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[IC] DSA Discovery (Sep 2023 Update)

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Distilling elements of spacecrafts like the Space Shuttle series or Space Station V on the surface of dye-sublimated DSA PBT keycaps.

Reboot of the first IC from 2016.

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Planning to trim these down a bit and you can help!

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Top voted kits:


"Yes" counts a full vote.
"Maybe" counts half a vote.

Last updated: June 17.


With SP: Pretty expensive.

Not only because of the size of the kits but also because of the edge-to-edge print design.
Due to the tolerances in SPís production setup, it's likely that there will be significantly more rejects than usual during QC.
I received quotes from SP for the above kits and it's looking pretty grim.

I am in contact with another party who would be able to produce it at a fraction of SPs price
but the quality is yet to be determined.

Photos of the SP prototype

All of the above are photos, not renders, with the prototype kit I received from SP.
The first pictures show it on a PC Sneakbox AVA with custom-cut vinyl to cover the hole in the center of the plate.
The middle pictures show it on a Skog Reboot, Desert colorway, shot at a local university with some old (and new) equipment of theirs.
The remaining ones are done using a black PC Pandora by Koobaczech.
Once I am back from travels, I'll add a couple more board examples (65%, HB85)

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The following are 3D renders, done in Blender.






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Alternative modifiers

MoreA few variants of the modifiers which I liked as well:

>> D1 (full album)

>> M2 (full album)

>> M3 (full album)

Feel free to vote for your favorite in the IC form!


I ordered a full prototype set from SP this summer in addition to the 2019 samples.
Here are some pics:

The process changed slightly from 2019 to 2023, leading to some pretty sharp edges.
Unfortunately, there is less tolerance for alignment inconsistencies with this approach so I am trying to get another sample set with a few changes.
One more thing: SP doesn't print on 6.25U+ space bars. Imo, vanilla space bars look good as well though (see prototype photos above).

That being said I am in contact with another producer who can actually do space bars and they'd be significantly less pricey.
Their prototypes are yet to arrive.

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2019 samples:

MoreIt wasnít clear whether the proposed design would be feasible with SPís production setup so I ordered samples back in 2019:

The alphas looked promising! As for the colors: the circled one is what I am looking for.
Base color is WAN (standard SP DSA PBT color).

Additional merch

No deskmats...
Open to other stuff, though. Let's see ...


Several ones confirmed in all major regions: US, EU, UK, SEA, OCE, CN.
Stay tuned!


More[*] 2023, Sep 23: Full update of the post.
[*] 2023, Sep 1: The prototype set from SP arrived.
[*] 2023, Aug 23: First sample from the other manufacturer arrived. Doing some modifications for a second round.
[*] 2023, Jun 22: Talks with another manufacturer.
[*] 2023, Jun 11: Kitting updates: Base got slimmer again. Blanks got numpad. Took form votes for the kits and added a breakdown to the post.
[*] 2023, Jun 5: Made "M1" the default variant for the modifiers. Kitting updates.
[*] 2023, Jun 4: Made the base kit smaller. Added a compatibility kit to the form. Removed the "M4" variant.
[*] 2023, Jun 2: New IC post!
[*] 2023, May 21: Requested quote from SP.
[*] 2023, May: Renders are good enough now. Kitting is getting closer to finish line too. Probably needs more condensing, and dropping a few things. Ditched the Website plan (itís just too much work for too little return). Did a lot of iterations on the renders. Backgrounds, camera settings, type.



[*] Almost no work on the keyset for two years. Only dabbled with the website idea.


[*] Dec: Created a website for voting: TS Svelte + Sapper on Vercel with firebase auth and storage for the voting. Lots of things changed in web dev in the past 5 years (been working exclusively with internal tech in my day job). Such a headache! In the end, I got the voting done client-side. Created a Blender script that will spit out all combinations (rendering takes forever, even with the new RTX card I got) and then some more JS scripting on the Sapper/Svelte side to create the UI for it. It was designed as a serial A-B test. About 46 "ballots" as I'd call them. Also added the kits (+script to create croppings and thumbnails).
[*] Nov: Mostly work on novelty variants again. I looked into "mission badges" for the 1Us. Thought they could look good but they lack a good relationship with the overall set. How would I pick the ones to be put there? What's the criteria? What could be a "mission" in the MK world? Settled on doing only a "greeble" kit back then. Removed the "Stripes" modifier variant in favor of mixing pattern with icon mods. I had done this as an experiment back in Sept 2017 already but removed it as it was too busy. Doing it now again for putting it up for a vote. The community evolved a lot over the years. I wondered if the current situation would be better or worse for my set. Things I worried about: it's too gamery/noisy. It's too plain (b/w). The novelties are not novel enough. At the end of the month, I reached out to a few people again to check my kitting. and they were really helpful and pointed out many issues. Particularly, I had a lot of subkits because I couldn't decide for an alpha base (had three, wanted to launch with 2) and mod variant (had 5, wanted to launch with 2). Both convinced me easily to combine kits so there would be less things to worry about for vendors and consumers alike. Based on their feedback, I also removed some of loud accents and novelties. In the process, at least 4 kits got merged which makes the overall set easier to grasp. Might simplify further, we'll see.
[*] Aug: Came up with a sort-of-a company name for which I bought the domain for: Turned out to be too expensive and unnecessary to begin with. Also centered the mods on many of the 1Us, specifically for the Ortho Kit. This should work in general, as the 1Us on the regular TKL and Fullsize kits are already centered and because there are only very few situations where a 1U would sit above/below to a left/right aligned keycap (ESC being the most prominent one).

