Feature Design VAIO P Series
[ 2010.6.14 up ]

A vivid sense of presence

“VAIO” P Series ultraportables made a splash in 2009 after launch, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how different the new generation looks. With a matte finish and striking colors that entice us to hold and behold them, these mini notebooks tell us that the potential of the “VAIO” line is beginning to unfold.

Takahiro Tsuge
Takahiro Tsuge
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Producer
Soichi Tanaka
Soichi Tanaka
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Senior Designer

Expanding horizons in the P Series

Tsuge:We knew that updating the “VAIO” P Series would not be easy. This was the second phase after a successful launch last year, and the design was already quite polished. We couldn't meddle with what was already fine. And the internal layout was so carefully arranged and highly integrated that we had little freedom in design.

Still, we needed something fresh, with impact. We were also looking to expand the horizons of the P Series, so to speak. These are ultraportables, so they should withstand a little rough handling. We viewed this update as an opportunity to satisfy on-the-go needs.

Toward this end, one theme in development was vividness, literally and figuratively. Vivid colors seem dynamic and full of vitality, and demonstrating a vivid sense of presence through distinctive shapes and functions is also a worthwhile goal for the “VAIO” line. In response to my abstract ideas, Soichi suggested an approach that would take us in quite a different direction in design.

The courage to swim against the current

Tanaka:Normally, distinctive structures or functions might be our starting point in design. But this time the shape yielded no clues. So what could we do? I tried the opposite approach—considering superficial instead of structural or functional design. The surface finish might reveal what statement we should make in design.

Luxurious, glossy finishes have graced the P Series so far. Although this kind of finish can add an air of elegance, fingerprints or smears bother some people. And especially because this model has a new gesture-based interface and was conceived to be held in both hands in transit, we knew people would touch it more than ever. If so, surely fingerprints would be less noticeable on a matte finish. People wouldn't need to worry about smudges, and combined with vivid colors, the matte finish would offer a fresh look in computers.

Acting on this plan, however, took a lot of courage. In computers, glossy finishes are everywhere. In fact, we pioneered this trend through “VAIO” computers, seeking richer colors. It was easy to anticipate resistance from within the company if we bucked the trend by adopting vivid colors and a matte finish. Some might complain that it cheapened the appearance, and some would urge us to make it look more luxurious. The only way to convince them and bring my concept to life was to show what this matte finish inevitably led to in design. The moment my colleagues saw it, they must know that this is how it had to be.

Starting with the matte finish, I considered pursuing my design ideas directly, following my intuition. Ultimately, I decided I was seeking the image of soft cloth wrapped around a black, solid-looking screen. Unlike the almost metallic sheen of glossy finishes, matte finishes call to mind the soft textures of rubber, cloth, or leather. And by extension, an action associated with these soft materials is wrapping things up to protect them. In fact, whenever I take “VAIO” notebook prototypes with me, I place a large sheet between the keyboard and LCD screen, and then I roll the bundle up to protect it. You might say that I transferred this instinctive, familiar behavior directly into my design approach.

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