ios 7 - what would a synth look like?

What would an iOS 7 targeted synth look like?

With all the hard work that iOS synth developers have put in to make many virtual devices we know and love look like the physical devices - or some approximation of a physical device - and with iOS 7's move away from representing things in a manner similar to how they look in the world (i.e. away from skeuomorphism), I got to wondering what an iOS 7 synth look'n'feel would be if it adopted the new iOS 7 design look and feel.

We could consider the gorgeous representation of the physical MS-20 by Korg in the iMS-20. Korg did an amazing job - as did Arturia with the iMini. We could also cite the very attractive and real-world representative efforts of the iFretless series of apps, or Nave or Modular (which - although not representing actual physical instruments that exist in hardware, are designed to incorporate what we know and love about physical instruments alongside other virtual elements). The same could be said for any number of the guitar pedal board apps, drum synths that show kits etc. You get the idea...

But - for sake of an actual example, the iMS-20 is a wonderful iOS instrument (Kudos Korg!) and a very good replica in software of the physical instrument. Beautiful and functional (and, as we synth players know, those two things are not antithetical to each other!)

Here's a quick screenshot of the iMS-20 running on an iPad:

We want it to look like it does because it is intended to represent the reality we know (which the move away from skeuomorphism assumes is somehow not as helpful any more) and we can therefore immediately transfer the skills of knob turning and patch cord plugging into a rapidly useful emulation on the iPad to get the job done quickly - which is making music. The form here leads to the function. Familiarity helps.

Don't get me wrong though. I'm not saying that designing a new interface for a synth - even for iOS 7 - is a completely bad idea. That would be especially true for one that does not relate to any existing hardware. Witness Animoog; parts of it are like hardware synths, but there's a lot about the design that's innovative. At least it's green and black though - not white and, err, white (or a slightly pale gray). Same with Nave and Audulus which show great innovation as well and good use of a new medium. I'm not saying there is no place for new ideas, just not a requirement that everything change just because it "has to"... ("has to?")

/Humor on (i.e. the following is satire!)

So, I thought about the main differences between iOS 6 and 7 in terms of other apps we're getting used to in iOS 7, and came up with the following "iOS 7 version" of the iMS-20. Of course, I didn't redesign it completely - that would be the ultimate end of this - dials that move in and out in some parallax fashion - or zoom in from the sides when needed (wonder what that would do to latency. Hmmm....). Keys that don't move at all when you press them and modulation wheels that fade out into the distance except at the center point. I did show the jacks without nuts around as just plain circles, and replaced a couple of dials with some "sliders" . But - I didn't have time to do more than that - so I just tried to aim at the other main differences - an almost white color scheme, pastel cables and somewhat hard to read text... ;-)

Here's what it looks like:

What do you think? Which do you prefer? the iOS 6 and before version? Or the "new iOS 7" 'version'


Me - I'll go with skeuomorphism EVERY time for synths that have some connection to existing reality.

Korg - you did it right with the iMS-20 app - PLEASE don't change it! (And don't anyone else go getting ideas either!)


(P.S. No actual synths - real analog - or virtual - were harmed in the preparation of this post.)

/Humor off.

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