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Mix Studio Blog: Dour DAWs and Dracula

If you’re working in music production or post-production, you probably spend more time staring at your screen than you do hanging out with your family. At the very least, you have long sessions where you’re peering at that GUI for hours on end. Which is why I’m mystified that more software makers, particularly DAW developers, don’t give you plentiful choices when it comes to the look of their user interfaces.

There’s no question that your visual environment has an impact on your mental state. That’s why you don’t frivolously choose a paint color for a room in your house or apartment. You take the time to decide what will be visually pleasing. Same thing with choosing furniture. You probably wouldn’t opt for that ugly pea green couch for your living room—even if it’s a great deal—because you know it’s going to nauseate you every time you look at it.

Even though software applications are a big part of our working environment, many offer precious little in the way of visual customization. Worse, there’s a trend in recent years in music software (and other types, as well) to offer GUIs with backgrounds that are dark gray or even black. While these might seem hip to some, and certainly would appeal to Dracula, I find them downright depressing to stare into for hours at a clip.

I will admit, it’s all very subjective. What’s gloomy and dingy to me might be inspiring to others, which is why some significant user control over the aesthetics of the GUI should be a standard feature. When I say “significant,” I mean more than just being able to choose a different shade of gray.

It’s not like it’s technologically tricky. Some DAWs already offer significant visual customization. For example, both MOTU Digital Performer and Cockos Reaper let you choose different “skins,” which appreciably change the look of their GUIs. If the dour-looking-DAWs were to adopt similar features, their customers’ productivity would probably increase a lot more than it would from the latest audio-to-MIDI-to-audio-slice-dice-and-quantize feature that they’re furiously working on for the next update.

Many people doing music production would be a lot happier if they could choose a virtual workspace that appeals to their aesthetic sense. My message to the software developers out there is: You have an opportunity to make your customers a lot happier and more productive, so what are you waiting for?