Stories

Designing an experience

Sustainability Cellulosics Acoustic

"We're not material scientists; we're experts at what to do with materials."

Scott Clear - Chief design and innovation officer, RKS design

"Though I've had close contact with several different designers over the years, this is the first time I’ve worked with one to develop a new polymer compound. The benefit is that he was able to show me how designers may view the material."

Donna Morgan - Product development specialist, Rotuba
Problem

New thriving materials

Guitars are known and cherished for the beauty of their wood but in the past couple of years, this material has been put under scrutiny. Fine woods such as Indian ebony and Brazilian rosewood have become restricted, challenging guitar manufacturers to rethink the way they are made.

Ten years ago, Ravi Sawhney, president and CEO of RKS Design engaged rock-n-roll hall of famer, Dave Mason, to redesign the electric guitar using sustainable woods and a wood-based polymer called Tenite Cellulosics™. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, RKS Design reinvented the guitar, thinking material first. Teaming with Weyerhaeuser, they introduced the Thrive™ composite to the traditional Eastman cellulose base, compounding a sustainable material from a designer’s perspective." We worked backwards from how we usually work," noted Clear. "Instead of working with existing materials, we created the one we wanted."

Partner

Founded by

RKS was founded by Ravi Sawhney in 1980 following a multiyear stint at Xerox immersing himself in Human Centered Design and Innovation while developing the first generation touch screen. In its first decade, the firm established its mission of understanding humanity in the pursuit of advancing business and society. Now in 2015, RKS has earned hundreds of awards and achieved global recognition by being able to help companies emerge with meaningful and disruptive design and innovation in any category. 

Solution

Sustainable sound

The original Ruby Red RKS Guitar was created to showcase a sustainable yet uncompromising solution for guitar manufacturers and was considered the most significant advancement in sustainable manufacturing of electric instruments in its time. At the heart of its understated design, unbelievable build and quality, improved ergonomics, reduced weight, and neutral balance was Eastman's Tenite™ cellulosics. 

Celebrating 10 years of success, the guitar's base material has been reinvented to marry Weyerhaeuser’s Thrive™ cellulose-based composite with Eastman's cellulose acetate.

Process

Formulating emotions

"We're not material scientists, we're experts at what to do with materials." - Scott Clear, Chief Design and Innovation Officer, RKS Design

The reimagined RKS Guitars celebrate warmth that is reminiscent of wood. Using that as a baseline, the formulation looked for materials that were sustainable yet uncompromising. In a guitar, sound is everything. The amount of cellulose fiber that was added to the formulation dictated the guitars acoustics. Specifically dialing into the guitars material composition is what made this design journey special a designer compounding a unique formulation based on emotional appeal. Playing with the color of the fibers and base material in addition to its secondary colors, finishes, and materials ultimately keeps this guitar an icon for the industry. "It's not something that you buy and use every once in a while; it's something you get attached to," says Grammy Award-winning Michael “Fish” Herring."For me, it's my life."

Results

Uncompromised design

An icon never dies and with the redesign of the RKS Guitar, we have 12 new reasons to celebrate.

The new guitars, though they use the same molds as the original, will spotlight the uncompromised design talents for which RKS is known. This time, instead of new form and function, the firm gained an invaluable experience in how materials are made celebrating them with a new level of appreciation. To differentiate the new series, the guitars will receive a paintjob, as well as a new badge. This project brought together professionals across the industry, showing that to really innovate we have to collaborate constantly have the user’s needs as priority number one.

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