[*] Jun: MacSurfy posted Kat Refined, focusing on legends with nice visualization and explanation on his thoughts and process of the design. This hit home with me as I was going through a similar process but not to this documented detail. Work on Novelties: very slow. Tried a lot with stripes and also a few versions with air vents, bolts, and ridges. But none of them stuck so far. Was pretty disappointed. At least I made a bit of progress on the render environment.
[*] May: Created a logo, chose secondary fonts for renders, created more scripts for automating things. Switched to a new Eurostile versions and added the Cyrillic alphas kit. A lot of work went into font-weights, alignment and size-fitting. Especially on keys with secondary and tertiary legends (e.g. num row and international kit).
[*] Apr: Got a lot of actual board models from different sources. Rewrote my Python scripts for managing the modifier variants. Remodeled the keys to capture the nature of the dyesub print around the top edges a bit better.

[*] Mar: Covid-19 was in full swing in Europe. Started working on Kits again, and switched to Blender 2.82, learning more about it.


[*] Feb: Picked up the idea again and contacted SP to get some samples for verifying the accuracy, contrasts and PBT colors. As last time, the contact and communication with SP was really good and they were super helpful in getting samples to me. Even more, the samples looked promising! From here on, public announcements from my side on the original IC thread stopped. What I can tell from my render directory is that I worked on different contrast settings of the alphas, mods, and icons. I also did a few more imaginary boards to have renders for more layouts (40%, 65%, Boardwalk, 1800 Compact). As well as settling on the first consistent Novelty set: the flags kit.


[*] 2018: Stopped working on the set for most of the year. Inspired by some other keyset runs, I thought I'd create a small website at the end of 2018. It was mostly a litmus test for the kit renderings. It did not turn out that great but it gave me a better idea of where things could move to.


[*] End of year-ish: I was putting in a lot of time into my Blender setup to easily iterate over ideas and automate changes. And I was still struggling with novelties. I thought, WipeOut-ish would look awesome but I was having trouble creating a reasonable story around them in relation to the theme. And of course, being the end of 2017, I had to try a Hiragana alphas kit. (replaced in favor of Cyrillics eventually).

[*] Mid-year-ish: did some basic kitting, and worked on more distinguished modifier versions. Quite a bit of effort went into the icons, and I experimented a lot with different patterns. After initial feedback, I also did modifiers for the Ergodox, featured abbreviations of a bunch of NASA Spaceshuttle systems on the bottom row, and where the 1.5U side mods would feature more relatable keywords (Kudos to Parva Ovis who nudged me towards using four-letter words!). While the icons on regular modifiers came naturally, creating them for the random mods was somewhat harder.
[*] Jan: started to move to 3D renders as the KLE ones were prone to misinterpretation and I really wanted to have something more tangible and good looking for a real IC after the confirmation I got from the first replies. At that time, true 3D renders were rare and although I had some prior experience with 3D software, I jumped on Blender (2.78 I think) and struggled a lot with it. However, I made some great progress. I created a first set of basic keyboard models and iterated over the legends (size/thickness) after more feedback primarily on Discord. Yet, at the same time, responsibilities in my day job went up a lot and I really dug what I was doing there. So DSA Discovery had to be put on hold (which turned out to be a recurring theme ;)


[*] Oct: It wasn't clear to me whether this edge-to-edge dye subbing could actually be done accurately by SP. I contacted them in October 2016 and got informed that the official tolerance space is 0.02 inches (btw, SP's response was really warm and encouraging. Awesome folks!). As the design emphasizes the edges, I imagined that even smallest deviations in the vertical space would kill the look. Yet, as GH user Data pointed out, the first realization of LCARS (DSA Galaxy Class R1 by Norbauer in 2014) actually had its legends pretty close to the edges. This was extremely reassuring and helped me not loose faith in the idea but to build on it.

