Final bachelors project ALÉ
ALÉ is a collaborative musical instrument, designed to be easy to play with. Music can be a fantastic tool to bring people together and can be an excellent tool to create social bonds. With loneliness becoming an increasingly large issue in todays’ society, the need for fun and effective ways to connect with others is ever higher.
Alé is inspired by collaborative musical instruments such as the JamFlow. Alé is specifically made to be an instrument for the home environment to allow for beginning music makers and more experienced music makers to have fun together. Alé’s modular build-up helps users not get overwhelmed by the many available options and go at their own pace.
Modules are placed on the board to build the instrument. The board consists of three tracks. In the middle comes the mixer module. The mixer consists of a speaker and three volume sliders, one for each of the instruments.
Alé is created through the reflective transformative design process, where several concepts have been tried and reworked. Alé’s final triangular shape allows for a wide variety of modules to be connected to each other and invites for experimentation as the modules do not have a set location, making it fun to exchange them with your friends.
The final design has a large series of modules available, ranging from simple instruments to more advanced synthesizer modules. This is to prevent Alé from feeling like it’s made for young children; Alé might be for beginners but can be an introduction to a real world of music.
Integration of the expertise areas
Creativity & Aesthetics
In the first concept of this project, I came up with a creative way to control synthesizer parameters. By using different ideation techniques: brainstorming, quick sketches, etc. I came up with new creative interactions (balloon prototype and color poster). These new interactions were creative but took away too much from the experience of making music. Technology could also not fully support these actions and in turn, made the prototypes work unreliably.
For ALÉ, I designed the interfaces using Figma. In Figma, it is easy to create a different version of components. By being able to quickly make different versions of each module, it was easier to create a cohesive aesthetic design for all of the modules. Every module is designed in a way to use the shape of the triangle to its benefit.
Technology & Realization
My goal for this area of expertise was to make more printed circuit boards. However, I only came up with my final concept quite late into the project. Making PCB requires quite some planning. You need to know what your board should look like. Next to that, ALÉ is a modular system with 13 different modules. Making and designing three separate PCBs is not cost-friendly for a student project.
All of these reasons combined motivated me to opt for hand-soldered matrix boards instead. The idea for the PCBs was to have silicone buttons on top so that the product would have a nice feel just like my internship project. The matrix board has tactile push buttons instead. On top of these come 3d printed pieces that translate these buttons into the desired interface.
Looking back this was not the best technique. I had never hand-soldered button matrixes before and now I know why. It is a tedious task and takes a lot of time. The final result also does not work as desired. For my next project, I will make sure that there will be enough time and budget to make printed circuit boards. This will ensure a lot higher quality prototype that allows for better user testing.
User & Society
To design for beginner musicians, I simplified the interfaces of multiple instruments. This product could have been a software app since modules were first developed as an iPad prototype. Nonetheless, I designed for the personas of the New Futures squad. My choice to design a physical instrument is based on how this instrument can be used within the context of this connected house.
By designing for collaboration, you inherently design for multiple users at once. How do you get multiple users to effectively play an instrument at the same time? During my internship at Dato, I learned how to make a multi-layered interface that becomes more difficult as the user gets more experienced. In this prototype, however, I chose to give this choice of difficulty back to the user. In ALÉ users can set their difficulty themselves by adding or deleting different modules.
Math, Data & Computing
My goal for this semester was to learn how to use a raspberry pi. As it became more clear that I was going to build a midi controller instrument I decided to use a teensy instead. Teensy has a built-in library that makes it easy to send messages over midi on your laptop. The digital audio workstation I use is logic pro. This software is developed by Apple and can only be used on Mac computers, therefore, using a raspberry pi would create even more complications.
Next to programming, I also used my skill in advanced 3D modeling to create parametric designs of my components. By creating the parametric design, components can easily be adjusted when the design changes later on in the process.
Business & Entrepreneurship
During the course Design innovation methods I learned how to use several business-related canvases. For ALÉ I designed a business model that includes a subscription model. This subscription model will make sure that there will be a second stream of income next to one of the loose sales. While working on the business model canvas, I realized something was missing. This is why I worked out the subscription model using the service blueprint canvas.
For the future, I believe it is a useful skill to be able to come up with ideas to turn product ideas into a business. Being able to use abstract models such as the customer journey and service blueprint I can find design opportunities for other businesses. If I want to go into the path of design consultancy this will be a good skill set.