If you are thinking about designing or outsourcing the design of a guitar, a bass, or any other product for that matter, this is the first question everyone should be asking: why? Why , in this society of full abundance and excess of objects does the world need another guitar!
I believe the world has space and a need for new guitar and bass models.The thing is, in my opinion, it might not just need any more “Victorian” guitars.
When I say Victorian guitars I mean any guitar that closely resembles Les Paul, Telecaster, Stratocaster or any other vintage model. Today there is still furniture being made according to this secular style, but no one calls these pieces design anymore, nor do they have any cultural relevance nowadays. Maybe, and just maybe, as we get closer to these models of instruments becoming a century old we can move on to greener pastures!
When we look to the past, these original models of electric guitars came to be due to a mix of reasons, and the main one that drove the development of the electric guitar was the need of guitar players to be heard in a band context, they needed some way of amplification, electric amplification. Experiences were being conducted in the period between both world wars, but similar to all other objects it was in the years after world war II that things came to be, and in a very short period of time so many models of electric guitars were designed, and most important, so revolutionary designs! And they were all perfectly aligned with its contemporary culture, at least the ones that become iconic.
Now, if we fast forward to today, does anyone buy a guitar with the need of amplification in mind? No, that's a given fact, guitars are just as loud in a band context as you want them to be. Also today we have tremolos, benders, 3, 5, 6 10 way switches, humbuckers, single coils, active electronics, piezzos, midi…and so much more. So can we make the argument that the guitar or bass does not suffer from a desperate need of hardware innovation. It will always need refinements, and who knows what new technologies being developed can be implemented in guitars tomorrow, but we have come to a development point that innovations in the hardware side are small and rare. This makes it extremely hard for designers to justify new guitars, but also extremely exciting! In the early days the question on a designer's mind was “what can we add to the guitar”, today designers think more on what they must leave out of the guitar for it to be functional and actually fun to play!
Our challenges as product designers are very different nowadays, but there is one challenge that drives any design process, that has in the past and always will in the future, and that is the product must be culturally relevant the day it reaches the market. The question is, on which subculture are we going to be focusing our attention on.