Eurorack Development Advice - Jackalope dev diary

This is completely a matter of taste and I want to weigh in to say I prefer the bold and colourful (yet functional) panels. Style allows me to identify modules more quick in a massive rack and graphics guide the eye to specific functions when done well. I’m a visual thinker and I memorise graphics better than text labels. I think @papernoise designs facilitate this well and they make me smile, more please!

Custom panels celebrate the diversity in Eurorack for me, whereas Greyscale just feels like Ikea to me, normalising art into consistent design, making every household in the world look the same. You can always swap to vanilla Greyscale if you like to standardise? It would be harder to do it the other arty way around?

That being said, I replace most custom knobs to b/w Davies, because most unique knobs don’t have enough contrast to eye positions, lol.

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As @lijnenspel said. It’s a matter of taste. While I do agree about the Snazzy Effects panels (but that’s more a matter of functionality), the great feedbacks I keep getting on Alright Devices give another picture from what you say. regarding “alienating users”.
I do respect anybody who thinks neutral, monchromatic modules are what they want, after all, everybody is entitled to make their modular into whatever they want it to be, but diversity is what eurorack is all about, and it’s a beautiful thing. Accepting diversity means accepting and embracing that my modular looks like a patchwork of different styles and personalities, but also accepting that everbody makes their modular into whatever they want. For this reason I do not feel back about people swapping the panels I’ve designed with Grayscale ones. Our world is going towards uniformity (and towards violently repressing anybody who isn’t conforming to that) anyway.
Also… what’s wrong with kid’s toys?

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Agreed, its very much down to taste but this can be reflected in putting people off buying or taking into consideration having to pay extra for a new panel - thats what i mean by “alienating users”. Maybe the the wrong choice of words but thats the explanation behind it. I personally think that if a module is being requested to be greyscaled, then its telling you something right there. The bottom line is you can’t please everyone and you have to do what you feel is right.

I’m trying to give some honest advice to a potential maker from a buyers point of view. What they look for visually, hp, specs wise. I do think the visuals are an important feature that can be missed right at the beginning. Its my opinion only and don’t want to offend in any way but i’m going to stick to my guns with what i think as a voracious eurorack buyer :slight_smile:

This can be seen the other way around as well. For example some people might feel the same with too neutral and anonymous looking panels. We all find motivation and inspiration in different things. For some people their system and how it looks is an inspiration.
So to get back to the point, we’re talking about the subjective taste of eurorack modular people. A more in-depth analysis would probably show where the tendencies are, and what the majority of people would prefer. I do not have any figures, nor did I make a statistical study on the matter. If you make modules you have two choices: you either do what you like and prefer, or you try to target what you believe the majority of people would want, so you can sell more and get more bucks out of your investment.
There is a group of people who like their modular to be really even, functional and homogeneous looking. For those people there’s Grayscale or other alternate panel makers. Are they a majority, are they a minority? We can only guess based on anecdotal evidence for now.
But I think we’re missing the main point here. The beauty of eurorack is that who makes the modules has the freedom to make them how they think is best, they are allowed to have a vision that goes beyond marked studies, focus groups, etc. So you get totally minimalist and functional panels like Monome’s and totally colourful and over-decorated stuff like Snazzy’s… and both are like that because they reflect the vision of their makers and their personality and it’s great that they are both allowed to do that.

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Thank you. I’m a little surprised this needed to be stated, but oh well. It’s a very important point.

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Maybe…

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maybe not.

extra points for the black cat until i realised it was a cow - double fail. Its colourful, it bold, its playful, its happy looking, my 5 year old kid would love it…i don’t have a 5 year old kid though…Will i buy it or the Verbos / DPO?

this to me is really great graphic design, clear, understated, arty and minimal. Even the back panel is class and nice knobs also.

Diversity is welcomed but the issue i have is that some great module designers are hampered by poor aesthetic choices and i would argue because of that, they sell less modules. That is my eurorack development advice.

That Endorphin.es panel is actually quite readable. I’m not a fan of some of their modules’ look because the actual function is hard to understand from what is written on the panel, but this one is really fine.

I’ve got modules from many manufacturers in my 7U. They all look different, and it’s fine for me. I just replaced some knobs by makenoise type blue/white ones when it improved readability or just overall look but beyond that I’m happy with the patchwork I have. There’s a chronoblob in there and the panel graphics are great, it’s super easy to read and there’s a cool little dude on there that makes the whole thing look less like a testing device.

