Sony Mobile
corporate vision

Designing a
corporate identity

Sony Mobile Communications (Sony Mobile) has a new corporate vision: "Experiences beyond imagination for the dedicated and passionate."
What goes into creating a new vision, though? Behind the scenes, designers transcended their traditional fields,
proposed a redefinition of the corporate vision to the company president, and played an important role in the project—from design to implementation.
We sat down with Sony Mobile President Mitsuya Kishida and members of the project team
for a behind-the-scenes look at how the corporate vision took shape.

Maesaka,
Senior Art Director,
Sony Creative Center

Kishida,
Representative Director and President,
Sony Mobile Communications Inc.

Kessoku,
Executive Manager, General Manager,
Corporate Planning Department,
Corporate Planning & Control Division,
Sony Mobile Communications Inc.

Eshita,
Design Producer,
Sony Creative Center

Building a
common mindset

A corporate vision is a banner for the company, an ideal for the business to rally around. The effort to redefine the Sony Mobile vision started with a proposal from a designer.

MaesakaI took the role of directing key visuals, promotional videos, and communication design for the Xperia™ smartphone brand. One of the challenges we'd been facing was uneven communication planning—it's hard to get consistency when you've got lots of different project members and different subcontractors in the mix. We came up with some proposals to help smooth everything out and keep the Xperia brand consistent, but it was challenging to get employees on the same page globally. With commoditization transforming the smartphone landscape, meanwhile,there were worries that we weren't creating products with Sony's unique identity.

As we started thinking about how to turn the tides, we eventually came around to the corporate vision: if we could redefine the core philosophy for the whole company, we figured, the company might be able to regroup and start moving in the right direction. It wasn't like there was no corporate vision, of course, but what the company did have was pretty abstract, which didn't seem to be getting through to employees. We decided to approach President Kishida, who'd just taken the helm. We told him that redefining the corporate vision to unite the employees in a clearer, more concrete mindset would give the company a better chance of winning in the smartphone market, and we asked him if we could set up some brainstorming workshops to get the ball rolling.

KishidaMaesaka's proposal was a wakeup call. I could tell that he wanted to overhaul the whole Xperia brand, and I knew that was exactly what we needed. I'd actually been part of the team that set up Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, which later grew into Sony Mobile, so taking over at Sony Mobile felt a lot like coming home to me. When I took a good look at the company, the first thing I noticed was that the stiff competition in the smartphone market hadn’t sapped anyone's drive—every employee was just as passionate as ever about making great devices. I could tell that Sony Mobile had almost everything you could ask for, from technological prowess and sales expertise to top-notch marketing capabilities. What it didn't have, though, was a vision that brought all those elements together. If we had a stronger identity, we could really tap into all that amazing potential. That’s why we had to push Maesaka’s proposal forward—with market dynamics and social changes always in flux, we needed something that'd keep the whole company locked in to a consistent, coherent track.

Things moved quickly from there. At a general meeting of all Sony Mobile employees, I announced that we'd be redefining the corporate vision and unveiling the new statement at the MWC19 Barcelona, the world’s largest international exhibition for the mobile industry. I asked the design team to spearhead the project to formulate the new vision, and they agreed to lead the way.

Finding the
company's pulse

The brainstorming workshops for new corporate-vision ideas assembled a variety of Sony Mobile personnel, including President Kishida and management representatives from the company's various divisions. Also on hand, of course, were designers—and they were in charge of the workshop activities.

EshitaHeading into the workshops, we teamed up with Sony Mobile personnel and people from an agency specializing in meeting facilitation. We needed a process to help the group arrive at a corporate vision that'd resonate with management and the rest of the organization. Our focus was on getting management to open up about their views and bounce ideas back and forth; we wanted to distill the commonalities in all that input, deriving a concrete vision with a unifying pull.

