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An iPad controlled MPC.
The second project for the RISD Hands on Control studio was to redesign a product made by Akai Professional (, a company that produces hip-hop production controllers, iO boxes and effects pedals. During the process, we were challenged to keep the current form language in mind, while updating and redefining its brand image. Kyle DeHovitz and I choose to redesign one of Akai’s MIDI controllers to effectively integrate it with the iPad.
Kyle and I interviewed local DJ and producer Nicolas Jaar to get his feedback on our concept and redesign the layout based on the preferences of a professional who uses both Akai and its competitors’ products on a daily basis. Through our discussion, we were able to develop a completely new and simplified layout for our device and gain a new understanding of the how the digital and analog components of our design could influence one another.
Beyond improving the core functionality of the controller, we thought it was vital to give our Akai MIDI controller a design overhaul. The current controllers are made of plastic and feel inexpensive compared to those produced by its competitors. After significant market research and price analytics of competing products, we feel there is space in the market for a premium Akai controller.
This is what we came up with. A standalone Akai MPC that leverages the processing power of the iPad. Its hardware and interface were designed as an integrated solution to the production tracks in the studio, or in front of a live audience.
After developing the form of our MPC we created a 1:1 model.
We shared our concept and scale model with various professionals to ensure that we had created the most efficient layout for preforming.
Currently, none of the Akai Professional products are able to properly combine the iPad’s touch screen with the physical hardware of the controller. When you adjust a knob the screen above reflects the change letting the musician make finite changes quickly and accurately.
Front view.
One of our most important objectives was to simplify the layout of the MPC, both to make it efficient to play and to allow for the rapid development of muscle memory.
The main goal in the creation of our iPad application was to develop a user interface that could easily relate to the hardware. While there are many DJ iPad apps out there, the velocity sensitivity of real pads and accuracy physical knobs are necessary for a professional application. Our goal in designing the app was to create simple visual references to the hardware of our product, so that users could instantly recognize which physical pad they had assigned a loop to, or which setting they were adjusting by turning a knob.
The app's menu system is efficient enough to make changes while preforming. Under each physical pad on the MPC is a multi color LED that can be changed to create a visual cue while preforming. Above is an example of how to change the physical color of an MPC pad within our app. This kind of visual referencing both on the iPad screen and through the use of LEDs isn't available in any product on the market. Musicians currently have to remember exactly what loop or sound has been assigned to a specific pad on their own.
Illuminated knobs, sliders, and pads make much easier to use the MPC while preforming in a dark venue. Our controller is manufactured out of two different tones of brushed aluminum.
After our final critique with two of the branding managers from Akai Professional, Kyle and I were chosen to visit its headquarters in Cumberland, RI and present our idea. Attending the presentation were product managers, engineers and industrial designers, among others. The Akai Team was excited by our ideas for a brand overhaul and the concept of integrating an iPad into an MPC MIDI controller. We hope to work with them in the future to make our concept a reality.
The Creators Project