UH Moment: "Guitars"

Human interaction is an essential factor in designing, as a group of industrial design students discovered.

"We design products. We are to products what architects are to buildings."

Mark Kimbrough is an Industrial Design Professor of Practice at the University of Houston College of Architecture. His students learned about the engineering and art of the craft by designing guitars. Divided into teams, each was given a musical genre and an historical musician as guidance and inspiration.

"What I wanted to do was create an ergonomic jazz guitar that had a little bit more of a modern styling, but still had that appearance of that cool, black suit that you saw back in the day," said student Lindsay Lahaug, who designed a jazz guitar fit for the always tuxedo-clad jazzman, Joe Pass. "I've learned things like a single chamber on the left side of the guitar actually makes it so that youhave a little bit more acoustic sound when it's unplugged."  

Kimbrough says students dove into the research to learn about the materials to make a guitar, the processes needed, the tonal qualities of different kinds of wood and which would represent the tonal quality of the instrument they were designing.  

"After finishing up the research phase we went go to conceptualization," Kimbrough said. "That's a lot of hand sketching, building models, prototypes out of foam and cardboard just to size up the various components."

Students worked with Austin guitar craftsman Collings as they progressed from research to sketches to prototypes.

"The mahogany has a higher pitch, so the idea was that when the sound goes into the strings it would vibrate up and get those higher notes," said student Troy Zinsmeister whose rock and roll inspiration was guitarist Jimmy Page. "The neck component was a challenge. From the 12th fret to here is a specific distance. It can't be any farther or any closer.  But rock is real edgy, so I took that inspiration and I incorporated it into the guitar,"

Ironically, none of the students plays guitar, but that didn't stop them from dreaming about their favorite guitarists playing.  

"I'd hope Joe Pass liked it. I personally think it would look good with his suit," Lahaug said.

Industrial Design is part of what's happening at the University of Houston.