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What's the story?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Eurorack Modules  
Author What's the story?
greenanother
Ever wonder why Harvestman chose the color orange for their knobs, or what inspired Make Noise to choose their design scheme. What about Intellijel's robot or Mutable's spiritual vibe?

I'm curious about the branding process of these and other companies, and if there is an interesting story behind them.

Anyone have any theories about these design choices, or are curious about their origin as I am?

My guess is that there was a lot of thought involved and a certain philosophy in most cases.

Are there any creators/developers that want to share the actual story here (even if it's as simple as "I chose this because I was in the mood")?
pichenettes
(It's cool because I was asking Hannes/papernoise today if I could post some mockups of modules in the early design stage, or juicy outtakes. So I actually tried to locate the emails in which I pitched him such or such module idea - and found plenty of stuff!)

Colors

The two colors were selected when the website was designed - no Eurorack line at the time!

At some point we were supposed to have 4 of them!



Don't remember how they evolved later but they were already there in the Shruthi/MIDIpal printed manuals.

An important factor was the knobs... At first, Rogan was not crazy about working with me, so I planned to source my knobs from Sifam (very similar to Intellijel's parts) - and it would have meant readjusting the official MI colors to the nearest colors on their palette. Fortunately an insightful Rogan employee changed her mind and I could get the knobs in "my" colors.

Design

Here are my mockups before a competent designer was called in:





No, it's not that Braids rejects deities, just that I used for the display a cut photo of a Strymon Timeline showing a patch named "CATHEDRAL".

The "structure" was already there, with the logo, module name, "title" and border. Inspiration #1 for this strong sense of structure came from Pelican book covers.

Then I just dumped tons of moodboards to Hannes, hoping that he'll get the point.



Various sketches showing how Hannes refined the design language.





Logos

Originally I wanted the module logos to be classic block-printing motifs (like the peacock here) - though it would have been too detailed and with an irregular outline. Looking at some printing blocks I had around, I found that many of them worked well in a square frame (like this) and this set the template for module icons. Then I thought about making stamps with these logos and use them on the packaging...

My ugly initial sketches for the logos:



Which became:



Names

The module names were chosen to evoke shapes/patterns/designs related to what the modules were doing. For a while I thought about creating a different brand name because I thought Mutable Instruments was tied to DIY. It would have been "Synthesis Elements" or something like that.

Overall feel/vibe/themes

I was aiming for a kind of "Bagru hauntology" vibe. I think I pitched Hannes with "Julian House and Sabyasachi collaborate on the illustrations of a 70s set theory textbook" (those times when Sabyasachi did not suck...). We're certainly not there but I'm happy with what we have now (and always grin when I see the new packagings!). Still, it's a strong mold from which I wish I could break from time to time. Thought about doing a mini IJ-themed line (Eschaton trigger generator, Madame Psychosis verb you get the idea), and more seriously another ornithology-themed line. Frustration #1 is the "coldness" of aluminium.

But I'm certainly not a spiritual person!
mafouka
^lol @ Infinite Jest themed modules. . that gives me the howling fantods screaming goo yo
mattb
The Box Ghost Periodical! SlayerBadger!
pinhole_sunrise
Thanks for the breakdown Olivier, it was very informative.
lich
thanks for the post, i love reading about this side of the design
whinger
Thanks for this, I too love hearing about the design side of modules — especially the inspiration.
M6live
Redacted.
pichenettes
M6live wrote:
@pichenettes

What are the teal and pink colors used in addition to white? Am I seeing those shades correctly? Do you refer to those colors by a name?

More importantly, what do the colors used signify in terms of interface and functionality of the current Mutable Instruments line? For example, why pick teal over white?


See this
spacenoodle
Great thread greenanother and fascinating response from Olivier.

The graphics, brochures, colors and names of modules sometimes push me certain ways. It's at least a small factor in my purchasing decisions. I can't help it! Worst of all, at least a few modules will probably never make it into my rack unless I can get a Greyscale version. I wonder how much these factors contribute to the success of a module designer?
whinger
spacenoodle wrote:
Worst of all, at least a few modules will probably never make it into my rack unless I can get a Greyscale version.


