Project snapshot after snapshot reveals the most elaborate home theater or automation system with a table-top or in-wall touch panel as the center piece of attraction, yet touch panel graphics almost always seem drab and unworthy of their surrounding interior design.

I took a vow almost two years ago to rid the world of touch panel eyesores, to give life and warmth to the technology that integrators are installing in today’s homes. Out with the solid backgrounds, mismatched colors, and unaligned buttons . . . and in with easy navigation, design consistency, and an array of touch panel themes made for any living room, home theater or master suite.

Time to Design

Unlike the world of web design, the state of touch panel design really hasn’t changed much in the past 5 years. Problems remain the same with integrators around the world: who has time to produce professional touch panel designs and who in the company made more than a C+ in art class?

Touch panel design can equal 50 percent of the project programming. The programmer is usually more concerned with making the system work in the end and less focused on the fact that bright reds and yellows on a panel will make the homeowner dizzy. While the system must function properly, most homeowners do not spend hours admiring their equipment rack. Their impression of their state-of-the-art control system weighs heavily on the user interface and its ease of use.

The Creative Team

Integrators need to spend more time and resources creating professional-quality touch panel pages. Developing a Creative Team can ensure user interfaces are easy-to-use, and page designs are consistent and esthetically pleasing. An integrator may be able to build a team from internal resources or outsource their touch panel page design to independent design and programming firms. A creative team might consist of:


a graphic artist

a system designer

a programmer

a touch panel tester

Some individuals may take on multiple roles in an organization, but the goal is the same: dedicating the right amount of time (resources) to produce great-looking touch panel designs.

While the graphic artist adds that creative touch so many panels are lacking, the system designer and programmer hold the keys to user-friendly system control. They understand how the devices work, what functions should be included on the touch panels and the general flow of the entire system. Finally, having someone actually perform a QA (quality assurance) check on pages before the customer views them should be mandatory. A second pair of eyes will find those color, shape, size, and design discrepancies missed during a late-night design session.

Levels of Design

While many integrators are still working on touch panel design basics, there are a few who are investing creative time to produce the next eye-catching layout, which blends technology and the home’s environment. From African masks to seashells, from tropical fish to modern art, themed touch panel pages encompass the homeowner’s décor and interior design, making Mrs. HomeToys especially happy. This level of design will require a professional graphic designer as well as a high-level system designer to make sure the pages flow smoothly and are user friendly.

Whether you design your touch panel pages internally or outsource to a professional design team, the key to touch panel design success is planning and communication with your customers. Knowing in the beginning what functionality can be achieved will make designing pages an easier task. Dedicating the right amount of time will enable you to produce eye-pleasing page designs and help you introduce a little “technology warmth” in the home.

David Teel is co-founder of Avenida Network, one of North America’s biggest independent system programming and design companies. You can contact David at or visit his company’s web site at