The School of Industrial and Graphic Design will host the FretHaus Guitar Show on April 12 at the Jan Dempsey Arts Center, featuring the work of seniors in the program.
The 12-person class worked in collaboration with Keith Medley, a well-known designer and builder of guitars widely recognized for his 27-string guitar and work with Gibson.
Andrew Vincent, graduate student, facilitates the class. He said students have worked with Medley throughout the semester, refining their final products.
“He’s working with the students to basically do what industrial design does, which is to make things more user-friendly for people or to change the aesthetics of things,” Vincent said.
One aspect of industrial design is increasing the usability of a product, he said. While some students chose to design guitar-related products, others opted to build their own guitar.
Senior Jonathan “Jan” Walden designed a folk-style guitar. He has spent the latter part of the semester refining the final prototype.
“Now I’m at the point where I’m at the aesthetics part of it,” Walden said. “I spent around three days staining the top of it to get it the way I wanted it to look.”
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This is the first time Walden has ever built a guitar, he said. However, his experience with wood working and making furniture has helped him throughout the process.
“It’s weird that they’re very similar in the process of how you make it,” he said. “Of course, it’s different in terms of ergonomics and how it’s used. I thought it would be a lot more difficult than it actually is, but if you know how to work with wood, it’s pretty simple.”
Senior Rex Seaman is building a surf-punk-themed guitar poured with resin and alcohol ink. The inspiration for his guitar came from his brother-in-law, he said.
“My brother-in-law is a lead singer in a band called The Frights,” Seaman said. “I’m really just building this guitar for him to use on stage, specifically for a surf-rock band.”
Like Walden, Seaman does not have much experience with designing or creating guitars.
“One of the hardest parts has been learning how to pour the epoxy resin,” he said. “You have to pour in multiple parts, and it’s on a time schedule, and then you have to color it while you’re doing it.”
Medley played a critical role in the student’s progress during the semester, said Rich Britnell, industrial design professor.
“Keith is awesome,” Britnell said. “He’s more so a kind of consultant because he’ll look at all the ideas and go, ‘Hey, this is great,’ or ‘You know, that’s not so good there,’ whatever the case may be.”
Because the event space was only available in early April, the seniors will not have the entire semester to complete their projects, Britnell said. However, he has been pleased with the work thus far.
“The ideas are really cool,” Britnell said. “It got Keith excited to see the out of the ordinary thought, even by people who don’t play guitar. It excites me to come to work every day, that’s for sure.”
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