5 questions to focus your design efforts
With the audience defined, the why and the story written down we can use these five initial questions to set the premises of the design sketches phase. Remember that these are not right or wrong types of questions, think more in terms of percentage. Each question has two options, and give each option a percentage reflecting your choices.
1- Will it answer a specific customer need or be an exploratory design?
Have you identified a particular situation that you feel it should be addressed and have it be one of the pillars of your design solution or have you decided on pushing the boundaries of what has been done so far elevating the risk of a successful design.
Think Linda Manzer wedge guitar vs Teuffel Birdfish electric guitar.
2- Will it be designed for mass production or will it be a one of a kind?
If we have this clear from the beginning we can avoid costly errors of designing some aspects of the instrument that a good craftsman can do in his shop, in sacrifice of many hours, but then it cannot be transposed to a factory floor, or the cost would be just too high. The opposite is also true, designing something with a manufacturing DNA and giving it to craftsman to make and sell might just not be in line with his audience.
A telecaster makes total sense on a factory floor, a Ergon guitar byAdriano Sério is probably the definition of a one of a kind guitar made by a craftsman.
3-Will it be genre specific or generalist?
A metal guitar is expected to have a very different feeling than a guitar in a solo jazz show. I have never seen a Jackson X guitar on a jazz stage, nor have I seen a surf green Jaguar in a hard metal concert. If you are working for a very specific music genre keep that in mind. We need to really understand the sub-culture we are designing to, what it accepts and probably more important what it will reject!
4-Will it be a protagonist object or an accompaniment?
If a guitar player has a white stratocaster it will most likely just blend in with the rest of the band. But if he goes with a SG double neck it will most likely be the center of attention!
If we put a Flying V guitar in a 60’s blues band it will likely call the attention to it, but not for the right reasons as a protagonist object would. It would demand attention just for being out of place. A protagonist object respects its audience and does not demand attention just because it's out of place or unbalanced.
In the same way a good accompaniment object is not so easy to design because it needs to walk the fine line of exercising restraint on the attention calling, but at the same time demand enough attention to have the right to be picked to be on the stage.
Prince Cloud guitar is a very good example of a protagonist object, Tao guitars model T-Bucket is a very good example of an instrument that can be a very good accompaniment object
5-Will it lean towards art or design?
This question alone could be the subject of entire books, but here we are going to keep it really simple. If the guitar you are designing is your vision being imposed on the world it leans on art. If it's the result of a research, a design method, and tries to be an answer for the “why” of the selected audience chances are it leans on design.
Remember there is no right or wrong, it's a game of balance!