[*] Oct: First IC for DSA Discovery went up.

[*] Half a year earlier, in 2015, CQ_Cumbers already started an IC for getting Eurostile to the SA profile. Unfortunately, Space Extended never made it off the ground as the quotes for the double shot molds were too high and they didn't have the capacity to run it at that time. I talked a bit with CQ_Cumbers when I started my IC, just to make sure that I wasn't stepping on his toes with a similar idea. Note: CQ_Cumbers retried the idea with Classic Space in mid-2018, targeting KAM profile with reverse dye-sub but I don't think that it materialized so far. I did not want to be blocked on this so I focused on dye sublimation and that led to new ideas that wouldn't have been possible with double shot legends: subtle patterns, different shades of grey on the same key, among other things. One key feature emerged that played really well with the theme: the dark grey stripe at the bottome edge of each key. At that point I already had a few initial ideas for the mods and some novelties but nothing consistent.

[*] Humble beginnings. Started with KLE, and the idea of using Eurostile Extended as font.

Design background

The type

At the core of this design is the typeface that shaped some of the most iconic science fiction media of the past 50 years.
Eurostile. Specifically, Eurostile Extended.

When we see it, we think of the future. Well, my generation at least, haha.

DSA Discovery uses a slightly modified take on the URW version which is the most recent and true iteration over the the original Aldo Novarese designed.
For this keyset, I created a new weight between Regular and Medium, balancing the space on the keycap surface as best as possible.

More about Eurostile in this keyset:

Microgramma is the original, iconic sci-fi typeface (1952), eventually superseded by Eurostile (1962) by the same designer: Aldo Novarese.

There are subtle differences between the fonts (e.g. some letters feature stroke direction changes that come with an additional horizontal transition, making these letters slightly wider).
Wikipedia is not quite clear on whether Eurostile or Microgramma was used for some popular media (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey)
but the Microgramma page certainly contains a lot more references.

Microgramma D is issued by URW, and Linotype with extended Latin. It wasn't chosen for this set as it felt a bit outdated and less clean than its successors.

Eurostile Next vs URW

Eurostile has seen quite a few iterations and additions. For instance, support for Greek and Cyrillic or modifications for @, Ä.
Eurostile Next (2008) and the URW version represent the most complete versions of the font, both supporting Cyrillic.

The Linotype version does is pretty uniform on the vertical axis and it appears to have more upper-case friendly versions of punctuation, signs and other special characters.
I think this works particularly well for titling cases while the URW version works better in mixed cases.
However, the LT version also has a few rounder versions of some characters (e.g. Q) while the URW version is more true to the original, staying more on the blocky side.
As for the Cyrillics, I asked a reputable keyset designer with experience in this script for advice and they preferred the URW version ever so slightly.

Hence, I went with URW Eurostile Extended for the Cyrillics and main Alphas, and Eurostile Next for many punctuation parts.


For the URW alphas on the keyset, Medium was a bit too thick and Regular too thin.
So on all keys, I am using Regular with a slight path offset which puts it right in the middle of Regular and Medium.

I requested a stamp of approval from Peter Rosenfeld of URW for this modification, and they were happy to give it (as long as it would not be shared/distributed on its own, of course).

The bar

The distinct grey-black bar at the bottom of each keycap pays tribute to the black insulation tiles of the Space Shuttle.

The alignment

One last distinct feature of DSA Discovery is the symmetrical alignment of the legends across the main mod clusters.
I love that look, and I kinda want to see that on my favorite boards.

Lit. Thank you for including ISO-UK in base. Please don't remove that unless the cost of the current base kit is astronomical and the exclusion of those keys would mean a very significant reduction in cost (saying this because you said you're looking to cull keys).

Minor note: the "Second choice for modifiers" question in the Jotform is broken, the only option is 4.


--- Quote from: aicyborg on Fri, 02 June 2023, 16:57:19 ---Lit. Thank you for including ISO-UK in base. Please don't remove that unless the cost of the current base kit is astronomical and the exclusion of those keys would mean a very significant reduction in cost (saying this because you said you're looking to cull keys).

Minor note: the "Second choice for modifiers" question in the Jotform is broken, the only option is 4.

--- End quote ---

Noted :)
And thanks for letting me know about the form issue. Should be fixed now.


[*] I made the base kit smaller (11 keys removed) and added the missing 1.75 backspace for 40s support.
[*] I added a compatibility kit for voting to the IC form (not the post).
[*] I removed the "M4" modifier variant. Quite a few people voted for it but it is just too noisy/busy, imo.

Space and DSA Dyesub? Iím in.


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