Monday, September 6, 2010

Roland family of products, Keyboard 1983

Roland family of products advertisement including SH-101, JX-3P/PG-200, System-100M, MC-4/MTR-100, Jupiter-8, Juno-6/60, Jupiter-6 and MC-202 from page 14 and 15 of Keyboard Magazine July 1983.


The Roland 'We Design The Future' tag-line had been showing up in Roland's brochures for months now, but up to this point, their advertisements were still mostly designed around it's 'Understanding Technology Series' ads like those created for the TB-303/TR-606 or Jupiter-8. Black backgrounds, strong colours, and lots of text. Their recent Juno-6 and Juno-60 ads started to mutate away from that design, but I'd still be inclined to classify them as such.

"What?" you say? Where is the tag-line? You can see it at the bottom of the ad in the purple-coloured bar. Yes, it's small. Really small. Almost an afterthought. And unfortunately, I think this is the last advertisement to use the tag-line.

Roland decided to pull in a few other common design elements found in those brochures by using a textured background and an accent piece (in this case a tile pattern background and spheres), but I have to say I miss the brochure's slick photo with mood-lighting. A really nice family photo done in that style would have looked sweeeeeet! Instead, it looks like Roland decided to comp together an image using a few effects that I would guess got onto the wish-list for Photoshop 1.0.

This advertisement was a first for Roland in one other important way too. They mention MIDI!

And so we get to the whole point of this ad. As mentioned in a recent brochure blog post for the TB-303, TR-808, TR-606 and CR-8000/5000, Roland had been pumping out A LOT of DIN-sync technology for a while now. They had a lot invested in it. And then along comes MIDI, and Roland has to convince current owners of Roland gear that the gear they just bought is not going to be obsolete in a year. And more importantly, they have to convince future owners that they are looking out for their future as well.

The ad title text handles this perfectly.
"Roland presents its product line for 1987. The nice thing is, it's available today!"
Interestingly, they make no mention of MIDI in that title or in the opening paragraph. Its not until the reader gets to the JX-3P text that MIDI is mentioned - and a definition is included next to it - "a new system of interface developed for computer-controlled instruments".

A year from now, and ALL synthesizer ads will feature the word MIDI heavily in either the title or ad-copy. I pulled out the July 1984 issue of Keyboard just in case someone called me out on that statement, and sure enough, MIDI has pretty much taken over. Heck, Roland's own ad title in the July 1984 issue was "Enter the world of MIDI".

But jump back to July 1983, when MIDI is just getting it's feet wet, and Roland is smart to stay firmly on the fence for now. By promoting both their own protocols as well as MIDI, they let readers know that no matter when they buy from Roland, the gear will be compatible one way or another.

And it wasn't just Roland that was playing the waiting game. Many companies either hadn't included MIDI in their gear yet, or if they had, they didn't say too much about it in their ads. The July 1983 ad for Garfield Electronic's Doctor Click (the godfather of sync) didn't include MIDI yet. Neither did Octave-plateau Electronic Inc.'s Voyetra-8 ad.

There was one exception... :o)

The ad for Sequential Circuit Inc.'s Prophet-600, the first commercially available MIDI synthesizer. Their ad has a large call-out box extolling the virtues of MIDI. And no wonder - SCI was heavily involved in MIDI's development. Nice!

I'll post that ad in the near future.

End note: This has always bugged me. Why did Roland pick 1987 as the 'future'? There is a design rule-of-thumb that says never to use even numbers. So maybe the thinking was that '84, '86, '88 would be out of the question. '85 is probably too close. And '89 is too close to '90.

Hmmmm... still bugging me.

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