Feature Design Active Style Headphones
[ 2008.4.8 up ]

Professional Pride, Setting Another Standard in Design

Grab some headphones, and get ready to enjoy music while working out. Sony, the pioneer of this healthy habit, has new headphones for you. Meet some of the designers who bring us the fresh styling in this nicely varied and distinctive product line. For this new series, we can thank designers who were not content to rest on the laurels of the manufacturer that wrote the book on this product category, but who draw on the same professional pride.

Jo Wada
Jo Wada
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Chief Art Director
Yasuo Yuyama
Yasuo Yuyama
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Producer
Jun Komiyama
Jun Komiyama
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer
Natsuki Kimura
Natsuki Kimura
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Designer

A project driven by motivated designers

Jo Wada

Wada: Wouldn't it be great to enjoy your favorite music as a soundtrack while jogging or working out at the gym? Satisfying this need led Sony to develop the Sports series, introduced years ago in the United States and other areas. This line includes water- and impact-resistant portable radios and audio players, as well as secure-fitting headphones.

As one of the designers assigned to update these venerable headphones, I thought superficial changes to the appearance wouldn't cut it. We couldn't just recycle the same design concepts. After all, the world of fitness has changed a lot over the past few years. Fitness used to mean "training." People were serious about it, and fashion often came second. Today, more people don't mind showing off a little and being seen when they're active. People know they're going to sweat, but they still put on makeup or stylish sportswear before heading off to the health club. And in extreme sports, it's easy to notice the attention to fashion and music.

The best headphone design for today is surely not just a makeover of yesterday's models. We have to reach for new concepts, something original. With this in mind, we re-explored the styling, fit, and even variations in the product line from the design perspective to create Active Style headphones.

At the crossroads of fashion, fitness, and technology

Active Style Headphones

Komiyama: When we took on the design of Active Style headphones, we kept three themes in mind: fashion, fitness, and technology. By "technology," we meant we should pursue compelling structural design. Performance and reliability used to be the main goals of fitness product designers, and their products often ended up looking either too spartan or too gaudy as a result. We're lucky that today, high-tech materials enable very polished styling. At first glance, today's advanced racing bicycles—or even the shaft of golf clubs or fishing poles—appear to be examples of minimal design work. They don't look much different from how they looked years ago. But in use, they are extremely high-performance instruments. Take a closer look, and you notice the attention to materials and details. That's what makes each of them impressive, in their own ways. We thought we should express the same thing in headphone design.

Yuyama: For headphones worn during fitness activities, our first task is ensuring a good fit. They must not fall off easily, even if users move around a lot. But enlarging the pads or applying too much pressure on users' ears is hardly an elegant solution. From the standpoint of design, structurally simple headphones that gently envelop your ears and resist falling off would be desirable. Surprisingly, there were no precedents for the ideal shape. After trying several approaches, we decided on five models of Active Style headphones.

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