Feature Design WALKMAN X Series
[ 2009.5.13 up ]

Uncompromising approach to the basics

The new flagship WALKMAN® is finally here. Portable media players are all about listening, watching, and the supporting controls—essential elements that the X series designers approached with great care. Discerning WALKMAN® fans will find this gem worth the wait.

Daisuke Shiono
Daisuke Shiono
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Producer
Naoto Shimizu
Naoto Shimizu
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Designer
Makoto Niijima
Makoto Niijima
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Producer and Designer
Satoshi Asai
Satoshi Asai
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Designer

Striding past yesterday's WALKMAN®

Shiono: Many people say "WALKMAN" when they mean portable audio players in general. It's a Sony brand with the status of a generic noun. To raise the bar, we're always eager to leverage all of Sony's strengths as an audio-visual electronics manufacturer, for the best in sound and image quality.

With advances in digital technology and the spread of networks, people are looking for something new in these devices. We want products that tap into these wireless networks, for example. Watching music video streams, or downloading video podcasts of all kinds of programs. We want to enjoy this wealth of content easily, wherever we go, without being shackled to a computer.

The possibilities are exciting, and this inspired X series development. Wi-Fi web features, a touch-screen panel, an OLED display, and an "S-Master" digital amp. These new technologies and the latest electronic components form the backbone of this player, the flagship WALKMAN® with uncompromising enhancements to the basics of portable media players: listening, watching, and the supporting controls.

A new take on the identity of an old favorite

Shimizu: I managed product design for the X series, and that's what we kept in mind during development. We were determined to refine the basics, but we exercised restraint and good judgment. Just putting an LCD screen on a player the size of a business card would have made it quite forgettable. With minimal elements in our creative palette, it was not easy to make the WALKMAN® identity clear. This led me to focus on how the buttons are arranged and how the edges are shaped.

Look closely, and you'll notice that all buttons on the X series are round. We decided to maintain consistency with the three-circle layout introduced in the S series. In that player, there's a rhythm in the arrangement of the trio of round buttons, which look enjoyable and convenient. In the X series as well, the Home button and Hold switch, the audio controls on top—all of these remind us of the three-circle layout. You might think that because there's a touch-screen panel, we could eliminate these buttons. Having physical buttons offers some advantages, though. Controlling audio playback while browsing the web or viewing photos. Controlling the player by touch in your pocket while standing during a crowded commute. In this way, the three buttons not only represent WALKMAN® style, they improve usability. You might find the Hold switch especially easy and enjoyable to use, because we were careful about the position, size, and clicking response of this part.

There's another common thread in recent WALKMAN® series design. What makes the previous S series look slim and light is how the edge around the body is shaped. We build on this thinking in the X series, but instead of simply recreating the S series edge shape, we made the corners squarer and the edge bolder by offsetting the seam. The prominent edge contributes to an image unlike the friendly S series. It looks more serious, which seems fitting for the flagship WALKMAN®.

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