Don´t get confused, you probably have seen this system but under a different name, especially if you are one of those photographers who’s discovered what peripherals dedicated to photo processing can do for your workflow.

Monogram is a new brand name, but not a brand-new company. Its first-generation product, sold under the Palette banner, featured a similar design and aesthetics. Palette, however, is no more, and instead, you can find the new and improved brand, Monogram.

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The reasoning behind the change of brand name is because Monogram realized that their modular system is more flexible than ever imagined. It works great for digital artists but also can appeal to a broader audience. Customers can always add additional modules as their workflow or the software they use evolves, having new modules as the company invents them, or adding new software integrations as soon as they are available. It can constantly expand and adapt to anyone´s use or needs.

[Related Reading: Palette Rebrands To ‘Monogram,’ Launches New Editing Hardware Via Kickstarter]

Specifications 

  • Modular design
  • Each unit attaches via strong magnets
  • Solid Construction with a no-slip base
  • Five different module categories: Core module (required/provides power), Slider module, Dial module, Keys module, and the new pressure-sensitive Orbiter module
  • Three different starter kits – Traveler ($399)Studio ($499), and Master ($799)
  • Compatible with any program/app offering keyboard shortcuts
  • Windows and Mac compatible
  • USB-powered

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Key Upgrades

Along with the new name comes a sleeker redesign of the familiar modules and the addition of an exciting new one, too. The new “Orbiter” module is described by Monogram as a “pressure-sensitive center disc paired with an infinite-turn encoder ring for multi-axis control.” Monogram touts the Orbiter as a revolution for color grading, which should be of particular interest to video creators as it can be used with Lumetri, Premiere Pro, and After Effects.

Along with the new Orbiter, the system includes sliders, dials, and keys. Besides the physical location of each control, the different modules can be customized to control up to 135 different functions. While the buttons, sliders, and dials are inspired by the original Palette Gear, the modules are 40% slimmer than the first version. Each control now has four times the function from before. Updates also focus on improved performance and power for each module.

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Those who’ve already invested in the Palette iteration of the system will be pleased to know that the new Monogram set is backward-compatible and can be added to and used with the pre-existing product set.

Compared to other peers

While competitors Loupedeck and TourBox offer standalone consoles, Monogram takes a modular approach, with magnets that snap components together and à la carte dials and toggles to expand functionality. This product seems especially well-suited for a professional user with a dedicated workflow, rather than casual users. 

Protip

  • Profile preview function: Try to press and hold any button assigned to Next Profile or Previous Profile (these are the Core module keys in all quick start profiles) and this will display an overlay of your assignments in the active profile.

Setup 

Creative Console provides a fast and simple setup with magnetically connecting modules and a user-friendly app.

  1. Download the software
  2. Plugin the Core and magnetically snap modules together, pin to pad. The LED halos light up when connected properly. Keep the layout simple or get creative and wrap it around your keyboard or graphics tablet!
  3. Launch Monogram Creator. Select your app to start creating. Click on a module to customize 

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[Related Reading: Loupedeck CT – A Hands-On Review Of The New Creative Tool]

Customization 

Each module is a low-profile rectangle with a brushed metal finish, a control surface, and configurable LED accent lighting that features adjustable and assignable RGB lighting around each key, which can be used as a visual cue when grouping similar functions together.

They snap together with confidence and stay in place. There’s a main component, the Monogram Core that has a USB-C port to connect to your Mac or PC, a color screen that shows the active profile, and a pair of buttons. It’s customizable but used by default to quickly toggle from one profile to another.

There’s a level of freedom in positioning the modules, but you have to make sure to have outward-facing pins for each incoming connection. There is one outgoing set on each control surface, and every side has an incoming connection. The footprint varies based on how you connect the modules.

The modular design also means you can choose the exact number of controls you need and expand later if necessary. Monogram allows you to mix and match up to a total of 12 modules. It’s worth noting, the three available kits offer greater value versus purchasing each piece individually.

Main Modules are:

Aesthetics

The controls are fairly minimalist in design and feel very well-built. The top surface of each control is machined aluminum and the underside of each has a non-slip rubber ring. It´s good to see the control points don’t show fingerprints very easily, despite being matte black.

