Most of the GUI I would need is readily available in Max. I've never needed to go into designing my own pots, slider. I personally like things that are big, easy to read, simplified but clever design with the most important parameters taking up a physically larger or prominent space. Not too many colours and absolutely nothing that requires fiddling about or feels fiddly. I like sliders where possible, appropriate. I like clean tabbed menu's. I prefer a simple contextually based colour schemes. I also like a maximum of between 5 to 8 parameters in a box - too many options/parameters often limits a users interactions. Tabs should bring me to new parameters. I should never have to deal with more than 5 to 8 at a single time in any one place. I try to make things feel like an analogue module or have the same feeling of simplicity and accessibility and compactness.
I look at a computer for many hours a day. I do not want to strain my eyes more. Also when using devices in a performance or a jam I prefer sliders and simplicity and tabs over pots and complexity and menu's.
I like the look and feel of Valhalla Room VST. NI's Massive is not bad. It has a lot of controls but they are big, logically laid out and all the messy stuff is under tabs in the middle - for such a complex synth it looks very clean. I like the look of Lemur - same thing. I do not really like 3D, distracting backgrounds, and things that are supposed to look like hardware. Hardware looked like it did for a reason. The reason often does not translate well to a screen. The only 3D or not flat interface I have liked is AudioDamages cell shading style. It is more comic book 2.5D style and again it has very few parameters and they are big. Admiral Quality Poly-Ana is basically hell for my eyes.
That's my 0.02c - a bit utilitarian I am afraid but I do use this stuff a lot so while it might not seem like much this kind of GUI is important to me.
^"Novel weird conventional, all grist to the mill" can u translate? "
Those word combinations were used during a Marshall McLuhan discussion by Terence McKenna ... I think the title of the talk was 'riding range with marshall mcluhan' ... so on that coincidental note
I would recommend looking into the plethora of textures in nature in order to draw inspiration ... perhaps a mushroom based interface with spore communication and ruptures in space-time leading into healing places (ex. solutions to societies problems)
i have much fun with skinman/knobman (win only but free software) in combination with pictctrl/slider. don't forget you can create a custom cell background palette for mtrxctrl. hover/mousestate/ubutton often help to create more customized controls.(you already know that)
we now can also create triangle/arrow panels. lock background feature is important while designing gui