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About the Reaktor User Interface

Some thoughts and notes on the development of the Reaktor User Interface between 2000 and 2005.

Author: Christophe Stoll
Date: 29. May 2005
Reaktor

Back in 2000 Native Instruments asked Fork Unstable Media (where i worked as a designer at this time) to redesign the GUI of their flagship product: the modular sound design environment called Reaktor. This was Fork’s first desktop software design job.

We had alot of discussions about possible directions: should we give it a “true” and “self-conscious” new look based on ideas and advantages of software or should we still keep a somehow photorealistic feel to make it easier to convince more people to shift from hardware to software music instruments … ?

First of all, if you’re going to read this any further, you should read about the basics what Reaktor is and can do. This is a quote from the NI-Website:

REAKTOR, the award-winning modular sound studio, is the ultimate tool for sound design and music production. REAKTOR lets musicians and engineers design and build their own instruments, samplers, effects and sound design tools. REAKTOR is also a world-class studio right out of the box – its Core Library includes 31 high-professional instruments and effects. In addition, more than 1700 free instruments can be downloaded from the growing NI User Library.

This is how the Reaktor GUI looked in Version 2.3, the one we had to redesign in 2000:

Reaktor 2.3

The control elements on the Panel were rendered 3d objects and looked like animated photos of real synthesizer knobs and the overall look of the application had a pretty old-fashioned feel. What we came up with for Reaktor 3 was this:

Reaktor 3

We focused on the panel elements such as knobs and faders. Additionally we completely reworked the main toolbar, all icons within the application and created a custom made pixel font.

The next generation, Reaktor 4, looked like this. We were not involved in this step:

Reaktor 4

This is how Reaktor 5 now looks like (no instruments loaded, only the “empty” environment). We have done this redesign again and it is how Reaktor still looks like today.

Reaktor 5

The Reaktor 5 software package comes with a library full of “out of the box” instruments for immediate use. The spectrum of this collection is very broad because the aim is to address all kind of users and to show as much as possible potential of the application.

In Reaktor 4, interface designers could already change colors and integrate bitmaps as labels or seperators, whereas Reaktor 5 now allows to even replace the graphics for interactive elements such as the knobs, buttons and faders.

Here is an example library instrument i did for Reaktor 4 last year – it does not incorporate advanced panel interface design customization capabilities (all the khaki floating boxes around it are part of the framework we just redesigned):

Reaktor 5

Here’s another example incorporating the new and advanced panel interface design customization capabilities. The design of this instrument has been done by Pfadfinderei:

Reaktor 5

I’m now looking forward to next generations of Reaktor – as an interface designer but also as enthusiastic and loyal user of the software.

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  1. [...] 5.5 of Reaktor, a modular software synthesizer environment whose user interface design we’re involved with since 2000, has been officially announced for public beta [...]

    Reaktor 5.5 public beta | precious forever on 14. July 2010

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