues to develop and evolve, so has the UI (User Interface) behind it. From effects racks in fancy studios lined to the walls with sleek, nearly identical gray boxes of colorful effects, to plugins made by a programmer in his bedroom, User Interface is vital to the musician’s workflow. The design philosophy behind most electronic music devices and plugins has remained fairly unchanged: Either copy the existing design of a more traditional instrument (Think a Piano Roll on your favorite VST synth!) or visualize the complex parameters of a program or patch with pragmatic dials and numbers. Only the artist needs to see the machines behind the music, why would we bother to focus on the design of the product past the sounds themselves?
The more modern music tech world would beg to differ. We’re entering a world chock full of Weird Gear and it’s beautiful. As musical traditions continue to blend and develop in interesting, creative ways, so have the minds behind the electronic instruments the artist uses to craft their work. Sure, The color of a Stratocaster doesn’t change the sound, but that mint green one just feels right for the vibe of the track today!
Plugins and synths are starting to take note. While the days of pragmatic design are far from behind us (It would make sense that a device used to make something as abstract as sound and music at large would usually want to demystify the process.) Some companies and musicians have taken an alternative approach to design to try and capture the wonder and spark of inspiration that comes from unique, intuitive, and more out-of-the box design.