The only modules I have whose looks annoy me a bit are the Bastl ones, and it’s not because of how the wood looks (that part is great) but because the text on them is hard to read.

The only brand of modules I would probably not buy just because of the looks is Animodule, I just hate how they look. Anything else is fine for me, and judging from most people’s systems, it seems to be the same for the majority of eurorack users. Some want alternate panels (which are sometimes more funky, like the Magpie ones) but it’s a minority overall…

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I wouldn’t even disagree with that. I’ve been disgusted by designs too. It could be a great factor, specially for less known manufacturers I guess. But this generalisation is problematic. The endorphin you mentioned is one of the most successful complex oscillator in eurorack (makes me very happy, even though I don’t own one). I for one, even though it’s not my main criteria of course, feel a lot of attraction to e.g. Make Noise because of their overall style. This is so personal. It’s a bit like album covers. They don’t really matter but can have a great impact and are an art on its own. Sometimes they uncover something about the people behind. Often it’s also a matter of age. They can be terrible despite great music.
The cool thing is modules can be modded easily. And the analogy of pleasing a 5 years old kid often isn’t so far fetched :sweat_smile:

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Indeed, the Endorphin is a superb module, no doubts about that and i have 3 x Snazzy modules. I just wonder, if you are starting a module company, why take the risk with an ugly or even a poorly labelled panel? You are off to a loser, before you start.

Make it different, yes. My issue isn’t with OCD and every module being the same - i don’t want that. My issue is with poor aesthetic choices on a first module coming to market. The album cover analogy is quite apt in that respect as you could be dropped before you release your second album :slight_smile:

Also note, it is not my main criteria either, its one of them. I mentioned 5 other details that buyers look for in a module. It seems that people are focusing on this one. I mentioned wobbly knobs, unique knobs, hp restrictions, skiff friendly, quality parts that don’t corrode. I would also add 2 others -> reverse protection diodes and to have clear labelling of the red stripe / -12v on the back panel.

Just for clarity i have @40u of modules. I’ve only felt the need to change 3 panels. One was a Snazzy Ardore because it was purple and green with purple knobs and not so easy to read the inputs and outputs as well as being just plain ugly. I have a Snazzy Dreamboat and i would do the same also if i could but there was no option. I changed a Mk 1 wogglebug, partly because of the graphics but also because the inputs and output weren’t clearly labelled. The last module i changed was a Mungo d0 because the original aluminium was full of scratches and also because the knobs weren’t labelled, the bottom half of that panels inputs and outputs aren’t labelled and the lower layout was quite confusing. You need to click on the photos to view them fully.

Heres the before and after of each panel. They are grayscale because they are concise, clear labelled and basically spot on and also that was the only option at the time. This was pre Magpie.

IMG_3702

You make a really good point about the readability of panels and that is partially the reason i changed some of my panels.

I think there is a fundamental difference between ugly and readable. Ugliness is totally subjective. Things can be “unusual” and readable surely?

I think we need to separate the issues. Ugly or beautiful are highly subjective and personal matters, while “poorly labelled” – even if still somewhat subjective – is something that can be clearly related to the functional realm and hence is much easier to discuss in terms of universal principles. Also, the first is mostly a matter of taste the second is a matter of usability.

So just to be clear, while I think that’s it’s great that people can do what they want style-wise, I do firmly believe that accessibility and usability should always be a strong concern.
Which opens up a wide topic, so thanks @mlogger for bringing this up… and let me use your last examples since you already posted all those pictures.

While I would personally never put a Snazzy FX module in my case because my eyes hurt from looking at it (but again, that’s my personal taste) the difference to the grayscale is mostly in the odd colour scheme, which makes reading text a bit hard, and could be even more of an issue with people who have colour blindness. There would probably have been other ways to do a panel in that style but with better readability, just by changing the colours. The Wogglebug is probably a better example. While it employs black on aluminium printing, which is great for readability, the labelling and signal flow lines do a great job at confusing you. I find that even after using for some time (my bandmate has one) you keep patching it wrong because the graphics are misleading and confusing. Again, I think MN could have done something in the same style but more functional to the understanding of what does what.
Last but not least the Mungo is probably just confusing because of the icons, though probably that’s something that will be annoying just at the beginning. Most labelling on panels is there for two reasons: you need it at the beginning, while you’re still learning how to use the thing, and then as a memory hook to remind you what does what. In the latter situation you already know what the module does and how it works, but maybe you can’t remember which one is the exact knob or button to make it happen.

