A Brilliant Rethinking Of The Fender Telecaster, Inspired By Muppets And Baseball Gloves

It’s a shame that guitar design has remained locked in amber for so long. Matthew Schneider fixes the problem.

A wall of electric guitars looks a lot like an expensive box of Crayola crayons. You’ll spot every color you could imagine, but beyond that, there’s little variation. Every model has the same flat surfaces coated in the same monotonous texture.

“The guitar rests against the body in use, but why should it be made of what appears to be in most cases cheap carbonate material and wood?” laments designer Matthew Schneider. “Why do the ‘pearl inlays’ on the neck remain unchanged when really they are nothing more than round stickers?” So instead, Schneider imagines a series of Fender Telecasters that eschew stickers and paint for rich textile--stuff that’s equally great to look at and to touch. You can almost feel a Telecaster in your hands with the oiled finish of a baseball glove, or the soft-yet-durable boiled felt of his Muppet guitar.

“I’ve seen little to no materials and design innovation from the major guitar manufacturers, and that to me signified an empty space in the marketplace,” Schneider tells Co.Design. “There’s demand for familiar but better in many things, but I felt doubly so in guitars.”

You’d think a quilted guitar, or one coated in biker-friendly “Back in Black” pebbled leather, would be sheer kitsch. But it’s certainly no more silly than anything else in pop rock culture. In fact, I’d argue that the designs are relatively understated for stage. Five rows back, and almost no one will be able to make out the microscopic nooks and crannies of fine cloth materials.

But the musician will be able to feel the difference, all the same. And that alone probably makes the idea worth exploring beyond these charming concepts. Plus, who wouldn’t want a Kermit-green guitar?

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28 Comments

  • Suffolk_Graphic_Designer

    That's a little disappointing. I thought they were real guitars, not mockups. Oh well. 

  • ty

    If you really wanted to see someone who redesigned the look of a guitar check out teuffel guitars. He actually took playability and sound into consideration.

  • Tom Dickinson

    ZZ Top were covering their guitars in fabric in the 80s. This reminds me of a schoolboy photoshop experiment. Clearly not musicians.

  • Michael Sasser

    I can only assume that these are meant strictly to be "art" and not to create it with. These look call and I would like to hang them on my wall. However playing them would only happen in a blitzed moment of recreating The Muppets movie.

  • Brylastyle

    maybe he doesn't play guitar...Have you ever noticed why guitarists cherish their old beat up, road worn axes? The age and quality of the wood. Covering them up just to make them "designer" lacks research into what makes a great guitar. Maybe these would look good just hanging on the wall never to be played.
    oops...I just finished and was ready to send when I scrolled down and saw the plethora of comments of the same ilk
    rock on \m/

  • Luke

     While I think the article is interesting, I have to jump on the bandwagon of comments below - one of the reasons stringed musical instruments have evolved (relatively) slowly is that their tonal properties were the first thing to be figured out and design came second. Felt and leather do not resonate, wood does. Les Paul's first electric guitar was essentially a block of wood with a neck attached and it was an amazing breakthrough because of the way that an organic material was melded with electronics to create sound, tone, vibration, resonance...

    Anyway, the reason why serious players search high and low for guitars with the thinnest sheen of paint or try all kinds of crazy schemes like putting their instruments in chest freezers overnight is that the less inorganic material between your strings, pickups and the wood the better. Wood continues to breath long after it's been shaped into something new, I'm not sure you could say the same for leather or felt.

  • Paul Valerio

    A crocodile looks much the same as it did 300 million years ago because nature got the design right early. Gibson and Fender did much the same in the 1950's, and they and the rest of the industry have been improving on the function (and yes, the aesthetics) of electric and acoustic guitars ever since. If something completely different came along that sounded much better, most guitarists would jump on it immediately. That's what a "brilliant rethinking" would be about, not this.

  • Slim

    "You’ll spot every color you could imagine, but beyond that, there’s little variation." This could not be further from the truth. Does anybody in your Editorial department actually play guitar?

