Paul Atkinson

Amplified (A Design History of the Electric Guitar)


Output: Authored Book

This research examines the design history of the electric guitar as a technological object, a cultural icon and a social construct. It also exposes the remarkably small extent to which professional industrial and product design input has been exploited in the design and development of the electric guitar over the course of its history, and explores if the development of the electric guitar has benefitted or not from that input.

While the subject of the history of the electric guitar is a popular one that over the years has resulted in countless books ranging from encyclopaedias of guitars to detailed histories of guitar manufacturers and individual models of guitars, there has been surprisingly little written about the design history of the electric guitar as a massproduced object, or the social and cultural history of its production and consumption. The vast majority of publications related to the electric guitar have been celebratory trade books rather than critical observations of the nature of the design of the object and its use in a social and cultural context.

Primary research was conducted in the form of interviews with noted guitar historians (including Tony Bacon and Tom Wheeler), wellknown dealers in vintage guitars (George Gruhn, Walter Carter), staff of various guitar manufacturing companies (including Gibson, Fender, Epiphone and Peavey), guitarists (including Gordon Giltrap and Paul Brett), and numerous guitar designers (including Trev Wilkinson and Hartley Peavey), luthiers, collectors and promoters.

Archival research was conducted at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville including visual analysis of historic advertising material, alongside secondary research using published texts.

Research Output

Amplified Flick Through

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Research Method

All semi-structured, in-depth interviews took place between 1 September 2015 and 31 July 2019. They were audio recorded and professionally transcribed:

Key Methodologies:

Full Project Output

REF '21

To learn more about the output, methods and dissemination of this work, explore the full project submission.

Other Projects By

Paul Atkinson