It’s All About Arousal (You Know What I’m Talking About!)

Our current concept, “The Junkyard Dog” is creating quite a stir. Her bark is captivating and her bite infectious! “The Skinny”, our beautiful seductive temptress from the “golden age of guitar design”, has a similar effect on those who play her. Why do certain guitars (early ‘50s Gold Tops do it for me) arouse our inner carnal emotions and illuminate our “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Is it the shape? Antonio Wandré Pioli certainly thought so! His Brigitte Bardot masterpiece may never be equalled. His work was curvaceous, sculptural and avant-garde. Erotic even! Wandré’s guitars stood out from the crowd and epitomized 1960s Italian design. Is it the tone? Legendary pickup pioneer, Harry DeArmond, knew which buttons to press when it came to seductive tonal charm. He could talk dirty too! His pickups are considered by many enthusiasts to be among the finest ever designed and produced. The answer is both of course. However, and more importantly, they also have something design critics call Soul or the power to grab and hold your attention. Lee Devin and Robert D. Austin have written a book on this subject: The Soul of Design, is a highly recommended read for those who want to study the importance of creating desire. If you have not got the time to read the book and evaluate the term, I have pictorially defined it for you below!

Guitar Design Pictorially Defined!

It’s not all about Soul. Guitars need the X-factor too! This turn of phrase was formulated by the acclaimed, London based, industrial design consultancy, Seymour Powell. Richard Seymour and Dick Powell, co-founders and Directors, have stated that every product must have a certain something about it that makes people want to buy it and it’s the designer’s job to uncover the X-factor before the product reaches the market. In other words, when your product or guitar is on display, what makes it immediately stand out from the rest? We are ever mindful of the X-factor. We have to be. Every designer has to be. From “Ronnie Scott” to Marcel "Breuer”, the X-factor is always at the forefront of our thoughts.

There is no magic formula for creating the X-factor. You can’t Google it! If you could, the word “Passion” would come to the fore. Passion is a very important word when it comes to design. I have been told that I am a passionate designer because I put my heart and soul into my work! There’s that word “soul” again. Different context, identical meaning. Passion, therefore, has to come from within. You also require knowledge (gained from dedicated study and practice). Fuse the two together and you have the perfect formula for creating objects of desire. Dieter Rams, the renowned German product designer, understands this perfectly. He also understands the importance of creating good design. Check out his Ten Commandments of what he considers good design should be. If you follow them, you won’t go far wrong.

Good design, however, is not just about creating beautiful products and guitars; it’s about creating customers too. Those are not my words. I wish they were. They belong to Fred Wilfer. I have paraphrased his famous comment for grammatical effect. Indeed, this element of design is often overlooked. If you study electric guitar design you will find numerous manufacturing companies who are sadly no longer with us. They could not compete with Mainstream and sales were insufficient to sustain prolonged production. Why was this? In a previous article, I explained, much to the delight of Mainstream manufacturers, that the majority of the guitar buying public can only visualise Fender and Gibson styled guitars as their choice of instruments worth playing. Therefore, if your designs do not contain Mainstream DNA, you are immediately behind the eight ball, metaphorically speaking. However, do not despair if your guitar designs lack Mainstream DNA. The guitar industry is changing as guitarists, tired of Mainstream ubiquity, are looking for something “new” to play.

If you have read my article on human perception you will know that cognitive ergonomics research is very important to us. Consequently, our brand proposals and associated marketing are greatly influenced by it. Recently, we have discovered something I have termed the BM-factor (Before Mainstream) and it’s just as important as the X-factor. What do I mean by this? When we launched The Raw Guitar Co. at Musikmesse 2012 we had one objective: to discover if our work hit the right chord with the guitar buying public. The guitar connoisseurs, having seen what we had on show, loved our prototype guitars. Others, however, were not as enthusiastic! They were fans of Mainstream guitars. When asked why they were fans of Mainstream guitars, they could not give a specific reason, other than they just liked them. Some simply said it was because (name of guitar God) played one. However, before moving on, a significant number of the Mainstream fans expressed interest of an illustration we had mounted on our stand. It showed an old Bluesman sitting on his porch playing a 1930s style “Raw” guitar. Remarks ranging from “Very cool” to “Wow, what’s that?” and “Why haven’t you built it?” were simply filed away with all the other comments we received at the time. Those comments only became significant the more I studied human perception and guitar design. The guitar on the illustration received the plaudits from the Mainstream fans because they could not visually, within their own minds, compare and evaluate it against any Mainstream guitar. In other words, the Mainstream fans were making their judgement purely on the guitar and the guitar alone.

The discovery of the BM-factor was hugely influential because it led to the creation of our (The Dirty Thirties) Juke Joint Collection and a brand proposal we are currently putting together called The Junkyard Collection. We came up with the idea of creating a Junkyard brand after Al Elias, our illustrious prototype builder, found an old Framus Capri archtop in a junkyard skip. The first guitar, the aforementioned, “Junkyard Dog”, is pure Framus. It had to be! All we have done is add a little Raw emotion! If Fred Wilfer returned today, he would be delighted, I’m sure, at how “The Dog” has found her bark.

This article has been fun to write. I love talking about design! To conclude, therefore, I shall end where I began. Successful guitar design is all about arousal and desire. It really is that simple. If you still don’t know what I mean, have another look at the image above. It’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” will become ever more colourful by the second! As always, many thanks for your time and support. SR