My friend gave me his old Squier Strat that he never used, and Im going to modify it a lot. The first thing Im doing is giving it a new paint job. The problem is that Im looking at the paint on the body, and its extremely thick. Can I use something like laquer stripper to get the clear coat off, or do I have to sand it all off? Also, its just plain black now, but Im thinking of giving it a flat black finish and then putting some kind of design on it. Can someone give me some ideas for a design that would look cool with that? Also Im getting a diamond plate pickguard for it so any design would have to compliment or look good with that.
People have done diamond plate before, as for cool designs, I don't know.

If you just want to do flat black you can jsut scuff sand the clear coat then prime, color, and clear.

If your really determined to get it all off, it'll be hard. Squire uses a lot of paint to help them be more resistant to damage from children who usually buy squires. It being poly urethane makes it a really hard finish to take off, it's really a job for a big fast and mean sander if you want to take it off efficiently. Otherwise better start hand sanding it now, cause it'll take you about a month.
or don't prime it if the wood looks nice, and the do a sunburst finish!!!
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Scuffing with about a 220 grit paper shoudl be sufficient enough, just be sure to get everywhere.

And more often then not, Squier's don't have very pretty wood grain, most Squiers are like 6 piece bodies, with some green. If you want to do a burst, I'd recommend getting a top glued on, or at least a veneer.