Push Turn Move: A Book By Kim Bjørn

How one designer’s obsession for musical machines became an unexpected studio essential.

Barbie Bertisch
Feb 27, 2018 · 9 min read
Synth mastermind Jean-Michel Jarre was a huge inspiration for the book.

The Framework

The book itself feels super expansive and begs to be devoured. It features a plethora of gear alongside interviews with producers, engineers, and designers. A proper introduction explains how a designer from Copenhagen running a Kickstarter campaign got to chat shop with his idols and create a visual guideline of electronic music’s most utilized tools. He looks back fondly at crashing SuperBooth and discovering that he had the support of the makers themselves, which added fuel to the fire and proved that the project broke ground in previously uncharted territory. Being on the ground allowed him to connect with the pioneers he admired and to reach out to them in hopes of picking their brain.

“Today we use can use an iPad app with a vintage synthesizer side by side, which is really interesting because the interfaces are so different.” — Kim Bjørn

In terms of a narrative, PTM doesn’t offer the typical arduous, overly technical read, or a lengthy list of virtually inaccessible gear. Instead, Kim came to find his own unique framework: User, Sound, Control, Layout, Concept, and Time. This allowed more free cataloguing of his favorite toys as they made sense through his lens of ergonomics and usability. While chatting with Kim, it became clear that this wasn’t just about the instruments themselves but a study of how we interact with them — interfaces, keys, pads, and even screens. Ultimately, it’s nice to admire our tools, but they are there to be put to use.

Push Turn Move talks about music-making tools in terms of their ergonomics, ease of use and practicality.

“One of the joys in going through the process of curation was discovering similarities between these instruments that were made decades apart.” — Kim Bjørn

When it comes to the process of creating, Kim Bjørn the author and the designer stressed the importance and lasting power of a physical book. Sure, YouTube tutorials and hardware forums are helpful. Having made a physical object that documents these tools for posterity, Kim finds joy in the prospect of communities being able to gather and discuss PTM. “The interesting thing about a hardware synthesizer is that it’s still there even though it’s turned off. I feel like it’s the same idea with a book.”

An interview with House music pioneer Larry Heard graces the pages of Push Turn Move.

Design-led Approach

The book doesn’t just focus on hardware, but also highlights different steps in the chain of music-making, and analyzes each component within the chain. “One of the joys in going through the process of curation was discovering similarities between these instruments that were made decades apart,” explains Kim. “Cataloguing each element, its placement, alignment, layout, and color, proves that there is humanity in the gear.” These are all variables that are taken into consideration when making an instrument, but they also also part of the psychology of design. Just as certain colors trigger specific emotions within a billboard or a magazine ad, we react to a synthesizer and its controls. “The use of color and these elements also have history — there’s identity and familiarity, such as it is with the DX7’s [teal blue] or the bright Nord red. For old gear and heritage pieces, warm wood finishing evokes an era of nostalgia.”

“I never thought I’d end up making books, but… I’ve become enthralled with documenting and creating a catalog of these tools.” — Kim Bjørn

Modernists sought to simplify everyday objects, but the devices we use for music-making aren’t always straightforward. Diving further into the framework of the book and honing in on the concept of usability, Kim remarks that “what people are most frustrated with at times is when things are unnecessarily complicated, and if they lose control and don’t know what is happening.” But also that maybe the idea of challenging a user and making them grow and learn with the instrument is part of the journey. Grow with your instrument, put in the time. This is what the discovery process is about. Technology helps people suddenly understand why it’s easier to use something with more controls, but also highlights why it can be a daunting task. The key to good design is balancing these elements and making them resonate with people. Thinking in terms of reasons for creating and the production process, Kim likes to see both sides — simple versus challenging tools — as instrumental to a highly personal process. This lies at the core of what Bjørn also seeks to honor in the book: that you can make music on your iPad or with your modular synth, or both. Ultimately, what’s important is that you’re making something and that you’re exploring the curiosity within. Challenging the user is a way to make them grow and learn with an instrument.

Author and designer, Kim Bjørn.

The Next Chapter

Now that Push Turn Move is on the shelves, Kim is already looking at the next project. He makes sure to state that he loves this book, but that there’s always room for improvement and learning, even despite his design pedigree. While he was reacquainted with old gear, he also found modern, exciting and even pre-released products that inspired him to put them to the test. Kim spoke of the legacy of the Launchpad as a game-changer and a highlight within the legacy of the Novation family; while at the same time, his relationship with the Circuit Mono Station yielded refreshing and unexpected fruit. He’s gone from modulars to the OP-1 and beyond and holds no favorites, other than when he feels an instrument exudes design and inspires touch.

Novation // Notes

Stories from the World of Novation.

Barbie Bertisch

Written by

Love Injection / Classic Album Sundays NYC

Novation // Notes

Stories from the World of Novation.