The Creation of Hardware Systems for Professional Artistic Productions



John Sullivan

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Ian Hattwick

Publication or Conference Title:

Ph.D. Thesis, McGill University


This dissertation examines the challenges of creating digital musical instruments (DMIs)and other hardware and software systems that are intended for use in professional artistic productions. While the design of any DMI is not a trivial task, moving new instruments to the professional concert stage presents an additional set of challenges that encompass issues of technical design, use in artistic practice, manufacturing, and long-term usability. Although DMI designers often describe these challenges in accounts of their practice, existing overviews of the DMI design process primarily remain focused on issues of device functionality.

To address this gap, I present a framework consisting of seven design aspects: functionality, aesthetics, support for artistic creation, system architecture, manufacturing, robustness, and reusability. Each aspect presents a different perspective on the challenges of designing DMIs for professional artistic productions, and requires the establishment of a set design requirements to meet these challenges. In practice, the design requirements of different aspects will often conflict, and creating solutions to solve these conflicts is essential to the design’s success.

The creation of this framework draws upon my experience in the creation of three hardware systems: The Prosthetic Instruments, the Ilinx garment, and the Vibropixels. For each system, a technical description and description of use will be presented, as well as a discussion highlighting the role of the design aspects in the system’s development.

Finally, a set of design principles is presented that address individual design aspects. These principles reflect general design goals intended to assist in the creation of DMIs for use in professional artistic productions.

Publication Details:

Ph.D. Dissertation
McGill University, Canada

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