It was out of pressure that I came up with the idea of building a three-string guitar for kids and parents to build at home. I was completing a master’s in integrated marketing at New York University, and for the thesis I had to write a business plan for a company I had to invent. And that was really it. An idea on a piece of paper.
How I came up with the idea is still a mystery to me, but it’s no surprise that I narrowed it down to something music-related, as that’s my passion. I guess I tied music with trends I saw around (I’m a marketer after all): the need for simple, functional design; the DIY movement; parents’ obsession for products that enhance their kids’ abilities; the customization of products; and sustainability. The fact that most kids’ guitars suck also made it easy for me to realize there was an opportunity here.
So I set out to design and make a guitar for kids that was different from other guitars out there. A guitar with a design appealing to both children and adults that would allow them to share the experience together. Above all, I wanted to design a guitar that made it easy and fun to play music.
All of these concepts led to the defining characteristics of the Loog Guitar. It comes unassembled in kits and has just three strings, with assembly and playing instructions available online. Cigar box guitars were an inevitable reference. In my eyes, cigar box guitars offer a very real do-it-yourself experience. I thought it would be stupid to compete with that because the plan was to bring innovation to the children’s guitars category, not to copy an already amazing instrument.
Instead, I took more inspiration from the LikeABike kids’ bicycle (ikeabikeusa.com). I wanted to make a line of guitars that had an elegant, minimal design and were made of sustainable woods. I made the decision to scale back the DIY factor and make Loogs extremely simple to build. Something that could be done in 15 minutes and didn’t involve glue or sandpaper: just screw a few parts together and that’s it.
Because I’m not a trained designer, I knew I had to team up with someone who could bring my ideas from napkin drawings to proper CAD plans, and I found the ideal partners in Lucía Guidali, Agustín Menini, and Carlo Nicola — three industrial designers from Uruguay, my home country, who work together under the name of Colectivo Disán. They had no experience in building guitars, but they’re very talented and had experience designing children’s products and working with sustainable woods. It ended up being a ten-month collaboration process, and after countless design iterations, we finally arrived at what you now see on loogguitars.com.
Along the way we brought a luthier into the process, the talented Ariel Ameijenda, who helped us adjust a few design decisions: to make sure the guitar tuned correctly and that the neck would support the right amount of pressure, and to address other technicalities. Ariel was also in charge of building the first prototype. It was an absolute joy to put the parts together for the first time, string the guitar, and start playing music.
And, because we wanted to make the guitar parts compatible with all models so kids can mix and match (for example, they can buy a rectangular guitar and use it with a triangular body if they want a new guitar without having to buy a whole new instrument), we also knew right away that the guitars would have to be made through an industrial process and that we’d have to build molds and use CNC machining.
We took the project to a few guitar factories in the United States, but they simply weren’t interested. We also tried options in Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina, but it was just as difficult there to get a manufacturing partner involved with the project. We ended up — where else — in China, which is crazy because Loog Guitars is still a very small project.
Fortunately, the alignment of the guitar gods (and a quick search at alibaba.com) helped us come across a small family-owned factory, which I visited last March. Now — thanks to the backing of 440 strangers who saw Loog Guitars on Kickstarter, believed in the project, and wanted to play a part in bringing the idea to life — Loog Guitars are in production!
The whole Kickstarter experience and how it ties to this new maker phenomenon really blew my mind. Coupled with the fact that some random guy from Uruguay can start a business in the U.S., manufacture in China, and do it all from an old MacBook from the nearest free wi-fi cafe, it seems pretty obvious and exciting to me that we’re in the midst of a new makers’ revolution.