I have the exact same issue. I have one right now that I'm going to use some paint thinner to take the logo off of it.
Jumbuktu
whinger wrote:
spacenoodle wrote:
Worst of all, at least a few modules will probably never make it into my rack unless I can get a Greyscale version.


I have the exact same issue. I have one right now that I'm going to use some paint thinner to take the logo off of it.


Are you serious or just pulling my leg?
whinger
Completely serious, I really dislike the logo, but it's a wonderful module. I haven't properly researched it yet, so paint thinner may not be the thing I use. I haven't had a day off in almost two months, so it might be a little while before I get around to it — but yes, it will be removed.
greenanother
pinhole_sunrise wrote:
Thanks for the breakdown Olivier, it was very informative.


Yes, very generous of you pichenettes to elaborate on all of this (exactly what I was hoping for when starting this topic). Fascinating stuff for sure!
portervance
I've always wanted to believe that the people who run Robot Heart (Burning Man camp and other events) were modular enthusiasts at heart and were inspired by Intellijel's logo.





Maybe Danjel is a shadow financier hihi

Edit: Also regarding the beauty that is Mutable Instruments, the MI style/branding guide from the pre-modular era has always been a favorite document of mine to flip through: http://docdro.id/2JR1BI0
sromanel
whinger wrote:
spacenoodle wrote:
Worst of all, at least a few modules will probably never make it into my rack unless I can get a Greyscale version.


I have the exact same issue. I have one right now that I'm going to use some paint thinner to take the logo off of it.


Please remember to use odorless paint thinner



Carci
portervance wrote:
I've always wanted to believe that the people who run Robot Heart (Burning Man camp and other events) were modular enthusiasts at heart and were inspired by Intellijel's logo.





Maybe Danjel is a shadow financier hihi



I often thought the same thing.
xonetacular
whinger wrote:
I haven't properly researched it yet, so paint thinner may not be the thing I use. I haven't had a day off in almost two months, so it might be a little while before I get around to it — but yes, it will be removed.


What module? If it's a metalphoto panel paint thinner or any solvent won't do it as it's under hard anodizing.
shred
pichenettes wrote:

and more seriously another ornithology-themed line. Frustration #1 is the "coldness" of aluminium.


please no, i don't have money for this! Dead Banana

more seriously, thank you for the breakdown it was very interesting to read
whinger
xonetacular wrote:
What module? If it's a metalphoto panel paint thinner or any solvent won't do it as it's under hard anodizing.


It's the WMD Digital VCA — I won't do anything until I research it more. It's a lovely module and I wouldn't have even bought it if there anything else on the market that does what it does. That's how much the typeface choice of the logo and module name bother me. But I'm a graphic designer and thus persnickety.

I feel like I am derailing this conversation and apologize for that. Lets get back to the original discussion which is design aesthetics and how the different companies came to their decide on the look of their modules.
dkristian
@pichenettes

Many thanks for the fascinating read. I'm a very OCD person, and at first, I had a bit of a hard time accepting the variety of designs in my setup, but as it grew, I came to appreciate the unique look of all my modules, be it Snazzy FX, Mutable Instruments, The Harvestman, and Make Noise; mainly because I didn't have to scan the towers (as they are now) to find the modules. Also, I think they say a lot about the designer's personalities, and are a welcome change from corporate synth faceplates and naming conventions.

That said, I'll be getting a Warps module soon, hopefully today, and I would be lying if I said I was getting one simply for its features, though they are equally important. wink
petersandbach
Olivier thank you so much! The beauty of the modular synth world is our connectedness with you designers and manufacturers. Great thread Greenanother.

Pete
JCM
I just want to take a moment to call out Olivier and any other manufacturer who uses Graphic Designers to execute their aesthetics. Much of all of this is entirely subjective, but I can't argue with a well executed cohesive graphic identity.
greenanother
petersandbach wrote:
Olivier thank you so much! The beauty of the modular synth world is our connectedness with you designers and manufacturers. Great thread Greenanother.

Pete


Couldn't agree more! I'm glad this is turning out to be a valuable discussion. thumbs up
calaveras
I think some would be surprised to know how much work and money can go into branding. A friend of mine is a jewelry designer. She has a fine arts background as well. She has just spent almost 10k USD on branding and associated graphic design work for her jewelry brand identity.
The sheer volume and variety of logos she had to go through, then various iterations of web, business card and packaging designs was pretty surprising to me.
Then simple stuff like what color of white? Warm white, eggshell, blue white etc.
dimeshow
greenanother wrote:
petersandbach wrote:
Olivier thank you so much! The beauty of the modular synth world is our connectedness with you designers and manufacturers. Great thread Greenanother.

