Car nuts have Giorgetto Giugiaro. Furniture buffs have Eames. We have Axel Hartmann, who has penned industrial designs for the Waldorf Wave, Q, and Blofeld; the Moog Voyager and Little Phatty; the Arturia Origin; the Alesis Andromeda; countless plugins, and . . . look, it’s easier to list the instruments whose shapes and user interfaces he didn’t come up with. As with cars, many of the most compelling designs never see retail in their original forms (Google “Citroen Karin” for one of my favorite examples), but instead contribute crucial elements to products that do. Such is the case with Hartmann’s 1989 “Gambit” exercise. From its influence on today’s keyboard landscape, it’s a gambit that appears to have paid off.
“The Gambit was a product design study only, with no electronics inside. It wanted to be the optimum workstation of the future—an open system to run almost any device needed for music production,” says Axel Hartmann. “In 1989, the look of a flat LCD panel was quite futuristic, and what you see on the screen are screenshots of Steinberg software, just to feed the imagination of how the production environment might look. The Gambit was conceived as an integrated system, much like the Synclavier in those days or the Korg OASYS and Kronos today. The idea was to run the entire process of songwriting and sound design on just one machine, and finally produce your own master CD onboard. The collapsible clamshell panel also found its way into my design for Arturia’s Origin Keyboard.”