Feature Design "Cyber-shot" DSC-T700/T77
Feature Design "Cyber-shot" DSC-T700/T77

Design ideals back in focus: DSC-T700

Keita Hibi

Hibi: I managed product design for the DSC-T700. With 4 GB of built-in storage and a high-resolution LCD screen, this is the flagship of the T series. It serves as a portable photo album, and shooting functions are supplemented by presentation functions.

The idea of a photo album also appears in the DSC-T2, another camera I helped design. The DSC-T2 was designed around a "frame" concept. Here, the silver band around the camera is the basic element that recalls framing subjects in shots and admiring framed photos. We eliminated all elements except the frame to make this model look flat when the cover is shut, and to make the camera as a whole look thinner and smaller.

In developing the DSC-T700, the first thing I considered was whether to retain this frame design. When the product concept is the same, making the character of design consistent would usually be the straightforward approach.

But when the internal structure is different, I think there must also be a shift in design. The new image-stabilizing lens unit is amazingly compact. It was a good opportunity to move away from design for the sake of slimness to design that embodies what slim cameras should be. Getting back to the true ideals we had strayed from in the T series. To do it, I believed we should move away from the thin DSC-T2 image to a sharper image. I ventured to update the design concept itself, and then ask for opinions inside and outside of the company.

As if cut from a sheet of metal

Hibi: The new design concept in the DSC-T700, replacing the "frame" concept, is the appearance of a sheet of metal. Shooting and viewing photos with this kind of metallic shape reflects an air of confidence and a sense of the unexpected, which I think is fitting for the T series. At the same time, sheet metal is a compelling metaphor because it is usually thin, so people will intuitively sense that the camera is slim. But at this stage, my design concept and ideas were only a designer's musings. I had to refine the concept before expressing it in the camera.

I started by sharing the image with product planners and engineers. I showed them a piece of sheet metal the size of the camera and said this was my goal. Even the people who were skeptical at first eventually agreed, saying the choice was inevitable. Personally, I think this process is the most critical stage for designers. Discussions naturally reveal various issues that we can solve.

Take the crisp edges of the DSC-T700, for example. Regular stamping could never convey this impression of sharpness, as if the panels were cut from a solid sheet of metal. To achieve it, our engineers used a process involving alternately forging and cutting the metal. Also, I intentionally offset the front and back panels. This exposes a 1.2 mm cross-section of the front panel when viewed from behind, plenty to convey a sense of the thickness and solidity. While pursuing this sheet metal concept, we were actually trimming down the front surface to keep the camera slim, seeking a sleeker, lighter body. From how we transformed the raw materials to how we applied finishing touches to how we made unseen refinements, our work converged on the theme of sheet metal.

Other than that, it wouldn't be an overstatement to say I did nothing else. Details such as the button shapes naturally fell into place, because of the image of being cut from a sheet of metal. Still, I was careful about fine-tuning the shade of black on back to match the various color options. Next to some body colors, jet black would have looked cold without a little adjustment. Clear and simple design can weaken the overall image of products unless we use a delicate touch in all details.

Feature Design Cybershot DSC-T700/T77
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