On December 1 this year, Sony released the world's first* TV with an OLED panel. People are talking about the set's vivid picture and svelte screen—about 3 mm at thinnest, including external parts. Tune into this episode of our designer interviews to see how the Sony ideal of groundbreaking yet elegantly simple design is reflected in the advanced XEL-1.
Yokota: I was surprised the first time I saw an organic (OLED) panel. It was barely even there, just 1 mm thin. I didn't sense the depth at all; images on TV just floated in the air. And the picture quality was impressive. It was a designer's dream, to contribute to product design for the world's first OLED TV with that panel—the XEL-1. So when I began sketching, I knew I wanted the set to excite and surprise users immediately, just as I had been amazed.
But the more I sketched and the more refinements I dreamed up, the farther I got from the ideal thinness and lightness. With regular LCD panels, you're working with a component that has some substance, so making the bezel look slimmer or more attractive can enhance the appearance. But with organic panels, the component itself is extremely thin. Embellishing the bezel or other parts around it just diminishes the appealing thinness.
Finally, I went back to the drawing board and realized the answer was an appearance that's simple and definitive. Whenever people catch a glimpse of the XEL-1, no matter how small the photo online or in newspapers, they'll instantly recognize it. That was my goal. In its simplest form, the TV set would have a base and a central arm supporting the panel. To reinforce the impression of the organic panel's thinness and lightness, I considered a slender arm, but somehow, it didn't look innovative. As long as the arm was centered, it would still have the familiar silhouette of TVs and monitors, not a new, iconic image. After realizing this, I made a bold decision and moved the arm to one side.
I had wanted to try an offset arm for some time, in fact. For this aesthetic, I took a cue from architecture and interior design. In spaces, asymmetrically arranged pillars. In chairs, a cantilever support. Breaking free from the sense of balance we're used to can stimulate us and reveal beauty from a new angle. I wanted to apply this approach in my own design work.
Yokota: Of course the set must showcase the picture quality when you're watching TV. But even when it's off, the set is a work of art, no matter how you look at it. Organic panels have a particular sheen when off, unlike LCD panels, so we chose glossy black as the main body color. This integrates the screen, bezel, and base nicely, and it also makes the set dissolve perfectly into the surrounding decor as light reflects off it. The new remote design also matches the image of the XEL-1. After all, when you're enjoying such a sleek TV, it would be disappointing to hold a bulky remote.
Designing without excessive design—that was my own, personal mission throughout XEL-1 development. It's a kind of "subtractive design." And I think the new style of the offset arm succeeds in creating an iconic image for this unprecedented product. An image everyone recognizes as "the Sony OLED TV" at a glance, even from far away. In other TV sets over the years, people have sometimes asked me where the designer's touch is. But in the XEL-1, a distinctive style is clear, and all the hard work was worth it.