When talking about usability of modules, the labelling is only the tip of the iceberg, so to get this discussion back to something that can be useful to @Simeon , two other fundamental aspects that need to be taken into account are:

  • the actual layout of the controls. Are the controls and jacks put in a meaningful way on the panel? You should make sure that they either follow the signal flow and/or are grouped based on the functional blocks of the module. A common mistake here is to think circuit and not musician. What I mean is: you need to think from the perspective of the person who will play the module and not from the perspective of the circuit. What happens in the latter is of course very important, but most people will neither understand nor care about it. What really matters is the sound that comes out of it, and how you change that by interacting with the controls. So the layout does need to make sense in practical use. This of course also means that controls need to be accessible, that you shouldn’t accidentally bump into a knob when flipping a switch and that jacks should not be too much in the way (though that is a war we cannot win I’m afraid :smiley: )
  • the other thing is fine tuning the ranges. You should make sure that there’s always something happening when you turn a knob, push a button or throw a switch, and the ranges should be tuned in a way so playing the module is interesting and feeling natural. Easier said than done, but having that as a focus when developing the circuit probably gets you already halfway there.

From this perspective the Mannequins modules are great, but the Furthrrr is also really well designed from a functional point of view. Maybe the colour scheme isn’t the most optimal (red on yellow might be hard to read in some situations), but apart from that the style doesn’t really get much in the way with the usability of the module… and actually a lot of work went into the typographic details… but maybe I’m the only one seeing that I admit it.

This said, sometimes it’s nice to be that 5 year old kid when sitting in front of the modular :slight_smile:

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This is the only thing that really matters to me in terms of usability. After the first couple of weeks, I don’t read the panels (and in fact, there’s often too little light on the modular in my studio to do so anyway). It’s all memory and feel once I get to know it. Heck, almost half my rack is monome at the moment. Labels? What labels?

My biggest usability gripe at the moment has to do with the insanity of trying to make a bunch of i2c cables behave themselves, as they are attached to the back of modules, often don’t have the best grip on their pins, and need to be attached before screwing the modules to the rails. Rearranging a case with a lot of i2c in it can be a real headache. Now throw in sliding nuts and… sigh.

That and I need an ES-8 with about 32 1/4" jacks, evenly split between input and output, and this does not yet exist.

I wouldn’t rate panel aesthetics within the top 10 of concerns I have about my eurorack case. But I’ve seen quite a bit of Simeon’s photography, so I know he has good taste. Looking forward to seeing what he comes up with, especially after all of these words on the topic!

Loving the debate. Thanks everyone.

Now really tempted to mislabel the module, and print red on pink. Jk!

I think regarding panel design, ux definitely trumps funky designs, but there’s no reason the two can’t go hand in hand. For me, Electro Harmonix are a company that do this amazingly well - they’ve sorted out the ux issues with their pedals (non standard power / flipping huge footprint) without compromising on design.

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I really like that snazzy ardcore above! For me the greyscale stuff is really sterile. I’m also not a big fan make noise’s aesthetic, but I still own a couple as they are great functionally. I’d love to neon everything though haha :joy:

Out of curiosity. What modules do people like the look of (and also not like).

For me Erica’s black range look lovely together (jellyfish :slight_smile:).

20 characters of +1. I need to get some Erica Synths into my rack, for so many reasons (DIY!)

I’m very tempted with the Swamp module. Although I read about some issues with the last wogglebug so i’d like to see some in the wild.

Paperface serge :slight_smile:

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The Gargoyle Malekko/Wiard, Harvestman and Mannequins stand out to me as really beautiful. I also liked the older Make Noise designs (old Maths, Wogglebug, QMMG) quite a lot. Can’t think of many designs that I really dislike, but the Micro Hadron Collider has to be up there. The mix of black on white and white on black with the grey explosion in the background just makes everything a big mess and I find it hard to find anything about it aesthetically pleasing.