The Challenge

Create a family of acoustic amps to strengthen Fender’s position in the market.

The Outcome

Two acoustic amps, one for professional and one for stereo effects, that delivered performance, sound quality, and convenience.

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Fender, a brand that’s been synonymous with rock’n’roll since 1946, is best known for its iconic electric guitars—think Stratocaster—played by everyone from Eric Clapton to The Edge, the lead guitarist of U2. Less well known is the imprint Fender has made on the acoustic space. IDEO worked with the company to design a new family of acoustic amplifiers: one professional and one with stereo effects.

After gathering insights from amateurs, professionals, music magazine editors, and producers, the team explored portability, storage, materiality, and form through a series of early prototypes that they tested with users.

Acoustic is raw, pure, no bells and whistles. You see someone playing and singing, it’s like looking through a window into someone’s soul.

Pi Jacobs, singer-songwriter

While most acoustic amps in the market don’t look all that different from their electric cousins, the new Fender product line reflects the pure, natural sound at the core of acoustic. This new line of amps uses a unique manufacturing technique with bent plywood that’s new to acoustic amp design. Not just a design statement, the innovation also improves sound quality.

The acoustic amps were also designed with simple, intuitive controls, and with illuminated features that balance high-tech performance with a satisfyingly analog experience. The design emphasizes portability and maneuverability, targeting the acoustic artist who often may have to make a tough choice between traveling light and using the often unreliable house PA.

Pi Jacobs, a singer-songwriter who participated in the design research process, said acoustic sound requires its own unique medium. "Acoustic is raw, pure, no bells and whistles. You see someone playing and singing, it’s like looking through a window into someone’s soul," he said. 

For Fender, the work proved to be transformative. "Working with IDEO was an eye-opening and refreshing experience," said James Gifford, vice president of design for Fender. "The result of the work that was done with IDEO on the acoustic amp project was a game-changer that challenged the traditional definition of the design and experience received from using acoustic guitar amplifiers."

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