Feature Design S-Frame
[ 2009.6.30 up ]

Timeless design, at the gateway to memories

Sony has pioneered and pushed the boundaries of digital imaging for years. "S-Frame" has proven to be another popular product in this tradition since these digital photo frames were introduced in 2008. The line aptly frames the designers' ideas about the essence of photos and the potential of digital photo frames, their starting point in this project.

Daisuke Ishii
Daisuke Ishii
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Producer,Creative Producer, Sony Marketing (Japan) Inc.
Katsuhisa Hakoda
Katsuhisa Hakoda
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Designer
Shingo Kurokawa
Shingo Kurokawa
Sony Creativeworks
Designer
Koji Arai
Koji Arai
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Designer
Miho Akita
Miho Akita
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Designer

Looking beyond photo viewers

Ishii: The "S-Frame" line was created in 2008. For us it was a long-awaited launch. After all, Sony was one of the first companies to anticipate the fun of digital photo frames. We had released the CyberFrame (PHD-A55) back in 1999. Digital cameras were not as prevalent then, though, and the frame's internal components were costly. The product was ahead of its time, so we had to wait a while before resuming development.

Now, digital photo frames are no longer unusual. Unfortunately, the materials of most frames on the market are hardly attractive, and they're presented as novelties of technology. Most notable, none of them is better than a simple photo viewer, for playing images. Under the circumstances, our first step before relaunching Sony frames was to rethink what digital photo frames should be. We ultimately decided that because photos are the next best thing to memories themselves, we wanted our frames to be a way to revisit those moments and remember how you felt, instead of merely viewers for looking at digital photos. On a practical level, this involved a little ingenuity in the user interface, which offers clocks and calendars. "S-Frame" design thus stems from guidelines that integrate this user interface design nicely into the overall industrial design.

Minimalist design gives center stage to photos

Ishii: Industrial design for the frames introduced last year was determined after a related design competition at Sony. A key concept from the competition was that after all, what should play the leading role in digital photo frames is digital photos. To showcase the images presented, we sought frames of the simplest, most minimal forms. We expressed this by covering the front of the frame with a single clear panel. This gives an appearance more like a black glass panel than an ordinary picture frame. In V series frames, a semi-reflective coating is applied outside the image "window." This created our desired effect of images appearing to float on a mirror. The style is also used in this year's X series frames, and it defines the visual identity of the "S-Frame" line.

A quantum leap to the X series in 2009

Hakoda: We were already into our second year of "S-Frame" models developed from these concepts. How could we maintain the minimalist aesthetic while expressing a sense of freshness and innovation? That was my task when managing industrial design for 2009 models. New X series frames would also be thicker, from the high-definition LCD panel. To keep the frames looking sleek, it would be critical to apply effective design. We resolved all these issues at once in the X series by creating surfaces that taper toward the edges. You can notice this when comparing the new and old frames from an angle. Besides demonstrating minimalist style in a compact body, previous models have clean, chiseled edges. This would make the X series look quite thick, so we took the opposite approach. We deliberately stretched the bezel outward, making the edge thinner, which asserts a sense of presence while slimming down the frame. The outer edge defining the frame is also narrow, and rounded. Ambient light captured along the edge further accentuates the frame's slender profile.

X series frames alone have a front panel of glass instead of acrylic. It was a logical choice. We wanted a smoother front surface, and we needed a material strong enough to withstand being sealed to the screen with resin (to prevent glare). Using resin sealing for an LCD panel this large is probably unprecedented, but the benefit is clear. It reduces glare dramatically. Images look as clear as if they were taped to the glass surface of the frame. And the smoothness of the glass enhances the general feeling of quality, enabling a luxurious finish.

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