Feature Design WALKMAN® S Series
Feature Design WALKMAN® S Series

Requirements for an iconic WALKMAN® design

Feature Design WALKMAN® S Series

Ichikawa: From my position overseeing the design work, what I was looking for in the S series was the embodiment of the quintessential Sony design. But unfortunately, there are no guidebooks out there telling us how to make the quintessential Sony design, or even what exactly that is. One method was the use of the stick controller shape, a symbol of the WALKMAN®, in the sports models. Meanwhile, in the NW-S700F/S600 series, the curved surfaces hold a powerful allure. Across the front and back and over every area, it seems as though a secret narrative is being told. The design is simple yet intense.

I think that both are quintessential WALKMAN® designs. Since the WALKMAN® is a brand with a long history, many different models have been produced over the years. However, it seems to me that all these models have the same design objective. Put simply, our objective is to design an icon. The S series continues this tradition--the design is instantly memorable; indeed, anyone can redraw it themselves from memory. But the danger inherent in such a design is that it will be so simple that the manufacturer and brand will be unclear, and it will leave no impression at all. To be iconic, a design must have both simplicity and identity. This is what makes it so difficult to create. This is what makes it so powerful.

Normally, the originality of a brand with a history as long as the WALKMAN® portable audio players will fade or be diluted as the product type matures. Too many extras are added to the design in an attempt to innovate, and the original iconic qualities are weakened. But the WALKMAN® does not fall into this trap: rather, it continues to be an iconic design with a high level of originality. The S series skillfully continues and evolves this tradition.

An advantage in the ability to turn designs into reality

Yosuke Shimizu

Shimizu: No matter how original or iconic the qualities in a design, it means nothing if they cannot be realized in the actual product. Batteries and audio circuits are usually boxy or plate-like, and fitting them into a stick-type container was achievable only thanks to the enthusiasm of our engineers.

The same was true for the jog shuttle. If it had not been for this design, it would have been easy to make the model waterproof. But in our design, a lever was positioned to on the inner side of the jog shuttle and directly connected to the internal structure of the stick, so that the movement was transmitted mechanically. With this structure, we could not make it waterproof. When our engineers tackled this problem, they had to design a new magnetic sensor. The use of magnetic detection to control the movement of the jog shuttle eliminated the need for a direct mechanical connection. Even if the jog shuttle is removed, there is no hole in the stick, and only a spring is needed to retain the shuttle and produce click operation. The effects and reliability of this new device had to be tested thoroughly, which put a lot of strain on the engineering team. We designers were very lucky to have such committed engineers.

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