ROLI

The future of music-making

ROLI is a London-based technology start-up specialised in music hardware and known for the Seaboard. The Seaboard was an answer to the design limitations of the piano keyboard as a mechanical interface for making sound and music.

ROLI was founded by the American-born musician, designer and entrepreneur Roland Lamb in 2009. Its first instrument, the Seaboard is based on the piano keyboard. The Seaboard has a continuous surface of pliable silicone rather than the hard, discrete keys of a piano. The instrument introduced ways for musicians to play “in between” the keys of a standard piano. A player can bend the pitch of a note by making vibrato-like sideways movements, deepens a sound by pressing into the surface, and in other ways manipulate sound through touch.

The Seaboard’s touch technology was adapted for BLOCKS, a consumer-oriented music device, in 2016. The company develops both hardware and software. In addition to its musical instruments and devices, it created the NOISE app and the Equator software synthesiser. It also owns the C++ audio coding framework JUCE, the virtual instruments maker FXpansion, and the social music-sharing platform Blend.

ROLI instruments are used by musicians including Grimes, and Hans Zimmer.

MY ROLE AT ROLI

  • Lead user experience and interface design within the organisation

 

  • Manage relationship and workload with AKQA

 

  • Facilitation of sketching sessions with the team

 

  • Mentoring of hardware designers into modern software development practices

 

  • Hiring in-house software design resources

 

  • Work with Product Management on Product strategy, roadmap and delivery

 

  • User research: Surveys, in-depth interviews, usability testing sessions, analysis and report creation…

 

In regards to my daily tools, Sketch and Marvel were my tools of the trade. We started to use React Native for prototyping and creation of components on a library. Slack for team communication and JIRA for project management.

THE TEAM

UI Designer
UX Designer
Communication designers
AKQA Team

Product Owner
Product Managers
Programme Managers

Software Engineers
Web developers
Test engineers

Hardware engineers
Hardware design engineers
Sound designers

The wider team included other roles like data analysts, hardware researchers or material engineers. In the launch for BLOCKS, we worked with a team from AKQA before we moved into an in-house team.

PRODUCTS I WORKED ON

Since I joined ROLI in October 2016, we have been working in many exciting new products and services. BLOCKS has been the last product to join the ROLI family along the Seaboard.

BLOCKS

BLOCKS makes music-making accessible to the masses. Everyone can express musically using intuitive gestures on a touch-sensitive playing surface. I mainly worked on improving the onboarding experience and communicating the whole product proposition to users.

NOISE

The sound engine for ROLI BLOCKS. I worked with the team to deliver updates to the app. NOISE includes supported for iPhone, iPad and selected Android mobile devices.

BLOCKS Dashboard

More advanced users can control their favourite music-production software with BLOCKS using BLOCKS Dashboard. Worked on the design and planning of this product that extends the BLOCKS-verse.

PROJUCER

PROJUCER is the IDE for JUCE, a 3rd party framework to build cross-platform music-making software. I worked on improving the overall IDE user experience and the licensing experience.

NOISE.fm

NOISE users can share their creations and collaborate with other users via NOISE.fm, a cloud service for NOISE. I worked in the integration between the different products.

SOME CLOSE-UPS

MY THREE BIGGEST LEARNINGS

To focus, manage your time well

Working in a start-up there are many hats that you wear at different points of your day. To be more productive it is always good practice to manage your time as much as possible. Time management helps to prioritise tasks, identify dependencies and delegate tasks. This is relevant in a startup environment. Even if you can only spend 5 or 10 minutes of your time every day for time management, it will go a long way in the long run.

Everyone can do Agile

There is a misconception that Agile is only valuable for Software Development. The Agile Manifesto can adany working environment and situation. I introduced concepts like Definition of Ready, Definition of Done, Storymapping, how to run Sprint demos as a celebratory moment in open space… and many other concepts that started to shape how the whole ROLI team operated as one team.

It’s not the tool, it’s the process

Regardless of what task management tool is there, the key is to follow a strict process. It doesn’t matter how a tool works or how it looks. To introduce a tool the right way, it needs to come with a clear process and structure in place. I worked with program management to transition from 4 different project management tools (Trello, Asana, FogBugz and Google Docs) to a single one: JIRA.

MY PERSONAL WIN

To help a hardware-oriented organisation transition into modern software practices. In my first 6 months, I felt how my influence became a positive change in the company. Introducing new ways of working, processes and tools.