Feature Design Monolithic Design
[ 2010.3.8 up ]

How timeless philosophy sparks innovation

Home entertainment products should be a welcome presence in our living room for years. That's why they must embody something essential and not look outdated as new trends emerge. Enduring qualities help these products blend in well and constantly satisfy us. But designers must also capture something new, something that makes us want to update our living room—even our entertainment habits themselves. One way Sony resolves this paradox is through Monolithic Design.

Fumiya Matsuoka
Fumiya Matsuoka
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Executive Art Director
Yuki Kubota
Yuki Kubota
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Designer
Akio Suzuki
Akio Suzuki
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Manager
Shusuke Eshita
Shusuke Eshita
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer
Kazuto Nishizawa
Kazuto Nishizawa
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Designer
Daigo Maesaka
Daigo Maesaka
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Designer

Answers lie back at the beginning

Matsuoka: From the beginning, Sony has stood for doing the unprecedented and staying one step ahead. These principles motivate us to strive for originality, inspire new consumer lifestyles, show the beauty of functionality, and emphasize usability—our design philosophy. All of this is fundamental to our work as designers, and they remain constant goals of ours.

Before designing home entertainment products for 2010, I wanted us to rethink design and take a fresh look at these elements of our philosophy. Our goal was design surpassing traditional trends and techniques, and design that can shape consumer values and lifestyles. In other words, design that can realign people's values. With this in mind, we set to work.

In creative work, we draw on our own experiences and sensibilities to express ourselves. But groundbreaking inspiration rarely strikes if we face the same routine every day. That's why our first step was to send some designers to other locations around the world to collect ideas for exploration. I knew that their inspirations, aesthetic discoveries, and exciting experiences there would expand their creative repertoire and prove indispensable in design development.

As soon as they returned, we discussed product qualities they felt people should appreciate. What design themes should be reflected in new Sony home entertainment products? We discussed many potential directions to take, many ideas for textures, colors, and so on. Yuki's proposal in particular struck a chord with me—the concept of a single panel.

In its purest form, a panel or monolith has no extraneous elements at all. It's primitive and directly conveys its inherent nature. For this reason, upright panels look attractive and powerful. As timeless, fundamental forms, panels don't bend to fashion, so to speak. They can stimulate people, enticing us to update our décor and the style in our lifestyle.

The adjective monolithic is also used in reference to integrated circuits, which have various components integrated onto a single chip. For our own purposes, we reinterpreted the word as "something dense, intelligent, and high-performance," and I think this matches the direction we're taking in new home entertainment products. In the end, we built on Yuki's idea of a single panel and distilled the overall design concept for these products down to our version of Monolithic Design.

Destroying and creating iconic design

Kubota: In television design, normally you start with the functionality for watching video images and then consider how to present it in an original way. This time was different. What I designed first was the sense of presence the physical object conveys. An attractive upright stance, and the aura of freshness and pleasant tension this evokes. Then I had to imagine how to encapsulate the television functionality within this abstract framework.

We faced two tasks. Narrowing it down to the purest expression of an instrument for watching video images, with all needless details gone. And then, ensuring it's beautiful even when off. This meant rethinking what makes TVs look like TVs—the stand and bezel design. What I visualized at this point was the simple image of a glass panel resting on a solid metal bar.

Stand design generally entails making stands more compact and less noticeable. But through Monolithic Design, we abandoned these rigid preconceptions and chose a simple aluminum bar to support the screen. Other examples in this series of televisions express the gestalt of Monolithic Design more abstractly, as in models dominated by a glass screen in front. To make it happen, our engineers worked diligently to develop new production techniques. Thanks to this, it gives the impression of being a sleek, simple glass panel when off, and images seem to radiate from the front surface of the glass when it's on.

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