From Stradivari to Steinway, the great names have focused on the popular, creating instruments that appeal to the contemporary musician. In the second half of the last century that role was played by Fender and Gibson – but the electric guitar has evolved.
The brainchild of Ravi Sawhney, president-CEO of leading US creative firm RKS Design, and Rock ’n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer Dave Mason, RKS Guitars has dragged the electric guitar into the future.
RKS features the finest materials expected in a guitar designed for the connoisseur: rosewood fingerboard, a maple and alder core, aircraft aluminium ribs. But in a departure from convention, RKS replaces the traditional mahogany body with Eastman's Tenite™ cellulose plastic. “The combination of Tenite™ and our open architecture solid core creates a resonance that is sustained and spectacular,” explains Sawhney. "It takes an amateur musician and makes him a better musician. It takes a professional musician and makes him a better musician. Everyone does more with our guitars than they’ve ever done before. It’s amazing to see.”
Whether it’s the stunning Darkstar or the translucent Ruby Red, the guitars created by RKS look spectacular but describing them as objects of beauty would be wrong. The sensation is much more primal than that. They're objects of lust. "These are definitely not your father’s guitar," says Sawhney.
Made from wood pulp, Tenite™ is known as The Natural Polymer. It’s the go-to choice for designers creating products that feel good to the touch: everything from screwdriver handles to wrap-around sunglasses. It was an obvious choice for RKS.
“We really cheated ergonomically," says Sawhney. "We contoured the back of the guitar so that it leans against your body. It has less movement, which releases your attention a little bit and all of a sudden you’re not thinking about holding the guitar.
“Every thing we’ve done allows you to play better – but we’re not telling you why you play better. One of the reasons is you’re not thinking about balancing the guitar, it just nestles against you, leaving you with more coordination and dexterity to play. We’ve heard musicians say that because it lays against them when they’re on stage, they feel the guitar singing to them."
In recognizing RKS guitars as one of the best new products around, BusinessWeek praised the bold, colorful design for doing more with less. The magazine – we love them for this – champions the disruptive influence of great design, calling the RKS open architecture "the most radical change in electric guitars in almost 50 years."
“Can our guitar be a poster child for plastics?" asks Sawhney. "We’d love it to be. It already feels like it may be the poster child for design.”