Whilst in a synthy mood last week after listening to Mitch Murder (The guy who created the soundtrack to Kung Fury) and craving to get my teeth back into making music, I began a hunt to buy a decent synthesizer.
On my hunt I stumbled across the OP-1, which I’ve seen floating around Pinterest for a while but never really took the time to investigate. After digging a little deeper, I have to say I may have found a new favourite design company.
First of all, it looks amazing. The proportions are well balanced. Each individual detail has a purpose and they all seem so tactile – you can’t help but want to have a play. The colours cleverly differentiate important sections of the device whilst adding a sense of character. The type and illustrations on the buttons sit cohesively beside the visual language of the device and the UI.
The OP-1 is not only pretty damn nice to look at and interact with, the way the interface works is fascinating. It uses traditional tape recording as a metaphor for storing the tracks you create. Watching the “tape deck” spin and move whilst recording, as if you are writing on real tape has a playful yet magical feel. The interface has a lovely style to it, and when you see it in use, for something which could easily have been overcomplicated, it seems super simple and easy to understand. It’s a great touch.
To build on yet an already fantastic product, the brand have a beautifully iconic website (I advise you to have a dig around) humorous yet stylish instructional videos and a very impressive array of products. The OD-11 speaker is a very tasteful minimal object, a re-engineering of the classic Stig Carlsson speaker for the connected era. But my personal favourite has to be the super cheap, super toned down modulators. There are 3*, one for the bass (Sub), one for drum tracks (Rhythm), and one to combine the two whilst adding in yet more effects (Factory). So simple to play with, even an 8 year old can get it.
I love how they have managed to add so much with so little on this device. The POS tag is part of the product, the display is like those old school hand-held LCD games, and the buttons and components are completely raw. A great way to celebrate the inexpensiveness of the product.
From a communication POV this brand have got it completely nailed. Everything from the web touch-points, the packaging, to the details and purpose of each product has a charming, intelligent and professionalism to it. With the OP-1 being their flagship, I honestly think that the combination of its design sensibility, magical interaction and purpose make it a modern design icon. Which is only further clarified by the fact they have a permanent place in the MOMA exhibition.
I can’t wait to see what they make next.
* EDIT (April, 2016)
Since writing this, TE have added 3 more modulators to the lineup - I've also come to love and learn so much more about them as a company. Without going on too much, I simply want to say I admire their explorative design approach and work ethic. For further reading I'd advise you check out this glimpse into their studio and this recent talk which gives you an insight into their approach. Oh! and they have done the newest product for Impossible, set to release soon. Exciting stuff.
They're like an underground consumer tech company, taking on niche passion driven design projects and rewriting the rules along the way.
Keep up the good work guys.