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The most unique aspect of the product´s design is the fact that you can rearrange the layout of the controls to suit your individual preference or according to your working space, or whether you’re left or right-handed. There are some physical limitations, down to the fact that the modules connect via pins and pads. But the modularity of the Creative Console is still a huge advantage over other products in this field. 

The screen changes to indicate the app it’s linked to, which you can even change to any image you want to upload to it. Operating it is not disturbing. The buttons make a sound when pressed, but they have about the same sound level as the buttons of a keyboard.

Software & Supported Apps

The Monogram Creative Console can be used with any software, similar to how keyboard shortcuts and mouse actions are reprogrammed for different applications, including Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and Phase One’s Capture One. The controls’ sensitivity, along with range and granularity, can also be adjusted.

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The Monogram components are pretty much taken for granted for the most part, but what they do depends on your creative application and how you configure their function. Monogram includes several preset configurations to help you get started with various host software. Monogram identifies all supported apps that are installed on your system and allows you to create custom profiles for others you may have open. The software is available as a free download for macOS and Windows 10 systems.

Photography 

Video 

  • Premiere Pro (CC 2015.3 and later)
  • After Effects (CC 2015 and later)
  • Audition (CC 2015 and later)

Music and audio 

  • Logic Pro X
  • Cubase
  • Ableton Live
  • FL Studio
  • REAPER
  • Adobe Audition CC 2015.3 and later

Virtual production and broadcast 

  • Unreal Engine (2.5 & 4.26)

Examples:

  • Video editing: color wheels, jog & timeline navigation, clip position, animation
  • Photo editing: dual temp/tint, dual hue/saturation, crop, straighten, transform
  • Music production: dual expression/modulation, dual-frequency/resonance, velocity-sensitive pads

Universal Compatibility 

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Use Monogram Creative Console with any software. Creative Console can control virtually any software so you can control your favorite app, even if it’s not officially supported, by customizing each module via universal input modes such as keyboard shortcuts, MIDI, mouse clicks, and joystick actions. Universal Compatibility works great with apps like Ableton Live, Logic, Chrome, Spotify, and more.

Learning curve

The Monogram Creative Console takes some time to set up, not only to decide what functions to assign but also to find out ergonomically what works. It will take you different layout iterations to work out what suits you the best. With more experience, you will realize that a certain physical layout could be improved by simply reorganizing the controls. You can save different configurations for different programs/apps but will have to physically reorient the modules when switching.

Pros & Cons

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For:

  • Modularity
  • Build quality
  • Overall design
  • Detachable USB Type-C to Type-A Cable
  • Wide Range of compatibility

Against:

  • Pricey
  • Expect some time for the learning curve
  • Lack of travel or protective case
  • Not wireless

Verdict

Monogram offers a modular design that adds flexibility and extensibility. It´s not a cheap investment but if you are a visual content creator who is looking to add some efficiency to your workflow, this could be a great solution.  

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The company learned some key lessons from their initial Palette Gear offering and the latest iteration provides more creative potential and more precision, along with a smaller footprint on one’s desk. The new Orbiter module is a pleasant advantage. 

The learning curve will take some time to master. However, it will pay big productivity dividends in the long run for diverse applications you might use every day.  

Users Experience

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Visual content creator Dani Diamond thinks “I’ve tried most of the products on the market and can say by far that the Monogram would be my top choices and for one reason mainly -User friendly. Devices like the Monogram tend to come along with very complex software making it hard to set it up to your custom preferences. I was able to set up the monogram to do exactly what I wanted very easily.  If I hadn’t been able to, this would likely be sitting in a drawer along with all the other gimmick products out there.”

You can check his images through his Instagram and online portfolio. 

Photographer Aaron Najera says “The Monogram CC has helped to improve my workflow by giving my left hand the ability to access editing functions easily, and in ways that keyboard shortcuts can’t. Just as my right hand is always doing something, clicking/pointing/sliding levels, etc., my left hand can be pushing buttons, moving sliders, and turning dials, instead of using tiny keycaps and shortcut combinations.”

You can follow his work through his Instagram account or website. 

Finally, Félix Barjou adds “I used Palette Gear for two years and I love it, the new modules are so small and perfect for my workflow, and I can use Palette and Monogram together!”.

Don´t miss his work at @felixbarjou and felixbarjou.com