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Streamlined and Sonic: John Vassos and Instrument Design #MusicMonday

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Great piece from Smithsonian Mag on 20th century instrument designer John Vassos.

Much has been written about the history of industrial design as it pertains to automobiles and objects of use. However, in some rare cases, industrial designers also ventured into musical instrument design. Notably, automobile designer Raymond Dietrich was hired by Gibson Inc. and designed their Firebird and Thunderbird electric guitars. Gibson also hired the team of Barnes and Reinecke to design their Ultratone lap-steel guitar. Robert Davol Budlong, a designer for Zenith, worked with the accordion manufacturer Scandalli to reinvent several of their instruments. These outsourced business relationships were unusual; most instrument manufacturers used in-house staff to design their instruments. These collaborations indicate that instrument manufacturers wanted to modernize and monetize their products by hiring specialist designers who paid close attention to trendy colors, styles, ergonomics, and new technologies. These fashionable new products were often more affordable than their predecessors, due to the rise of mechanization and mass production.

Read more.



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