  • UncleGroOve

    OMG.
    Why do you want to tackle a discussion about electric guitars?? In this market the biggest spenders drop 5 and 6 figure sums for real old (and often beat-up) instruments. There is the allure of "old" wood - stuff that was maybe 100 years old back in the golden era of rock (i.e 50s and 60s) and now is almost unobtainium.
    Folks hone their ears to hear (supposedly) the difference between this and that kind of fretboard woods, and these or those pickups, et cetera, ad nauseam.
    And here someone pops up with the idea of a felt covered instrument (or leather). As if we didn't know that gluing these kind of materials kills the instruments' resonance (BIG buzzword amongst the 6 string fanaticos).
    Simply put - why don't you try your hand at studying the "irrational exuberance" behind the vintage guitar prices or behind the dynamics of the custom built instruments?
    And leave these kind of articles to the fine folks over at Gizmdo or whatever infotainment sites.....
    Paul

  • Bil

    hey yes I "know" them. xclnt eh?

    i get massive inspiration from all these  artisans - i try not to steal their ideas but extend them! Well that's my excuse... think it thru to a new approach!!! Hard to change what is really good tho and better not to mess with it I say!

    leave me a contact at deadly Paul OK?

  • Bil

    Spot on there Uncle Groove --- too much chatter about Finicky Stuff All... !!!

    Thanks for the comment re : "you forgot..." ...left them out for someone such as you to add ;-) -- now we have what could possibly be the hottest list of premier builders worldwide.

    I know them well, they are cool builders eh?

    Thanks for the bouquet at Deadly. It is "inspired/modelled" on a Klein, Danelectro and Kay etc. Right into those oldies -- they were real deal axes made out of all sorts of junk. A whole thread there eh?

    rock on!

  • hackmartian

    There are two big problems here: 
    First, there has been plenty of innovation and experimentation in materials use for guitars — one visit to the annual NAMM show or 5 minutes on the internet will yield hundreds of examples from substantial manufacturers, past and present (including Fender's own Custom Shop). I'm guessing the reason you don't see too many guitars made out of fabric is because any player would recognize just how quickly a fabric body would be shredded in serious use — the fact that these don't have pick-guards to mitigate that speaks to the lack of attention here. 
    Second, the location of the tone controls are harder to reach while playing and would be completely blocked and/or accidentally changed if you attempted to play sitting down. 
    Part of good design is doing your homework and seriously evaluating the core function of the object you're designing, including the reasons, right or wrong, behind the conventions of the industry. The guitars here are built to hang on a wall as functional art and, as such, shouldn't be part of a discussion on serious design...

  • BIL

    Wilson and Schneider need to look around!Tooled leather and fabric "coats" are fairly common. 
    There are numerous innovative guitar makers who are breaking the design boundaries in surface treatment, body shape and overall design not to mention engineering and electronics.Designwise: Teuffel, Ritter, Myka, Alquier (Gnossienne), Toone, Pheo & Paoletti are a few of the better innovators.Those "stickers" aka fret markers, are invariably mother of pearl or a composite, never decals. Their design and placement is also wildly innovative but usually only from the independant makers.

  • UncleGroOve

    haha.
    You know Claudio? He lives 2 hrs from this computer here :-)
    One BIG name we both omitted - Saul Koll.
    Where's that heart shaped emoticon when one needs it most??

    Ciao from Switzerland

    Paul
    aka Uncle GroOve

  • Uncle GroOve

    You forgot Klein, Pagelli and Michael Spalt btw :-)

    Paul
    p.s. that guitar on your website looks a lot like one of those old Ovation electrics
    :-)) 

  • Jim Schefford

    Its definitely isn't made for stage use and the part about major guitar companies not being innovative enough seemed strange since Gibson ad Fender has both done amazing new feats with their products "sonically" and isn't that what matters. You also can't say companies like Paul Reed Smith Guitars (who are a major guitar company) doesn't have some of the most beautiful look guitars. 

  • Luca Masud

    This is what happens, sadly, when a designer forgets that his work is not about "styling" something. Not only, at least.

    I didn't get if Cliff Kuang was being sarcastic or not, anyway.

  • Renato Castilho

    This is adorable… perfect for interior designers trying to spiff-up a cool teen room photo shoot! They should be made out of injected plastic, for extra lightness, and contain no electronics —except for cool LEDs of course.