Feature Design Reader Digital Book PRS-505
Feature Design Reader Digital Book PRS-505

Subtractive design reveals the integrity of dedicated devices

Mugura: The PRS-505 has been praised by readers in North America. It's because we focused on a clear development concept—a book for people who love to read—to create the optimal product design and user interface for this dedicated device.

Although these products are classified as readers, internally they're similar to computers. Reprogram them, and you could incorporate all kinds of functions offered by computers. But adding a keyboard or email functionality would make it no different from a PDA. We took the opposite approach by considering potential functions in depth to narrow down what's essential.

In retrospect, I think it was the right choice. It was a nice surprise to hear that even elderly consumers in North America are picking up the PRS-505 to give as a present at Christmas and other occasions. Many older people have purchased a Reader, loaded books they think their spouse would enjoy, and wrapped it up. We can attribute this to its luxurious appearance, integrity as a dedicated device, and intuitive operation.

It's interesting to recall that Sony dared to exclude recording functions in first-generation Walkman cassette players, to create a new style of listening. It's the same for the PRS-505. Product development has truly been a matter of careful subtraction, and we continue to create a new style of reading. In this sense, the product is an excellent example of Sony style.

Sony design, sparked by stimulating and encouraging each other

Kazuto Mugura,Takashi Sogabe

Sogabe: The PRS-505 has been distinguished with many international design awards, including a Red Dot award ("Best of the Best," 2008) and IDEA Gold Award. The Reader's "precision" is cited as a key factor for these awards. In other words, the Reader is refined. The rounded surfaces at right and left, the clean lines of the edge in front, along the right side—these touches were only possible because of the forming technique and material used. Stamping would never produce this sense of high precision, these crisp edges. In this regard, the efforts of engineers who suggested extruded aluminum at the start were significant.

I think this is fundamental in Sony product development. Despite having very attractive product proposals from our designers, obstacles in production and cost often stand in the way of the results we imagine. But Sony has traditionally succeeded in manufacturing what we truly want to make. Top management has themselves carved wooden mock-ups to illustrate the desired size of a product, for example. That's just another example of the hurdles we've cleared by stimulating and encouraging each other, regardless of our position or department.

That's why I, too, appreciate the Sony style in this product. It's the result of people in engineering and UI and product design all channeling their enthusiasm about how they wanted the Reader to be. Honestly, for products of this size, it's hard to ensure extrusion precision, and making the metal dies requires a wealth of expertise. Our engineers overcame the difficulties. The same is true of the details. Plastic buttons would have been cheaper, but we insisted on aluminum, and we even developed pictograms as labels. This simple design represents the collective determination of many people, working toward the kind of product we truly wanted to create.

Admittedly, the PRS-505 may not be a major product for Sony. Still, for contributing designers, it was quite an engaging and satisfying project.

*Walkman and the Walkman logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sony Corporation in Japan and other countries.

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