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Congratulations, Sound Design community! We’re going to be creating a custom site design for you that we hope will represent your subject and we want you all to really love it. You’ve been waiting almost 3 years and we really want to do this well. To facilitate this, we’re reaching out now to ask you for what you’d really love to see in the design and logo.

I’m Paul, one of the Product Designers here at Stack. I'll be working with our community managers in order to ensure that your custom theme reflects your community. I’m not a sound design expert (though I have recorded sounds, ran audio boards and know my Hz from my Bits) - so I’ll be relying on you to help guide this process. Looking forward to it!

A quick history lesson about site theming

Originally, site designs were part of the site graduation process. When a site left beta, they'd get their design. But, at the time we only had one designer who was working on designs and the designs were very specialized and often involved a lot of custom illustrations. We got into a situation where several sites were in queue for graduation but the designer didn't have the bandwidth to actually create the designs.

Before she worked here, Catija asked the question Can Beta sites slated for graduation get full-site abilities without site design upgrade? - on MSE. This kicked off several discussions within the CM team of the time and community members and the eventual decision was to implement "Design-independent graduation" in September 2015. This meant that many sites were finally able to leave beta without waiting on a design!

At that time we also had much more strict guidelines for when a site could graduate - they had to consistently get 10 new questions per day. This level of volume made graduation impossible or very unlikely for many sites - meaning many would stay in beta forever. As such, the CM team considered another request - Let's break up with "Graduation" and remove a bunch of "Beta" labels - and that's what eventually happened, too. In 2019, we removed the beta label from 29 sites - including Sound Design - and another 59 in December 2021.

We've also gone through several design systems changes, including launching Stacks version 1.0, which make creating and building in designs much simpler for both our design team and the developers. In fact, we showed off how flexible it could be in our April Fools prank this year "Filters for Stack Overflow".

What to expect

Over the next few weeks, we'll be communicating with you about your site design, so please help us out as much as you can. While we may not be experts on sound design, we know that you are and that you likely have great ideas about what you want this site to look like - so share them with us! You've got a week now to pool up your thoughts in answers to this question, at which point I'll start working on this site.

I'll spend some time working on a design based on your guidance, and we'll be back when it's ready to show you what the design and logo look like. At that point, y'all will have a week to make suggestions for adjustments to the design. Our hope is that there will be little that needs adjusting but, due to the size of our backlog, we can't allow more than one phase of feedback, so any changes will need to be recommended at this point.

We'll then consider the changes proposed and make any adjustments that we feel are beneficial. Changes that are too big or are out of scope likely won't be possible, but we'll make sure to explain why we opted against making a change should that happen. Please understand that design is often a subjective thing and we may end up with community members differing in their opinions, so we'll be taking that into account when deciding. Decisions about the final design will be made by the design team and CMs with the concerns of the community taken into account.

Also, it's worth keeping in mind that the goal of these designs is to make something topical, unique, and attractive, but we'll be designing within the scope of our newer site theming. We'll be able to create a logo, background colors, and textures in addition to your logo - but please don't expect illustrations like what you may have seen on some of the older site designs.

Process

Over the next month or so, we’ll be going through a few steps to get your site design up and running. This post is the first of those steps. I’ll also be using this post to track the phases in the table below.

Step Status
Information Gathering in progress
Design V1
V1 Feedback
Design adjustments (if needed)
Developer cleanup and shipping of final design

What we need from you

As I've mentioned already, we need some inspiration from you so that we can get started on this design and create something you'll really be proud of. So far, I was able to find a couple older discussions about logos and site designs here on Meta. Feel free to reference them if there are ideas you like already - or give us new ones! We're really looking for design ideas rather than needing you to design anything for us.

When you're answering this question, think about:

  • What symbols or images are important to the subject of this site?
    • Especially things that speak to insiders that we might not find on our own
  • Are there any colors that are tied to your subject?
  • What tone/mood/feeling would you like your theme to emit? While this is subjective, it helps to set some design guardrails. So, when answering with your thoughts, some good information to mention is where the theme might sit inside these axes:
    • From fun to serious
    • From classic to modern
    • From simple to complex
  • How could a good logo represent your subject?
  • What are things to avoid?

If you have any questions, let me know! We're really looking forward to hearing from you and getting your site design underway.

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  • Ahoy-hoy! I added an answer, but I'm not sure if it's too late. Still says Information gathering in status though :)
    – n00dles Mod
    Jul 31 at 14:50
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    Thank you @n00dles - yes, I will take your answer into account. I have been unexpectedly tied up in other work and so delayed on this, but will be focusing on it in a couple weeks
    – paintedbicycle Staff
    Aug 3 at 8:47

3 Answers 3

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Just a couple of images for your palette, others will have more in depth knowledge but I wanted to get the ball rolling as regards colours, possible background/icons/logo ideas:

Spectrum Analyzer

enter image description here

Mixing desk

enter image description here

VU meter

enter image description here

And digital VU meter (possibly good for up and down vote icons)

enter image description here

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    Thank you for the images! Any thoughts on the three tone axes in my post?
    – paintedbicycle Staff
    Jun 20 at 18:42
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Just to add to Rory's answer a bit.

Many of these images have become stylised & re-used in very slightly different forms in many audio apps.

