Feature Design BRAVIA:X Series/XBR Series

[ 2006.10.30 up ]

Reviving and refining design identity

LCD panels nearly eclipse the front of LCD TVs, which come in larger and larger sizes. It's enough to discourage any designer working on this product. Is there any space to add a flourish of originality? In the BRAVIA X Series/XBR Series, we see an answer. The floating design that wowed people in WEGA Plasma sets is back, thanks to designers behind the scenes who stood by their convictions, pursuing a distinctive design identity for Sony television sets.

Masayoshi Tsuchiya
Masayoshi Tsuchiya
Sony Digital Design
President
Takuya Niitsu
Takuya Niitsu
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Chief Art Director

Coming out of the dark in TV design

Tsuchiya: At the start of development, I was overseeing home product design. I recall how the BRAVIA X Series/XBR Series took shape in a process totally out of the ordinary. Usually, design development involves the design team deciding on a plan, consulting others in design and product planning, and gaining executive approval as needed. This time, it all began with a design competition. We got started after confirming that everyone involved, all the way to the top, was committed to making the winning design a reality. Focused on the styling keywords minimal, airy, and harmony, seven in-house and independent designers submitted proposals. By Sony standards, that's not many for such a major competition for a single product.

But after all, it was because we were still stuck in trial and error. It felt more like groping in the dark, actually. As the market evolved and LCD TVs became cheaper and more prevalent, TV sets lost character. Despite this, we faced the task of establishing a design identity worthy of the Sony name. We tried various designs, but none made an impact.

We needed a breakthrough, so we changed our design process. Everyone shares a common objective on what to convey through design and how much effort is involved. This enabled a positive approach. Instead of criticizing proposals as too expensive, we looked for other ways to get things done. Ultimately, we chose Takuya Niitsu's "floating design" and set to work bringing it to life.

Enduring appeal of the floating design

Takuya Niitsu

Niitsu: As soon as the competition was announced, I knew my response. For me, a TV set feels like a window frame I peer through to see the world outside. That's how airy and clear I imagine it. So for the floating design, I had created a model before I knew it, without even sketching it first. It was actually the same design concept as in the Plasma WEGA I had worked on in 2002. But four years had passed, and I wanted to revisit the original image with a clear head, take a deep breath, and rethink it.

I also felt this was the ultimate design, unbeatable. If someone presented a better idea in the competition, I was ready to acquiesce. But after many years of designing sets, I came to believe this was the best.

Because we had already used the floating design in real products, I needed to refine it to make it compelling. So I started musing about the fact that LCD sets can be made smaller than Plasma sets of the same picture size. And what if the bezel could be switched...? The potential of color variation was something I mentioned later in my presentation. I titled my design proposal "Timeless." I wanted to make a statement, that people can count on our approach to remain the same, despite the constantly changing landscape of home electronics.

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