Sony Style is Sony's worldwide retail chain. As close points of contact for Sony, the stores set the scene for the convergence of merchandise, markets, and consumers. And here, products and services are presented true to the developers' original intentions. In the field of visual communication, ambitious design work for the chain is larger in scale than national or even regional projects. Read how designers are refining these retail venues.
Kawagoi: What you see in Sony products is only one aspect of our work as designers. How you experience them—how easy or enjoyable they are to use, for example—is also a matter of design we focus very carefully on. But this experience itself is intangible, and we can't convey it to you unless you pick up a product and try it. Good communication design in retail settings invites you to do just this.
Sony already enjoys a global retail presence. At Sony Style stores, we can present products in our own settings. They set the stage for us to design new shopping experiences with a sense of consistency, before and after purchases. Besides taking on product development, our designers must also consider how you experience products in the market. And toward this end, it has been a mission of ours to take the initiative in communication design.
What this commitment entails at our retail chain wasn't simply a matter of designing the store appearance. From consistent store logo usage to how you receive your products, we must design the overall brand experience itself.
To make it happen, my visual communication team worked with Masaaki's visual merchandising team. We chose a phrase already familiar in North America as the store name—Sony Style. Showing you the sheer volume of Sony products available is only part of our goal. We hope the stores lead you to imagine how Sony has a special place in your life.
Oka: I draw on experience in business and design consulting and project management, with an emphasis on architecture. My past projects have included offices and other facilities in Tokyo and overseas. You might say I specialize in hubs of activity, of one kind or another.
What's critical in these projects is good knowledge management design, which we apply to establish guidelines, share expertise, and so on. This kind of design work laid the cornerstone for Sony Style stores, and our guidelines took the form of a Store Book. After reading it, our local project leaders would know what kind of places we had in mind. We start by introducing Sony design philosophy, the significance of establishing a retail presence, and what valuable experiences we hope to provide visitors, among other information. Through the booklet, we hoped to share the basic thinking behind Sony Style. It also describes design in the process of building retail settings, which is presented clearly as a roadmap. We ensured that even project leaders new to store development could take on this work with confidence.
Mention retail guidelines, and some people think of franchise stores. Franchise blueprints tend to cover everything, from the shape of handrails down to the last screw. Anyone could follow these rules to build exactly the same store, anywhere. But our Store Book isn't like this at all. Instead, it focuses on how to develop stores that allow us to bring people and products together through design. We were rejecting "franchise style," you see, which seems out of character for Sony. After all, Sony respects local individuality and originality, and we take localization very seriously. People's tastes are hardly the same in New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, for example, and different areas call for different marketing plans. Still, if you visit different Sony Style stores, you'll find that despite a distinctive flair, there's a common ambiance. This was intentional.
In this sense, we see store-building as much more than laying down a simple framework. We take a collaborative stance in communication design and visual merchandising design with our local representatives. But I must admit, this work does keep me running to all corners of the globe.