Education: Industrial Design
Joined Sony: 2008
Role: User Interface Designer
Studying industrial design at school gave me a chance to learn about design with a mix of user interface elements. As a student, I loved creative projects. Even outside of class, I took on projects of all kinds, whether music or visual art. Working for a musical instrument manufacturer was my first job after graduation, and product and UI design for electronic instruments and AV products was just the start. I contributed design for logos, event displays and more. One new project I helped launch even aimed to create musical instruments of the future. I was hired as a product designer, but I eventually produced a wide range of work, because it’s in my nature to try my hand at everything. At Sony, I'm in UI design, but this interdisciplinary experience forms the basis for my current work.
I first thought of joining Sony after seeing their webpage on interaction development. The page introduced exploratory work blending product and UI design, and I greatly admired the futuristic prototypes. I wanted to try designing where people didn’t hesitate to explore new things. At the time, Sony was releasing AIBO, Glasstron, and other exciting products. They were unique, and I was impressed.
After joining Sony, I contributed as a member of an interaction development team in projects involving sound and illumination. Our illumination prototyping led to a wholly new, organic-looking lighting display with a row of LEDs that mimicked the complex play of light on water. Its potential was recognized at Sony and ultimately incorporated into a Blu-ray Disc™ surround-sound system that lights up gracefully in sync with disc or volume operations, or when you play music. This was our attempt to bring a visual dimension to listening experiences, and the first time I had the opportunity to contribute at every stage – from development and prototyping, to proposal and implementation.
BRAVIA® TVs feature more advanced, nuanced illumination from an LED unit called the Intelligent Core. Here, I took on and implemented a hybrid UI combining LED lighting and the set’s graphical user interface. Imagine that you’re playing something on a mobile phone and perform an operation to send it wirelessly to the TV, to watch it on the TV screen. You experience the transfer of content from one place to another through a combination of LED lighting and on-screen graphics. Synchronized on-screen graphics and off-screen illumination signals a variety of modes on BRAVIA® sets. In this way, I wanted to make the UI a more substantial, tangible part of the user experience.
As you can see by my own design work appearing in home theater systems and BRAVIA® TVs, an advantage of working in design at Sony is that designers are behind all kinds of product features. This shows the fertile ground for design to flourish at Sony. It’s a place to express your own unique ideas to the fullest extent.
With an idea of the kind of user experience we want to offer, we hold meetings between product planners, engineers, and designers. These meetings help us put together the design and how users will relate to products. Designers themselves sometimes describe how a product fits in the user’s life, and the answers to development issues emerge over the course of meetings every week or so. I try to make my own presentations interesting and enjoyable, which resembles goals in product design itself. While designing, I always try to imagine users smiling and having fun.
As a student, I got into making music on my laptop, and it’s something I still enjoy today. What motivated me initially was winning the grand prize in a remixing contest. It was the first time I had entered any contest, and after that I was hooked. By sampling different sounds of water – rivers, bathtubs, and even toilets – I’ve made songs entirely out of these sounds. Now I play my music to accompany my UI design demonstrations, which shows how personal interests can spill over into and enrich your work.
Of course, a product’s GUI is only one means to an end, and we wouldn’t need any at all if – in the case of a TV – the next thing we wanted to watch simply appeared automatically. After we narrow down what kinds of user experiences would be satisfying, I personally think the ideal GUI would be no GUI at all. What keeps interaction design interesting is arranging more natural user experiences, with a human touch. In GUI design and through sound, light, and tactile feedback, we guide people’s behavior, and we modulate this feedback so that it resonates with them. As for me, I’ll keep looking for signs of what the future holds in interface design, hoping to lead users efficiently – and enjoyably – to their goal.
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