Education: Industrial Design
Joined Sony: 2008
Role: Communication Designer
At university, I was enrolled in an industrial design program. But I wasn’t a very serious student, so I can barely remember my design studies (laughs). Rather than focusing on my schoolwork I favored experimenting with video production, which interested me a lot. I connected a computer with a VCR to import video and add effects, and created simple motion logos that I posted on my website. After graduating I joined an ad production company where I started out as a graphic designer. I threw myself into the work in the hopes of learning design from scratch. Even if I wasn’t sure I could do it, I’d raise my hand anyway to participate in things like company-wide competitions. Learning the entire ad production flow while watching the work of various ad industry professionals like producers, copywriters and camera operators up close has really helped me with my current communication design work.
I spent about eight years in the ad industry, but there’s only so much you can learn by looking at clients from the outside. I wanted to be part of more substantial communication, and that’s why I decided on a career change. I chose Sony because I loved Sony products. I’m pretty sure that every aspiring designer in my generation has been captivated by a Sony design at least once. In my job-hunting days at university, I’d go to the Sony Building in Ginza between interviews and info sessions to look at the displays of Sony products. I especially liked the QUALIA series and I still have some catalogs and ads from that series that I’ve kept carefully over the years. I joined Sony because I thought I might as well work for a brand I love.
Right after joining Sony, I worked on communication design for BRAVIA® TVs, including key visuals used in ads and on websites. While I was on a business trip overseas, I saw photos and videos on display that I had personally designed, which gave me a renewed appreciation for what a global brand Sony is. At the same time, I realized the magnitude of my own duties. Later, I was transferred to the UK for about three years, where I was mainly responsible for product communication for audio products like headphones. I coordinated with Sony Headquarters in Tokyo on the production of materials like packaging and photos while working on local promotion with the European marketing team.
Since returning to Japan in 2013, I’ve been charged with communication design as part of the branding of the entire Sony Group. I redesigned the multi-second motion logo that appears in product commercials, for example, under the theme of "a gateway to excitement." I then learned that the same motion logo would also be used as a Group logo in Sony Pictures and Sony Music content as part of the "One Sony" initiative that CEO Hirai has laid out. As a result, I developed the logo into a dynamic animation that tells the story of "entering the gateway to excitement" and can be used for long-form content like movies and music videos without detracting from the entertainment factor to establish a common identity as “One Sony.”
Corporate branding is like creating the external face of the company and involves making a lot of presentations directly to the CEO, which can be pretty nerve-racking. Starting this year, I’ve also been involved in communication design for international consumer events. I do my best to create designs with consistent quality that will satisfy each category’s top management without being too "safe." With regularly held events, I also try to achieve a balance between evolution and preserving past elements. For example, with the banners at the booth entrances, I held onto the previous year’s concept of giving product photos center stage, but I also evolved that concept by switching from a white to a colored background in order to highlight products with distinctive coloring.
We sometimes do creative work in teams consisting of members from different divisions, which makes interdivisional communication crucial. In addition to formal meetings between the responsible parties, we often gather informally in the free spaces to have more casual chats. Because boundaries emerge when there are certain people who give the orders and others who carry out the design work, we try to foster relationships so that we can work on projects as members of the same team. It’s never a case of "I gave you the orders and now it’s your job to create the design." Instead, we’re all members of the same company, so we can engage in barrier-free communication. I think that’s one of the benefits of being an in-house designer.
I’ve been playing baseball since I was a child and belong to an amateur team outside of work. When I was on assignment in the UK, I joined up with other Japanese transfers who were baseball fans to form a team that played against local softball and baseball teams. Recently, some of us at the Creative Center have formed our own baseball team called "Black & Silver" and played in league tournaments against other manufacturers. We even designed our own uniforms. But since everyone on the team is a designer, the discussion of the logo design got very heated. We took it even more seriously than work (laughs). Although we’ve only played in two league tournaments so far, we came in third both times, so our goal is to take first place next time.
Sony will turn 70 next year. In order to invigorate the Sony brand to match the times, I think we need to be constantly taking on new challenges. Even though my background is in graphic design, the scope of my work has expanded further and further to include areas like web, video, and spatial design. Because Sony has a corporate climate that lets employees proactively take on whatever they set their minds to, it’s the perfect environment for pursuing your passions without being tied down to a particular field. A brand can’t stay dynamic unless its employees take on new challenges. That’s why I want to proactively challenge myself and help ensure Sony is a brand with universal appeal.
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