Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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Custom Kraft, Kleartone, Old Kraftsman, Why? American consumers and design trends are a relationship that I do not know nearly enough abo...

Why Did Brands Use K Instead of C?

Custom Kraft, Kleartone, Old Kraftsman, Why?

American consumers and design trends are a relationship that I do not know nearly enough about to fully discuss here but the historical trends that I can see fascinate me and are worth mentioning.


Brand names have to be unique and distinguishable to draw people towards their products and also to support trademarking so it is no surprise that misspelling words is the easiest way to accomplish that. You'll take a second look at a word you think is misspelled and having it plastered on a billboard will ensure it draws your attention. 


In 2020, we are deep in a trend that involves dropping vowels from common worlds to form names such as the dating app Tindr, the blogging site Tumblr, or the image hosting site Flickr. Musicians are even following suit such as the artist The Weeknd or the band DNCE. We also deliberately misspell words such as Lyft which substitutes a 'y' for an 'i' or Chick-Fil-A which shortens the word "chicken" and then phonetically writes the word "fillet" using a dash.


Graphic design in computers has also evolved in its own way. Windows 98 was styled around clearly defined monotone-colored boxes where websites utilized textured backgrounds like ripples or sand grains to stand out. That is horrific to modern web designers who currently stick to "flat" or "metro" user interface elements that focus on brighter colors and less lines. I like to view it as an "implied" boundary between objects where buttons are rarely fully enclosed by a box and instead are more "open". You click on the area around a word that is either differentiated by color or by a common distance between the word and the ones above it and below it. Parallax scrolling (two or more objects moving at different rates) was real hot in the beginning of the 2010s but, thankfully, has started fading away.


In the early to mid 20th century, a trend was to replace the letter C with its sound-a-like letter K. Look at brands like Kleenex, Kraft Foods, Kool Aid, Krispy Kreme, etc which were all established around the 1920s through the 1940s. The letter K has more sharp angles and edges than C, which is a continuous curve in sans-serif fonts, so it draws your eye to it. 

It makes sense that instruments follow the design trends of the era.

Search the 1930s Regal RadioTone or the Kay Television Model which feature art-deco interpretations of telephone towers. Jump to the 1950s for the "cowboy stencil" guitars which followed the boom of television and The Wild West in the media. The 1960s had a huge boom in electric guitars and copies of expensive brands that professionals were using was common. Hofner Viola bass copies are a dime-a-dozen from the late 60s and early 70s.

Additional Reading

There is a great article by Phil Patton from the American Institute for Graphic Arts entitled Krazy About K which discusses the American fascination with the letter K in far more detail than I do.

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