Mixing desk faders become

enter image description here

VU Meters reduced to

enter image description here

Audio waveforms as

enter image description here

Then there is 'sound wave' & 'speaker with sound wave'

enter image description here enter image description here

There are often colour hints in the vertical [ladder] VU meter, green through orange to red

enter image description here

…and some of us might still remember the old reel-to-reel tape recorder

enter image description here

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  • 1
    Nice, thank you! Do you any opinions on the three tone axes in my post?
    – paintedbicycle Staff
    Jun 20 at 18:42
  • Ermmm… Serious rather than fun, it's meant to be 'pro audio' even if we do get some much simpler questions. Classical/modern, no real opinion, but I'd err on the side of modern. Simple rather than complex for the 'logos' just because these things have long been iconised already, so the simple forms are easily identifiable.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 22 at 17:17
  • tbh, I'd need to see both to really have an opinion. I'm quite used to DAWs being in 'dark mode' as they've done that for many years now; but I never run my computer in dark mode, it just doesn't work for me.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 12 at 9:39
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    I looked into it and there's a bunch of technical limitations on our end anyway so likely out. I'll post back when I've explored
    – paintedbicycle Staff
    Jul 12 at 14:17
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I'm a bit late to the party, but here are my personal feelings on this...
(Some example styles at the end, but to be honest, apart from the logo, I'm not sure what you'll actually be creating, so I'll just go through designs I like and think would fit this site)

The "feel" of this site:
I think the general feel is professional, technical and serious passion.

The theme:
I personally like a dark theme with classic LED green, yellow and red bits like that noir kind of feel. Maybe not all grey-scale, but shades of dark, bland colours, apart from these three bright colours which everyone who works technically with sound has stared at for one reason or another at some point.(An idea is to copy the three colours from well-known equipment or plugins to get the right hues (see VU Meter below))

With regard to the three axes:

  1. Serious (maybe spots of fun, but more passion and fulfilment; enjoyment (Creating sound through electronics is a truly magical experience for me))

  2. Classic to modern; is a tough one. We love modern tech, but classic tech has a lot of respect for its robustness, simplicity and nostalgia, but also, vintage tech is prised amongst some of us for the warm quality it usually adds. The imperfections of vintage equipment tend to give them character. So older tech is still very much prised and used by a lot of us. You can look at it like photographers liking and using old cameras to get that hands-on authentic quality. Or why some programmers like to program simple games on ...C64s (the only old computer I can think of). It's that special link to the simpler past. ..I now suspect you may be talking about modern design vs classic design? In which case, I'd say a modern design is best.

  3. Simple to complex; I personally like complex, this site is for technical engineers really, so complex seems to fit, but I wouldn't mind a simpler feel if the designers thought it would be better.

How could a good logo represent your subject?
That's tough because there's no single thing that would cover it. Maybe a mic with a lead turning into a sound wave, then being digitized into a step-pattern. I suppose you could turn that into a small logo. I like headphones. Could have a head really concentrating on listening to headphones with a hand on one headphone cup. It would need to be recognizable to professionals and amateur enthusiasts, but not be too simple or obvious. I'd like it to elicit a feeling of why we do what we do.

Things to avoid:
Overly colourful. Non-pro equipment like consumer dials/displays, microphones and headphones (HD25 MkII are good and are quite distinctive). Copying the boring old speaker icon you see everywhere for the logo (some may want that, but not me).

Some images that come to mind (I may go off-kilter a bit...)

Scientific Images:
Something I like is more scientific designs, like harmonics are such a beautiful, logical, mathematically perfect thing and are a fundamental feature of our universe, they are a part of everything. The same with waves, I love the shape of a complex soundwave and I love that when broken down, it's just a collection of the most simple oscillation - or shape (○) at different frequencies, relative intensities and phases - interacting. Then we have spectrograms - a visual representation of these interactions; a frequency spectrum of a signal, changing over time. These can be 2D or 3D. These things I love to see.

Distinctive "on-the-nose" Images:
I also think microphones and the usage of is a big part of this site. Maybe an old ribbon mic or a shotgun mic on a boom pole. They are quite distinctive, if a little on-the-nose. I'd go more for a technical polar pattern design if it were up to me. Also, reel-to-reel tape recorders have a warm place in our hearts. Then there's high quality professional studio monitors and PA speakers. All quite distinctive and practical in our fields.

Technical Images
Codecs, formats and compression algorithms. Analogue to digital conversion techniques (e.g. a sample-step-design). Dynamic range compression and other effects. They can all be represented in graph form in some abstract way, maybe. Hz, dB, FFT, CV, Ω and W symbols, and knobs! Yeah knobs I like, too. Knobs and faders... and old meters, panels and racks! I'll add some designs from the 'net to try to share my thoughts (because this turned into idea-diarrhoea).

A silhouette of a studio would be cool!

Some images from the 'net (hover for tooltip):

HOVER for description
CLICK to enlarge

Multiband Compressor bar frequency display design with peak holds different sound visualization designs harmonics displayed as sine waves in the same period 2D spectrogram example classic large 70's Moog synth 3D spectrogram example different waveforms with corresponding frequency spectra common synth VCO waveshapes a bunch of vintage synthesizers silhouette of girl and condenser microphone with pop shield sound level meter silhouette of man with headphones in studio

So them's my likes and thoughts on SDSE designs, I hope it's not too late, and I hope it wasn't too much for you! I think the right design would be really helpful to this site.

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  • 1
    Thank you. Yes - you're right, it will mostly be the logo and then a primary color. The new themes on SE are fairly simple. Thank you for your thoughts, it'll help when I work through this
    – paintedbicycle Staff
    Aug 3 at 8:50

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