Mixing consoles have been around since the early days of audio production, with few developments in physical design or layout in decades. Considering the capabilities of a traditional analog mixing board, it is a remarkably elegant device. This simplicity stems from technical limitations of analog technology: the layout of the controls, in general, must mirror an audio signal’s path through the board, and with relatively few exceptions, every pot, slider, or other control on the board serves only a single purpose, regardless of context.
The advent of digital audio removes these constraints, opening up tremendous feature possibilities, but at the same time allowing designers the freedom to focus on issues like how many channels or effects processors can fit in a given unit area, to the great detriment of usability.
Sound Experience is an interaction design project undertaken by four University of Michigan School of Information Master’s students specializing in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Preservation of Information (PI) for the course SI-682: Interface & Interaction Design, which teaches concepts and methods of the interaction design process.
The goal of the Sound Experience project is apply the interaction design process to re-design an audio mixing console for the live sound reinforcement environment. Read our project approach to further understand the general direction we are headed in.
Our project’s primary stakeholders are audio professionals for whom mixing consoles are the centerpiece of their equipment setups. Because of its dynamic, high-pressure environment, we will be focusing primarily on live audio reinforcement. Additional stakeholders include other users of audio mixing boards, recording artists, and production professionals.
Without making any commitments, we feel this work may contribute to the body of academic work in both audio interface technology and sound engineer ethnography.