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Ethan Schoonover and Solarized

You’ve met the man behind Solarized already, but we haven’t yet delved into the theme itself (or where Ethan’s keyboard journey has taken him). Let’s take a look at the second half of Ethan’s responses to our questions as he gives us a peek behind the curtain at Solarized—and the state of his current keyboard collection.

How many different iterations has the Solarized theme gone through before arriving at its current state? Would you be willing to share some early-stage work in progress versions with the readers?  I spent months on it—REAL months of churning through design variants, testing in different lighting conditions, playing with different color models. It was grueling, but I could see the end result I wanted from the very beginning. A bit of trivia that I don’t think I’ve published elsewhere is that it was originally called Janus (after the Roman god with two faces), but I realized right before I released it that there was another unrelated code project that used that name and I didn’t want to risk confusion.

Old in-progress development snapshots; most of the actual development was code-based and programmatic.

What software/hardware do you use for your design work? Considering how important color accuracy is in the process, do you have any spectrophotometers or other tools to assist?  I calibrate all my displays with external hardware (X-Rite series usually), and when designing for color accuracy, I work in a light-controlled space to eliminate color variance over the course of the day. I developed Solarized on two machines: a MacBook Pro and an Arch Linux laptop. Where do you tend to draw the most inspiration from?  Nature, the unconscious, literature. In the case of the blue of Solarized it was inspired by my fear of deep water, specifically of submerged wrecks in the deep. The great thing about the modern internet is that there is a subreddit for everything now, including this fear (submechanophobia). I can only assume that mechanical keyboards are not one of your primary hobbies; do you have much more than a passing interest/fascination with them?  Actually I still love MKs and pick up new units from time to time. I have mostly switched to picking up prebuilts (just due to lack of time), though I try to stick to boards that have hot-swappable switch sockets. I did feel that I hit my endgame board with the modified Leopold 660m (with a clueboard PCB) and SA-profile switches. I did a very custom switch rebuild on those. Swapped all the springs in some MX reds (with an MX clear for the spacebar) so that the spring weight on my “weak” fingers (pinkies) was slightly lower than my strong fingers. It’s a very comfortable board for me. Right now though, I’m typing on a Keychron K2 with Cherry Reds and OEM keycaps. Solid board for a prebuilt unit.

“Endgame” (yeah, sure, right) Leopold 660ms with custom PCBs and per-finger customized spring weights.

Tell us a little bit about your current keyboard/desk setup. I move around to different desks depending on whether I want daylight or want to avoid it for color accuracy. I’m currently working at this desk, which is an Ikea Bekant sit/stand desk with an old desk surface I refinished. The Bekant is modded with a custom “megadesk" PCB to enable presets. The keyboard shown is a Keychron K2 with Cherry Reds, but I swap boards a lot—something I’m sure anyone reading this can relate to.


Even in my garage, you’ll find a mechanical keyboard or two. (This is a modded HHKB.) 


Another desk with a WhiteFox that I picked up on Drop awhile back.


A workbench with a couple keyboards (my daughter, years back, pictured learning the joys of mechanical keyboards). _________________________________ Once again, thank you so much for your time and considered responses to our questions, Ethan!  DCX Solarized will be launching on March 28th. Hit the "Request" button to be notified when it launches. 


Really excited to see these on my desk! Can we expect the base white to be on the more pure side of white? Or more of an off white?
573V0Not sure if you commented before or after, but we just added a render at the bottom that should hopefully help give a good idea. The arrow keys at the top are an actual photo of sample keys as well (not a render).
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