Hey everyone,
I have just begun sourcing information and resources for my Industrial Design honours paper. I am writing it on the form language, aesthetics, & ergonomics relating to guitar design and manufacture.
I'm going down the path of progression from engineered forms and designs used for acoustic guitars, and how they in turn influenced electric guitar body design. Also why "classic" forms such as Les Pauls, Strats, Teles, SG's etc. have been staples in guitar design and why , unlike other product design, the forms haven't changed dramatically. This can be said for most musical instruments.

I'm looking for any feedback, links, resources, opinions, & pretty much anything along these lines. I'd be very grateful for any help.


I'm pretty sure the electric guitar shape stemmed from the acoustic/classical guitars. Look at les pauls and telecasters for example. they are similar in shape to single cutaways. Then look at the SG and Stratocaster. They are both double cuts, but refined to be ergonomic/comfortable and look appealing. Iono where to find this kind of info, but what I just said is obvious. XD

And people don't like much anything extreme, which is why those body shapes are popular and don't die. Think about it. In every genre of music including rock, techno, rap, whatever, the extreme subgenre ie metal, hardstyle/hardcore, etc. is the one that way less people listen to. I'm pretty sure the same can be said about guitars.

Also, people go for the tone. Strat and les paul shapes produce a very rounded tone, while V's produce a trashy, crunchy tone. If some one builds a guitar purely for aesthetics, it may not sound good. Many people look for a certain tone, but that tone is what they've heard before usually. You're not gonna hear something that doesn't exist. People say, "Oh I like the Telecaster tone." so they buy a Telecaster without even looking at the BC Rich Mockingbird. The early designs have been embedded in our brains!

Lol I don't even know what I'm walking about. Maybe I'm wrong. That's just what I think.
Jackson RR5 ivory w/ EMG 81/85
Jackson DX6 w/ SD Distortion & Dimarzio Super Distortion
Fender Starcaster Sunburst
Mesa/Boogie DC-3
Johnson JT50 Mirage
Ibanez TS-9
Morley Bad Horsie 2
Boss CE-5

ISP Decimator
Boss DD-6
Korg Pitchblack
Here's a couple of books that may help with your research. "Totally Guitar" a definitive guide by Tony Bacon and Dave Winter has chapters and sections on guitar shape evolution from the classic Spanish parlor guitar up to the modern solid body electric as well as company histories of all the guitar building companies. It's a great book for comparative studies, and historical context.
"Hand Made Hand Played" The art and craft of contemporary guitars. by Robert Shaw is a new book featuring the best of the best. of one off, custom luther made guitars, basses, archtops, acoustics, etc. See C.F.Martin's priceless 1.000.000 th guitar, or a custom $30,000.00 archtop by Robert Beneditto, amazing harp guitars, etc. This book shows the state of the art of todays custom builders.
Good luck.
birdfish guitar.bmp
Another book you should find is "Gibson guitars 100 years of an american icon" by Walter Carter. It's a book about the history of the Gibson guitar company, as well as the design history of all of their great guitars.
Market competition had a lot to do with guitar design. You can't exclude or overlook Gibson's influence in the evolution of the guitar.
From Lloyd Loar's invention of the archtop of the 1920's, the L-5, the Les Paul, the ES-335, the super 400 flat top, Charlie Christian and the electric Gibson, the evolution of the banjo, to why the pickup they invented is called a "Humbucker". It's all in this great book.
Quote by Sassafrasquatch
Also why "classic" forms such as Les Pauls, Strats, Teles, SG's etc. have been staples in guitar design and why , unlike other product design, the forms haven't changed dramatically.

it boils down to simplicity, as you will find out. product design is more about the innards than anything. tv's used to be pieces of furniture and once all the components began getting smaller so did the tvs. same for radios. they went from being heavy boxes full of tubes to small boxes with transistors to tiny little boxes with microchips.

whereas guitars are just chunks of wood, and most guitarists all want that same sound a 72 sg had or a 68 strat or whatever had so the companies continue pushing out that same design instead of trying anything new which is just basic supply & demand.
Last edited by noisefarmer at Jul 30, 2009,