Feature Design Sony Tablet
[ 2011.10.12 up ]

Forget Preconceptions, Remember What's Important

An appearance that breaks free from the familiar. Usability that builds on insight about user needs. The time for “Sony Tablet” has come. See how the careful work of many designers unfolded after the team took a fresh look at what's important in tablets.

Minoru Shimizu
Minoru Shimizu
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Producer
Yuki Kubota
Yuki Kubota
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Designer
Naoki Ogishita
Naoki Ogishita
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Designer
Junichiro Sakata
Junichiro Sakata
Sony Creativeworks
Art Director and Designer
Kazuma Takahashi
Kazuma Takahashi
Sony Creativeworks
Interaction Architect
Kanae Fukamatsu
Kanae Fukamatsu
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Senior Designer
Takeshi Ichimura
Takeshi Ichimura
Sony Creativeworks
Designer
Satoshi Ono
Satoshi Ono
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer

Questioning existing iconic design

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Shimizu:“Sony Tablet” is more than just hardware. They're the user experience itself. The pleasant surprises and discoveries each gesture reveals, the plentiful network services—a series of coordinated reactions triggered by touch. To make it happen, many designers in diverse fields tried a range of approaches.

First we considered the shape. Mention tablet computers, and most people probably imagine a slab dominated by a large screen, but aren't other shapes conceivable? We studied this issue starting from a clean slate, so to speak.

We focused on the action of holding a tablet. Holding a tablet with a big screen in the palm of your hand as you use it over an extended period is quite uncomfortable. Surely we could reduce the physical stress through a well-thought-out shape. Ease of holding was our point of departure in exploring new tablet shapes.

Practical and original: an offset center of gravity

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Kubota:We sought a shift in tablet design values, hoping people appreciate devices that feel light more than devices that look slim. After a few ideas were proposed and studied in mock-ups, we settled on the asymmetric offset center of gravity design used in ”Sony Tablet” S.

Viewed from the side, “Sony Tablet” S is wedge-shaped. This shape makes sense for three reasons. First, even if two devices weigh the same, the one with a center of gravity closer to your hand will feel lighter. Second, devices are easier to hold when they have the right amount of thickness. Board-shaped devices either rest on your palm or are held between your fingers, which makes them feel even heavier. In contrast, you can cradle the thicker edge of a wedge-shaped device comfortably in your hand, where the center of gravity rests, distributing the weight better. And third, the wedge props the screen up to a better viewing angle when the tablet is placed on a table or other flat surface.

Before thinking along these lines, we visualized several scenarios with people enjoying content on a tablet. One image we turned to for inspiration was a person holding a magazine or paperback with the cover folded over. Many of us do this without thinking, whether to hold magazines more easily or to concentrate on what we're reading at the moment. I had a hunch that drawing inspiration from an unconscious, routine action such as this would lead to a shape that's universal and inevitable.

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Still, I was concerned that without some finesse, a wedge-shaped tablet might seem bulky at its thickest part. To make the tablet look less substantial, we created a silhouette resembling something wrapped in a sheet of paper. It's also a practical shape. Not only does this "enfolded" appearance keep the screen neat—with buttons, ports, and speakers tucked under the top layer—it helps you avoid pressing buttons by mistake, or blocking the speakers. Especially in a handheld product, this attention to detail greatly affects how comfortable it feels in use.

Although the shape might be called iconic in its own right, there's no trace of embellishment. After all, the star of the show on a tablet should be your content.

A singular dual-screen tablet

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Ogishita:“Sony Tablet”“Sony Tablet” P is a unique model with dual 5.5-inch screens. We sought a model that would be even easier to use on-the-go than “Sony Tablet” S, so the themes we explored when deciding the shape revolved around mobility, ease of holding, and lightness.

Folding devices often call to mind a clamshell format, with two panels that fold in, on top of each other. This format is not particularly comfortable in your hand, though, and the body looks thick. How could we move away from this style, in a tablet that looks like a Sony product? We took a cue from “Sony Tablet” S, with its wraparound contours as a meaningful design element. In “Sony Tablet” P, we chose an oval silhouette that's comfortable to hold. Visually, a silver sheet of paper seems to wrap around the body. But with a simple oval, we couldn't avoid a bulky appearance. That's why we adjusted subtle details—gradually altering the curvature, for example—for a lighter look.

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One bold stroke to split this oval ingot, and we have two clean surfaces for the screens, where you can focus on content. As with “Sony Tablet” S, there are no buttons or labeling on the screen surfaces. So where are the controls, LEDs, and so on? Neatly integrated in the space where the top and bottom covers meet. We sought a seamless, minimalist appearance as much as possible (by concealing screw holes, for example) but also a shape with impact.

You can use each screen for different purposes. Enjoy content on top and access controls and other UI elements on bottom. This is another advantage that sets “Sony Tablet” P apart.

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