Remove the unintuitive, feature-heavy nature of music synthesizers to uncover the essence of digital music creation.
A synthesizer that can be used by youth and adults alike, the final solution focuses on stacking physical components to structurally represent the creative process.
This project was awarded first place “Best in Show” at Ohio State University’s 2018 Design Exhibition.
IT’S HARD TO LEARN THE CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN MUSIC SOFTWARE LOOKS LIKE THIS
The highly technical nature of audio software can be great for the right user. However, new users who want to create music digitally cannot accomplish anything on interfaces like this one, and instead turn to simplified tools like GarageBand, where they struggle to learn any technical skills at all.
COLLECTING USER FEEDBACK
I conducted two user tests. Users applied descriptors to various control types, offering insight into initial interactions. Additionally, users participated in a test evaluating whether a linear sequence of decision-making could improve speed and confidence.
STRATEGY: CREATE A LINEAR PATH
Users who were introduced to functions in a sequence displayed a better understanding said functions. They were able to describe the sounds better, and were faster at completing a timed trial.
EXPLORING STACKABLE FORMS
I sought to introduce a physical element of play. Sketching explored the spacial relationship between the controls and the sounds they produce. Research soon validated a linear approach, so I explored stacking blocks in sequence.
LAYERING SOUNDS, PHYSICALLY
To facilitate experimentation, I conceptualized forms that can be stacked. Stacking allows users to literally build layers of sounds, just as layers of effects are built up in software applications.
STACK, LISTEN, TWEAK
Building up a layer of effects provides a sequential archive of the track. To change how each effect is applied, slide the chord units up or down. This makes it easy to create filter sweeps, spacious reverbs, chopped gates–whatever you can come up with. TONE LAB allows you to discover techniques for yourself.
TONE LAB PROVIDES REAL TOOLS
Real music production functions are easy to add. Stacking tiles of effects quickly develops a basic sound wave into a pleasing aesthetic, fully crafted by the user.