Software synthesizer interface

I was approached by William Light, an entrepreneur and previous software engineer at Native Instruments, to conceptualize the experience, workflow, and skin for an upcoming software synthesizer he was developing.

The Cadmium synthesizer is driven by a Lissajous figure, typically found on an oscilloscope. This gives the resulting sound a unique characteristic that would be difficult to replicate using other forms of sound design.

My goal was to make it easy to understand and control this type of waveform.

Breaking it down

Each feature that was important for the preliminary release and final release was broken down and questioned. We worked to reduce and refine these features in order to mitigate confusion.


Existing software synthesizers were studied for usability cues, icons, and color usage.

Sketches and layout prototypes were quickly fabricated with as much stylistic transparency as possible. A light appearance was used for prototypes as it kept us focused on the features.


Parameters needed to be finely adjustible while utilizing as little screen real-estate as possible. Many existing software synthesizers use a circular control that can be dragged up or down to adjust. We settled on a similar design with a full ring to maximize the granular feedback.


A standardized system of controls would allow William to expand and modify the synthesizer on his own without a total redesign. The visual controls included parameter-sensitive functions packed into building blocks with consistent pixel dimensions and spacing. A dark interface expanded on William's original brand direction for the synthesizer, with a highlight color for modulated parameters.

This mockup highlights the key features, stacked in a workflow that runs left-to-right, and then downward. Oscillators that drive the Lissajous curve are located to the left of the visualizer, with LFOs and Filters (modifiers) below them. Finally master parameters that affect the entire output are located towards the bottom.