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Observations from experience
inspire better design

Satoshi Akagawa

Education: Postgraduate degree in environmental design
Joined Sony: 2001
Role: User Interface Designer

Making data visual,
to shape
products and consumer lifestyles

As an undergraduate, I studied visualization of GPS data in the field of remote sensing. My interest in how to use this data in products and everyday situations led me to study environmental design in graduate school. Outside of school, I enjoyed designing websites, graphics, and posters with friends who shared my taste in music. These projects actually improved my communication skills, and I also found myself simplifying the concepts and design theories I was studying for others to understand. The experiences have helped me a lot in product development with people who have different backgrounds and perspectives.

Choosing Sony for impressive,
advanced UI design and products

Studying environmental design kindled an interest in the ties between people and things, environmental interaction, and how to express these concepts visually, which I hoped I could pursue in my career. At a job fair, I was impressed by some advanced and intriguing Sony interfaces and products on display, and I decided to join the company. I also sensed that I could grow as a person by working at a global company with such an interesting and diverse workforce. It seemed like a wonderful environment.

Always innovating,
in design across products and categories

I began by contributing in design for Airboard wireless broadband TVs. And over the next four years, I helped bring an interface that’s now familiar – the XrossMediaBar (XMB™) – to products such as the PSX®, Blu-ray™ recorders, and an HTPC VAIO®. After this, I helped develop the UI for our first touch-screen Cyber-shot™ and our first α™ interchangeable lens camera. In design, α cameras presented us with the challenges of a new category. It took much trial and error, but it was a memorable project.

Then I produced UI design for Reader™ e-book readers and Bloggie™ MP4 cameras at our L.A. and San Diego offices for about three and a half years, starting in 2009. These were comprehensive design projects, encompassing not only software – what you see on the screen – but also online services. The experience made me a more well-rounded designer. Once I returned to Japan, I took on home audio systems for Latin America. We imagined how speaker illumination could pulse in sync with the beat, and how to combine colors in light shows. I think the industry has never seen a system with such refreshing variety in the colors of lights and patterns of light shows.

My next UI design work was for lens-style cameras you can control with a smartphone. You can also detach them from phones to hold them freely, and this freedom in composing shots and finding the perfect angle is unprecedented. We pushed the boundaries in having fun with cameras. We had wanted to write this new chapter in photography for some time, so I remember how happy we were once the cameras were ready. In projects for small cameras, we unified our UI design – from compacts to DSLRs – so that even beginners can confidently gain shooting skills.

Seeking exciting,
enjoyable interfaces

In UI design, we sort out and visualize operations and on-screen information so that you can easily use products right away, without relying on a manual. We make it easy to do what you want and find what interests you. Exciting you or earning your admiration when you first notice the product interface is especially important. We think of how to make the interface entertaining, and interaction fun.

When I design in new fields, I buy a similar product and try it, instead of just wondering about it. I think of how to avoid any inconveniences in use, and I imagine ways to make it more interesting. These observations and inspirations are important in design.

No single office can do it alone:
the importance of teamwork

UID closely relates to hardware structures and operations, so we must stay in contact with those in industrial design, planning, and engineering. Kickoff workshops have recently been introduced, and everyone in product development attends. We brainstorm, look for promising ideas, and explore product design and the direction to take. No single office could create a product alone; teamwork is essential.

Finding time to play ball
and take hikes

I’m also on a Sony baseball team that plays against others in an amateur league. I grew up playing baseball, and even now, I play about once a month. Another pastime is hiking, and some friends and I recently trekked Japan’s Northern Alps.

Aspiring to design exciting,
trendsetting entertainment

Walkman® was truly revolutionary. Listening on the go changed not only the style of listening but also consumer lifestyles themselves. Taking on UI design in new product categories that bring people exciting, trendsetting entertainment is my dream.

A day of a designer

9:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00
Start working, check email
Regular meeting with San Francisco team members
Lunch with coworkers
Design work
Discussion with product planners and engineers
Talk with business partners overseas
Design work
Prepare for tomorrow's presentation
Leave work