Monday, July 8, 2013
Vako Synthesizers Inc. Orchestron "Your instrument of the future" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1976
Vako Synthesizers Inc. Orchestron "Your instrument of the future" full page black and white advertisement from the inside back cover of the May/June 1976 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.
This is the second, and much more well-known advertisement by Vako for the Orchestron. It's not without its own issues, but in my opinion a good deal better in terms of design when compared to the previous two-page ad.
First - the bad. Well... everything is a little squished together. Especially the top half. I purposely scanned the ad with all the room around the border to make the point that it really didn't have to be. It reminds me of that photo you would see in your junior high school science book with all the continents pushed together. And like that single land mass, I just keep hoping the different elements of this advertisement will follow the theory of continental drift and float their way across the rest of the page to create some killer white space.
'Cause if we got some white space added in there, we would definitely start to see Vako's new personality begin to emerge in the design. A high contrast look, big chubby black letters in the ad-title and highlighted text that mimicks the font used in the name of the instrument, and... hey... wait a minute...
(flips through the magazine... ).
Look familiar? Here's an Oberheim Four-Voice advertisement from the FRONT inside cover of the SAME issue of Contemporary Keyboard. The title font has a few more edges, but there are definitely some familiarities to be found when comparing the two ads.
When designing the look of a company's ads, it's important to find a personality that is unique and then keep it up in order to start building that familiarity between the reader and the brand. Rule of thumb is that if you can cover the logo and the name of the company in an ad, and people can still recognize the company the ad is for, you've done your job.
I'm not suggesting that one company stole the ad design from the other. I just find it interesting to see simlar ad designs develop early on in both Vako's and Oberheim's lifetimes. And from an historical perspective, following it through to see which company won this brand battle (ahem... Oberheim).
But, I have to go back to my original thought - everything is pushed together too tightly, and it keep's Vako's personality from properly executing. I think part of the problem was that call-out box in the top right corner. It kind of looks like it was an after-thought, slapped on to the page outside of the ad to help highlight it, but unfortunately resulting in the rest of the ad getting pushed together in order to fit within the confines of the page.
Don't get me wrong, that call-out box serves a good purpose, playing a pivotal role to help personalize and familiarize the company with readers by including a bit of history on Dave Vankoevering, the owner of the company. It actually contains some really nice behind-the-scenes info about his previous work in the distribution and marketing of synthesizers and his time with none other than Moog!
Speaking of which, I didn't want to spend the whole blog post talking about design, because the technology behind the Orchestron is kind of interesting. I had already taken a look at the Orchestron's Wikipedia page but there wasn't much there on the technology behind the machine. So I pulled out my tattered copy of Mark Vail's Vintage Synthesizers book to see what he knew about the company. There I found three or so paragraphs on the Orchestron in the chapter titled "It Came from the Music Industry" under the section "The Reign of the Proto-Sampler".
According to Mark, both the Orchestron and another instrument called the Birotron, were both instruments "designed to exploit the market [the Mellotron] created". The Birotron was created by Dave Biro, funded by Rick Wakeman, and used eight-track tapes to play back sound. It apparently never made it out of beta testing and only about 35 machines were ever created.
The Orchestron, in comparison, used "laser-optical encoding technology, somewhat like an analog CD" with sounds optically recorded that could then be read by a beam of light. Reading the ad I always got confused about how the heck digital laser CD technology could have made it into an instrument way back in 1976. But back then it was still analog. LOL.
Anyways, The sound disks were $110 bucks a piece, the size of phonograph records, and according to the Orchestron Wikipedia page, the highest fidelity came from the outside rings (maybe because the outer edge is spinning faster than the inside?). A remote scanning unit to read the disks were apparently quite large, and they even designed multiple disk readers to allow for the layering of sounds!
Well, I gotta stop there and enjoy the sun for a bit. More on the Orchestron soon!