New Style on VCV Rack Modules
Since I launched the Vult Modules for VCV Rack there have been many improvements to the sound quality and CPU optimisation. On the modelling and programming side I consider myself very proficient since I have been doing that professionally for a long time. The visual side has always been a struggle.
When VCV Rack had its public release, I immediately started wrapping some of the DSP code I had and created two modules. One afternoon I sat with Inkscape and tried to draw my panels. This was the result:
In that initial release, I used the knobs and jacks provided by VCV. Since those graphics had a license, I decided to make my own instead that way I could used them as I wished.
Inkscape runs terribly on Mac. That made very inefficient for me to try things out. I had to do the work on my old Linux laptop. For that reason I decided to find an affordable alternative that I could use to draw my graphics in Mac. Then I found Affinity Designer.
I spent about two weeks drawing different knobs and jacks. As I mentioned before, my drawing skills are not the best, but I compensate that deficiency with hard work. This was my first release with my new Dark style.
But that was not the end of it. Every release I was introducing changes and improvements. Mainly to make the things more visible. At some point the modules looked like this:
As you may see, I started adding more volume to the elements. My target was to get something that looked flat with a bit of volume. At this point I wanted to get away from skeuomorphic style. My main reason was that, as I have seen in many virtual instruments, seems like the different elements of the interface do not match. Some VST mix very badly realistic knobs with unrealistic gradients.
I was not yet happy. At this point I started reaching the end of my drawing abilities and I had to ask for help.
Xavier Belmont took my designs and added a bit more. We decided to add a touch of color and bump a bit the volume. It took a few weeks back and forth until I was fine with the result.
In this style, the knobs are very shiny and the jacks look really nice.
At this point I was happy with the way the look. Every component had its own personality and was different from what all other virtual instruments use. It still has a flat-ish look and every element is composed out of simple shapes. I think it looks great on t-shirts.
To conclude the story. David Rodriguez (whose a 3D artist and has designed alternative skins for different Vult modules in addition to making the Vult intro video) contacted me to show me that he obtained some nice looking knobs created out of simple shapes.
His designs were very good and strike the balance that I was looking for. So I decided to change the style one more time. One big change was that we were gonna update all the panels with the look I gave to my hardware modules.
It took us a few weeks, because at the same time we were fixing small mistakes like misalignments that were present since my initial release. Some modules were easy, others took hours to design and update but here's the final result.
After seeing all the work that took us, I don't think I'll be changing the style any time soon.