Feature Design αNEX-5/3
Feature Design αNEX-5/NEX-3

Sound design makes cameras seem more familiar

Nagahara: Sound significantly shapes our impression of product usability and quality. In Sony cameras, we add a range of sounds as part of the user interface in Cyber-shot models, in details such as turning on the camera or releasing the shutter. In contrast, a (alpha) cameras hardly have any UI sounds. So how should we approach this issue in the NEX-5/NEX-3? After some consideration, we adopted the policy that does allow for UI sounds to enhance usability, but the sounds must fit the image of a classic DSLR and convey a sense of quality.

Take a shot with NEX-5/NEX-3 cameras, and you'll hear the shutter mechanism itself. Turn the control wheel, and you'll hear a pleasant clicking sound. In fact, this is a UI sound emitted by the camera. Takuya initially suggested a sound similar to winding a mechanical watch, but when we recorded a winding sound and tested it in the UI, it wasn't a good match. That's what makes sound design difficult.

For some time I recorded all kinds of sounds on an IC recorder I carried with me. After preparing excerpts on a computer, I shared samples of this vast sound library with other designers as we narrowed down the ideal sound. The sound effect we ultimately chose for the control wheel comes from the sound of operating a tool I happened to have at home, which I'm afraid must remain a secret.

To determine the pitch and character of other basic UI sounds, such as turning the camera off and on or closing and opening the menu screen, we applied techniques developed for Cyber-shot and Handycam models. But because these sounds also influence our impression of camera quality, they were also carefully chosen from a huge library of samples. Even late in the evening after I returned home, I used an IC recorder to capture the sound of tapping things. My family may have thought it was odd, but I was committed to meeting the high standards of Takuya and others on the design team.

Subtractive design that adds strength to the messages of design

Hata: NEX-5/NEX-3 cameras demonstrate Sony innovation, both in how equipment is organized and in specific product design. It was also time for new development in packaging design, time for a fresh departure from the dominant cinnabar in previous packaging.

We began by devising streamlined outer packaging, matching the character of the camera itself. Next we chose minimal inner packaging, making it easy to unbox. A unique touch is that when you do remove it, you'll see that the lens is already attached to the body. Minimal packaging, and being able to pick up the camera with the body and lens already attached—this shows our regard for new owners who want to try out the camera right away. Packaging designers faced with this kind of high-quality, high-interest product tend to overdo it and make packaging too complex. Adopting subtractive design instead prevents anything from interfering with the excitement of unboxing the camera. That's why the packaging is plain and simple.

The base color of the packaging is a shade of gray inspired by the appearance of the lenses. We thought bright gray would complement the gleaming metallic lenses nicely, but this choice made me uneasy about the packaging material itself, which is recycled paper. Light colors sometimes fail to conceal traces of ink in recycled paper. We visited the printing facility this time to make sure the gray looked attractive. And that's why the product photos look so nice. Here, too, our restraint in the amount of images and information showcases the statement we're making in design.

Straightforward communication about what makes products exceptional

Fukuhara: How do we position new products within Sony product groups, and how do we launch and market them? How do we share these intentions with affiliated departments in Japan and overseas, with our creative agencies and production companies? Because the messages of design in Sony products must reach the market intact, this communication is critically important.

We decided at an early stage that NEX-5/NEX-3 cameras should be positioned under the a brand of interchangeable-lens Sony cameras, but we wanted to avoid any confusion in the market from the fact that their lens mount system is different from the a series A-mount. So we considered how to differentiate NEX cameras from existing cameras while ensuring a smooth launch. Model names of A-mount cameras begin with DSLR. If we used the same naming system for E-mount cameras, people would only be able to distinguish cameras by the number in model names, which would be confusing. Instead, we decided it would be simpler and easier to remember if A-mount cameras are named as in Sony a while E-mount cameras are named as in a NEX-5, clearly identifying them as a products and helping prevent miscommunication.

In fact, even a year before the NEX launch, we took a more systematic approach to our planning and engineering documents, and we had distributed preliminary design documents describing our vision for NEX-5/NEX-3 in key phrases and visuals. The sooner we prepare this way, the sooner we're all on the same page at Sony. It also helps us keep the messages of design intact in promotional material after launch and supports an effective market entry. In their design and technical specifications alike, we're confident in these cameras. We'll ensure that promotion for the cameras lets their true value speak for itself, loud and clear.

| 1 | 2 | 3 |