To celebrate the publication of Sony Design: MAKING MODERN, an exhibition was organized at the Sony Building in Ginza. A pre-event talk was held on April 28. Joining head of Sony Design Yutaka Hasegawa to discuss the spirit of Sony Design and enduring appeal of Sony products were Thomas Lykke, creative director of design studio OEO, and Yasuko Seki, director of TRI+, who served as host. Highlights are presented below.
Entered the design industry after initial work in fashion in Copenhagen and San Francisco. Has enjoyed more than 15 years of success working for leading global brands. Cofounder and creative director of OEO and a regular keynote speaker on design issues.
Design editor. Has developed a freelance editing career building on experience as editor-in-chief of Axis design magazine. Cofounded TRI+ (Triplus) in 2001, dedicated to product development that cultivates a spirit of play, learning, and design in children. Also involved in exhibitions, publishing, and management of workshops and other events. Adjunct lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design.
After joining Sony, was stationed in the United States starting in 1994, where he later helped establish the San Francisco Design Center. Since returning to Japan in 1999, gained extensive experience in R&D design and fields including product, communication, and UI design. Appointed senior general manager of the Creative Center in 2014.
Seki: Today we’ll take a closer look at the spirit of Sony Design and why these products appeal to people. To begin, Yutaka and Thomas will tell us a little about their favorite Sony products.
Hasegawa: The product I chose is called the “Skysensor” ICF-5800, which my father bought for me. It was this series that introduced the new experience of listening to shortwave broadcasts from Japan and around the world. The designers must have thought carefully about how to bring the sophistication of professional equipment to the average user. In all respects – from how the radio feels to its usability – it’s well designed.
We get the same impression from the user manual, which depicts cockpit instrumentation on the front. Here, too, we’re invited to enjoy a new user experience. This approach to design is still very much with us at Sony today, and when we create a new kind of product, we’re also very careful to arrange a fitting new user experience.
Seki: The nature of this experience has no doubt changed a lot as digital products gradually replaced the Skysensor and other analog products. How has Sony ensured a consistent user experience?
Hasegawa: We closely consider the user perspective when creating new experiences, so that the design resonates with people. But of course some products are completely different from others. Products designed for a premium listening experience are quite unlike others designed for enjoying sports or fitness, such as a tennis sensor. That’s why, instead of imposing the same design language on all products, we must apply in-depth knowledge of users from one era to the next, so that products take shape in fitting ways.
Seki: So products are always designed from an intimate awareness of user needs, from one generation to another.
Hasegawa: That’s right. Rather than limiting ourselves to the shapes and forms of the past, we prefer to keep offering fresh user experiences.
Seki: Thomas, can you tell us about the product you chose?
Lykke: I have many favorites, but I have chosen one that brings back my first memories of Sony – the Sports Walkman®. I bought it when I was around 12 years old. To me, this was like freedom of expression. You’ve got a portable stereo that you can bring with you when you’re on the move or playing around, listening to music on your own.
Seki: Walkman was also part of my childhood. As I look at the design now, I see flashes of childhood memories – my emotions and happiness then are directly linked to it. I think that’s the result of Sony designing an experience, not just how products look.
Thomas, we see many other Sony products around us here at the exhibition. May I ask why you think Sony Design appeals to people?
Lykke: I think what Sony products have is character. You can almost say they have a soul – they’re kind of human. You can actually see that in many of the products – they have a kind of sparkle in the eye. The packaging of a product and technology is more relevant than ever, because this is what makes it human, and this is what makes it resonate with your heart. That’s really what I like about Sony Design.
Seki: Seeing this exhibition reminds me once again how Sony has been “making modern,” with design that defines our times. One example I seem to recall is the line of My First Sony products from the late 1980s. At a time when few manufacturers were catering to children, Sony dared to create these products. In the Aibo series, we also see an exploratory, playful side of Sony Design that’s appealing.
Hasegawa: We’ve had our share of successes and failures, but Sony has certainly continued to pioneer new kinds of products. We also apply what we’ve learned in the products you see today, and somehow, those past products may continue to influence the current design landscape.
Lykke: Sony is the epicenter, when you think of innovation and new ways, typologies, within products. You find many of them here in this book. The consistency to keep on, and then you evolve.
Hasegawa: The book invites us to reconsider the promise of Sony Design. From the past and through the present, and then, how should our work evolve in the future?
Seki: The book is surely significant for the broad perspective it provides on Sony products.
Hasegawa: We recently took another look at what Sony Design stands for, and we collected some thoughts in a video titled “Bold Typologies.” With this as our starting line, so to speak, we’ll be taking on more than just making products. We hope to try more exploratory projects, as well, as we introduce new user experiences.
Seki: To wrap up, may I ask you to share any final comments?
Hasegawa: Designers have poured their hearts into each product here at the exhibition, on display or in photos. I invite visitors to see for themselves how Sony Design has evolved through the years.
Lykke: More or less, the technology’s the same. What will differentiate is design – how design interacts with the person, the user. Do I want to work with Sony? Of course! It’s a great asset that Sony is from Japan, because Japan also has a long legacy that goes many, many hundreds of years back – materials, surface, everything. For Sony to take this in a creative way and merge it with technology – that would be truly interesting.
Seki: Thank you both very much. Next year, Sony will celebrate its 70th anniversary. Personally, it’s moving for me to see all these impressive products made by a company that rose from the ashes of postwar Japan. This is truly the place where dreams are made. I look forward to more exciting products and services from Sony in the future.
2015.4.29 - 2015.6.14 *This exhibition has ended.
Sony Building 8F OPUS