Pete


Couldn't agree more! I'm glad this is turning out to be a valuable discussion. thumbs up


+1! As an artist with a background in film / visual media, I'm often surprised (and oft-frustrated) at how much my own image-sense of the world affects how I navigate it AKA how graphic design determines my draw towards modules. For better or worse, the draw of Make Noise, Mutable Instruments, Hexinverter's Jupiter Storm / Galilean Moons, Ieasukul Mobenthay, and Mannequins' modules has as much to do with how they look (form) as with what they do (content)...
MrNovember
Very interesting read! I hope some more manufacturers chime in
yeskeys
I honestly never consider the graphics on a module. maybe subconsciously?
Footkerchief
whinger wrote:

It's the WMD Digital VCA — I won't do anything until I research it more. It's a lovely module and I wouldn't have even bought it if there anything else on the market that does what it does. That's how much the typeface choice of the logo and module name bother me. But I'm a graphic designer and thus persnickety.


For what it's worth, I was on the fence about the Triple Bipolar VCA for months because of the super cheesy "weathered" typeface: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/wmd-triple-bipolar-vca

Last week I got a used one, and apparently they got a stealth redesign at some point, because the fonts on mine are fine.
kurodama
Olivier just pointed me at this thread. Thanks greenanother for starting this. You have opened Pandora's box, you know that don't you? grin
Funny thing is, I had decided to write a small post about ditched designs and discarded sketches for the many module panels, logos and graphics I have been working on in 2015, then Olivier contacts me asking if we can post some work in progress designs for Mutable instruments and now this thread. A series of coincidences. smile

The Mutable Instruments design language was created over 3 years ago, and in the beginning was intended solely for Olivier's DIY line of synths and devices. I initially worked on it with a friend and fellow graphic designer named Patricia, who helped us a lot in defining the colour palette and the typefaces, unfortunately later we split ways (people have children, life happens). Also I would like to mention that my Wife Elizabeth has been responsible for many paisley and decorative frame designs, which can be found on the website and on the new product boxes.
Coming up with those colours was a long process which involved many inputs from Olivier and sorting through a bunch of Patricia's travel photos. She had been in India 2 years before and we basically sampled colours out of these photos trying to get as close as possible to 2 colours that would look very Indian. We also wanted one colour to be close to blue or cyan (a colour which is closely associated with technology, but is also widely used in various parts in India to paint buildings) and something very cheerful and bright, which ended up being the magenta/purple tone.
The paper textures that can still be found on the manuals and on the website are a legacy from the more DIY-oriented MI period. We decided to use a paper texture to convey a stronger sense of something handmade. The paper comes from one of those small paper table cloths (don't know what they are really called) which are often used in restaurants here in Italy. I always collect interesting materials which I scan and put in my archive.
pichenettes
Here are some "work in progress" sketches when Hannes was refining the design language:



pichenettes
I've also posted mockups of modules that never got made (or early sketches of previous modules).

Here here here
Daisuk
Wow, great thread, and some great responses! I'd just like to use the occasion to say how fucking good your panel designs look, mr kurodama! Your graphics as well - sublime stuff! Well done. applause
kurodama
Daisuk wrote:
Wow, great thread, and some great responses! I'd just like to use the occasion to say how fucking good your panel designs look, mr kurodama! Your graphics as well - sublime stuff! Well done. applause


Thanks a lot man!
DonKartofflo
Yeah, as i found out a lot of the panels i love (mutable, hexinverter, alright devices) are actually by Kurodama so big props to you, i can see great talent!

BTW i think you guys should definitely make some mutable themed shirts. Maybe with the mandalas from the elements panel or the rings from clouds. Just plain white crewneck tee with the mandalas in black or grey
bennelong.bicyclist
pichenettes wrote:
I was aiming for a kind of "Bagru hauntology" vibe.


Patching Derrida into deconstructed musical instruments.

pichenettes wrote:
...and more seriously another ornithology-themed line.


[/video]
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