We decided to take things slow. Instead of holding one big meeting and launching right into the "vision" idea from the get-go, we decided to do a series of workshops and start off with smaller-scale starter questions like "What does 'premium' mean to you?" and "What's the difference between the 'ordinary' and the 'extraordinary?'" That would get the ideas flowing and lead into the bigger, core narrative. To make the talks as productive and candid as possible, we also focused on seating assignments—putting tables of people together based on how they'd match up. We also knew that the discussions had to speak for the whole company, so we took surveys of the entire workforce to find out what kind of organization they wanted Sony Mobile to be. Every employee had a voice in shaping the conversation, giving us a solid base to build the workshop program on.

KessokuI remember hearing the designers say that what Sony Mobile needed was a vision. It was the moment I'd been waiting for—a chance to delve deep into a vital discussion. As one of the Sony Mobile representatives on the workshop-design team, I approached the process determined to make the workshops a way for us to start transforming. To do that, we had to give management a forum where they'd be able to say what they really felt and get to the real heart of the issue. It was great having the designers on board, especially with the consistent focus they brought to the table—they always put the customer perspective first. The lineup of questions we developed for the workshops is a good example. If it’d been just Sony Mobile people writing the questions, I'm sure we would’ve worried about certain questions not going over well with different divisions or other dynamics making certain topics off-limits. The designers didn’t let those variables get in the way. "This is how the customer sees Sony Mobile," they'd say, "so this is the question we need to ask." It was always about the customer's perspective. At the workshops, that emphasis got management talking about what value they wanted to provide to the customer—not just a glossed-over vision that'd simply sound good. You could see the leaders really get into it from that angle, and the discussions took off from there.

MaesakaWith every workshop session, the discussions gradually zeroed in on some key concepts: things like "the dedicated" and "breaking through." That gave the group solid ideas to work from as the process went on, with each gathering going over candidate visuals and phrases from previous sessions. We wanted each step to hew those big ideas down into tangible pieces that the group could use as building blocks for their vision, pushing the conversation deeper. After the workshops wrapped up, we had a lot of rich elements to work with—but turning the concepts into a clear final package wasn't easy. We sat down with copywriters from the agency and racked our brains trying to congeal everything together, but we ultimately just decided to lay out bits and pieces of discussion output, raw and unfiltered. That's when we saw that we didn't even have to spiff anything up with any polish; we had what we needed. It was just a matter of arranging them the right way: "Experiences beyond imagination for the dedicated and passionate." The corporate vision was right there in that one phrase, which gave way to a clear corporate statement.

KishidaWe got some pushback when we asked for responses to the new vision—but that reaction is what convinced me that we'd hit the right notes. If we'd gone with something comfortable, something that fell in line with what we'd always done, the response probably would’ve been fine. Dissenting opinions were proof that we were really trying to go in an obviously different direction. A corporate vision isn't just something to serve people on a silver platter; you don't just let it sit there like some lofty ideal. To me, a corporate vision reflects the honest, step-by-step process of real people coming together, talking about what the phrasing means, and thinking about how they're going to achieve those aims. It's supposed to be real and gritty, not sterile and pretty. The designers came up with a vision and statement that communicated those nuances perfectly. I couldn't have asked for a better result. The visual just took everything to another level. When I saw that image of a lone stargazer looking up into the night sky, I saw us. I saw Sony Mobile locking its sights on a singular path upward, in pursuit of a specific ideal, not just trying to be everything to everyone. It was the perfect expression of our identity.

Opening eyes to
the new vision

Formulating a corporate vision was just the first step. Next came the questions of how to form a common internal consensus around the new ideal and how to unveil the concept to outside audiences at MWC19 Barcelona, an international showcase for the mobile industry. Once again, Sony designers played a big role in finding answers to those questions.

KessokuThe next step was spreading the new corporate vision. On the product side of things, the new ideal was already starting to have an impact. The Xperia 1 was in development while the workshops were going on, and as soon as we came up with the "experiences beyond imagination" concept, the Xperia team incorporated features from the VENICE—Sony's film camera—to translate that vision into reality. Even more important than reflecting the vision in products, however, was getting it to take root across the entire company. We sat down with the design team, pieced together a "story" for the dissemination process, and got to work on drafting the presentations that the company would use to showcase the vision internally. After detailing the background, from management's discussions at the workshops to the sense of resolution shaping the vision, the presentations used the Xperia 1 as a manifestation of the core message. We were on a mission to transform Sony Mobile under a brand-new banner—and I think that got through to our employees.

