Feature Design Active Style Headphones
Feature Design Active Style Headphones

A shell worthy of the pearl

Natsuki Kimura

Kimura: Active Style headphones come in clamshell cases, ready for sales worldwide. Now, although the headphone shapes look simple enough, they represent all kinds of exploration and innovation in design. We wanted the package to convey this.

Shapes, colors, and photos—these three elements make up the packages, broadly speaking. In the shape, we sought to highlight the refreshingly minimal design of these products, so we eliminated any extra embellishments. It's composed of curved lines, reminiscent of the pliant headphone shafts, but it also has straight lines on the base, which is desirable for stocking on shelves. Of course, making it plain and boxy throughout would have been easy, but we didn't compromise about this. Our packaging engineers indulged us quite a bit. In the colors, we avoided colors that are not in the headphones themselves. Just silver, black, and orange, but we took care not to make it too boring. In the package graphics, we sometimes need to include photos of products in use on front. Many products have clearly defined usage scenarios, and North American markets in particular expect this kind of informative packaging. But this time, we took a bold move. Photos of users are now on the back, with a black color scheme on front. In this appealingly simple design, we let the headphones do all the talking.

It's an original set of products, so we tried a new style of packaging. Clamshells are expected to showcase the entire product. But this time, we defied convention by concealing half of the headphones. We tease people by revealing the most attractive portions of each model in a cutaway window. It's an effect that works well with symmetrical products such as these. I think we succeeded in reworking traditional clamshell packaging while letting the products, which are unmistakable examples of Sony style, play the starring role.

Headphone design, an invitation to style

Wada: Enjoying headphones outdoors can be traced back to the original WALKMAN® series. We may pride ourselves that Sony pioneered this product category and has dominated it. And I think some pride in our heritage serves us well, in our stance of taking on one new challenge after another. Over the years, the technology for headphones has crystallized, and there is surprisingly little left that can be freely designed. We face restrictions in the size, and in constituent components, which both affect fit. Regardless, we keep pushing the boundaries of what design can do. And personally, I equate headphone quality with the quality of headphone design.

Jo Wada,Yasuo Yuyama,Jun Komiyama,Natsuki Kimura

For designers, headphones are a very satisfying product to work on. Not many things in industrial design are so close to users, physically. They're virtually extensions of the user's body. These kinds of products can't be described by specifications alone. In glasses, surely people don't think, "As long as I can see, anything is fine." It's only after careful design—accounting for user tastes, scenarios of use, and the requirements for a good fit—that glasses are truly valuable to us as products. For headphones as well, no way is it simply "As long as my music sounds okay." We can invite users to find their own unique style through design, and that's enjoyable. It's the greatest compliment to us if users refuse to part with their favorite headphones, even after replacing their audio player.

Whenever I visit the U.S., I see people listening to headphones while jogging everywhere. Music and fitness go together perfectly well. It's a natural combination. I hope that Active Style headphones bring these scenes to many more places around the world.

*The example of packaging shown is for the U.S. market.

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