MaesakaBesides laying the internal groundwork, we also had to design a platform for showcasing the vision and Xperia 1 to an outside audience at MWC19 Barcelona. Changing the corporate vision without changing the brand identity wouldn't have been a good approach—the disconnect would've made it hard for customers to get what the company's trying to communicate. That's why we decided to give the whole Sony Mobile venue a makeover around the new corporate vision; from the spatial design for the event booth to the on-site graphics, exhibit staging, fixtures, and even product arrangement, we overhauled everything to speak the same conceptual language. We even brought the vision's worldview into the details of the design for the press conference where President Kishida was set to deliver the corporate vision and debut the Xperia 1.

KishidaIf I've learned anything about Sony designers, it's that they go all out in whatever they do without ever losing sight of the customer perspective. There was this one part of the press conference where a graphic of the Xperia 1 home screen was supposed to come into view on the screen behind me as I unveiled the device. Now, if you want to know how committed these designers, get this: they went to all the trouble of making sure that the visual would appear right where my hand would be when I brought it up to direct attention to the screen. Every moment, every last element is part of the design—and no detail is too small. Being at the venue, you could sense the care the design team poured into it all; they made it feel different in the space. The presentation wasn't the only thing conveying our corporate vision, highlighting the Xperia 1, and underlining our transformation, either—the venue itself also served as a communicator, reaching so many people on a sensory level. I could tell the message was getting through. After the event, media outlets were all over the new vision. We wouldn't have gotten that exposure without the designers' work on the showcase.

Let the vision
be your guide

As the new corporate vision continues to inspire changes in the Sony Mobile workforce, the project members are excited about what lies ahead.

EshitaI'll never forget something a younger engineer told me after we did the in-house presentation for the new vision. He saw the night-sky visual accompanying the "Experiences beyond imagination for the dedicated and passionate" phrase, and it'd apparently triggered something in him. "I love taking pictures of stars," he said, "and I know it can be a challenge to get those kinds of shots with the existing Xperia. That's why I want to help design an Xperia that can unlock those capabilities. I want to help more users get those kinds of extraordinary experiences themselves." That's the spirit at the heart of the new corporate vision, right there in his words. We’d gotten our message across, and it felt incredible to know that. I really hope he's one of many—I'd love to see more and more employees embracing the vision, using the “beyond imagination” idea as a springboard to inspiration, and creating products that resonate with bigger audiences. It's fun just imagining how it could all grow. While product development isn't going to get any easier in the future, our vision makes it clear that Sony Mobile's going to keep on tackling every challenge that comes along. We designers will be there to help every step of the way.

KishidaI was part of the initial branding effort at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communication, and that effort was about building something from scratch. This corporate-vision project, though, was so much more challenging. How do you take something with history, a real legacy, and then recraft it in a new direction without losing the elements that have made it what it is? That's what we were trying to do with the Xperia. But all those workshops, all those talks with other managers deep into the night, ultimately gave us the corporate vision we were after—a foundation for the next generation of distinctively Sony Mobile products. We've got a straight path ahead now, with a common goal guiding the way amid constant changes in the business environment.

Without the design team, we never would've been able to come up with the new corporate vision. You don't find that kind of group very often; they're people who really care about the products but never move away from the customer perspective. Over the whole course of the workshop process, they kept their focus on the Sony Mobile identity—why we do what we do—and used that basis to chart out a path to a clearer, better vision. What they designed was our raison d'être to a tee. Now, with our vision in place, we're embarking on an unending pursuit of those ideals. I’m looking forward to whatever proposals the designers can give us as we progress down that path. We really value that input.

Sony Mobile's corporate vison grew out of a proposal by a designer.
With that vision in place, the company is aiming to provide customers with "experiences beyond imagination"—and design will help Sony Mobile shoot for the stars.