VISION-S Prototype Design Story

How Sony's foray into mobility
became a pursuit of "reality"

#5 Communication design

As the product design for the VISION-S Prototype pushed forward, so did another initiative: the car’s communication design, a process of deciding what to communicate to the world and the optimal way to do so. The communication-design team started with ideas, shaped intangible thoughts and feelings into a message, and came out of the effort with a clear statement in words, images, and more. For the true essence of the VISION-S Prototype to make an impact on audiences, the project team needed more than a complete product—it also depended on the right way to connect with people.

Defining “mobility” for
the Sony brand

Sony had been exploring the question of what next-generation mobility might look like: better safety, deeper emotional connections, and new relationships with the environment. To make a meaningful impact on the future of the auto industry and society on the whole, Sony knew it would have to show the world a vision of the future with a grounding in reality—not pure fantasy. Operating in that context, the communication-design team for the VISION-S Prototype had its first mission: rendering Sony’s concept of mobility in clearer definition. The team started to verbalize the ideas in phrases like “taking on challenges” and “being there for people.” That jelled into the vision for the communication design, which then made its way across the project’s different segments to establish a shared foundation. The whole initiative had a common conceptual framework to build around, and that basis sustained the process all the way to the end.

A new symbol of connection, not just an emblem

A car that puts people at the center of everything. A car that wraps riders up in a warm embrace. When that concept started coming into view, the communication-design team got to work on a symbol to capture the core ideas. But instead of trying to imagine an emblem, a symbolic “badge” for the product, the designers went with a distinct motif—the graphic symbol used in an electrical schematic. What they came up with was a take on the letter “S,” its two ends stretching out indefinitely. On the exterior design of the car, the ends of the “S” link with the Daytime Running Light (DRL) and form a loop around the car’s circumference, a core design component that grew out of the symbol. That oval-shaped ring is such a powerful element of the VISION-S Prototype, both serving as a symbol of the car itself and capturing Sony’s idea of “wrapping” people in an embrace and building connections with society.

Using color management to shape the car’s personality

A car has always been a combination of hardware and technology. While the technological aspect might be essential, an overly electronic vibe can be too much—especially for a project aiming to wrap people in a warm, welcoming embrace like the VISION-S Prototype was. Recognizing the need for a color scheme that would reflect a future-oriented outlook but still exude the warmth of familiar, everyday reality, the design team opted for “warm gray” as its brand color. Finding the right shade was a delicate process, a balancing act between nuances of exquisite quality and a tender touch. Eventually, though, the communication-design team arrived at a hue that painted the car’s identity just right.

Communicating
the “real thing”
through asset design

The fact that people would hardly have any chances to see the VISION-S Prototype in real life, however, presented the team with a challenge: how could the designers make the car seem “real” if the “real thing” was hard to get a direct glimpse of? The only way to do that was to foreground the reality element in the assets for showcasing the car online. In the concept video, for example, the technology pervading the car meshes with the actions of the central character, a protagonist in pursuit of creativity, and that positive synergy extends from the individual to the community. It pulls viewers in, forging emotional bonds with its narrative and expressive quality. For the main character behind the steering wheel, the team cast a creator who tackled challenges fearlessly with strong convictions—another reflection of the team’s basic approach to conveying the VISION-S Prototype’s central message. The rest of the assets followed suit; meticulous designs came together to communicate the reality of the VISION-S Prototype, each piece doing its part to echo the core concepts.

The open road ahead

The VISION-S Prototype made its long-awaited debut at CES 2020, the world’s biggest tech show. Utilizing the warm-gray scheme as a base color to kindle a welcoming warmth, the whole showcase—from the exhibit design to the backgrounds in the presentation slides—was carefully planned so that it rang with the spirit of the project. Taking center stage was the car itself, symbolizing Sony’s company-wide determination to make a positive impact on the evolution of the mobility sector.

All-wheel drive: How the car brings every design segment together

A car is a single product. But it’s also so much more. It’s a stunning array of countless products like sensors and other components, for example. It’s also a space for listening to music, watching movies, and consuming a full range of content. Given all that interplay, Sony sees a future with vibrant potential for collaboration among different specializations. Direct or indirect, those myriad connections could be vital in enhancing the value of tomorrow’s mobility. “When I saw business units, engineers, and designers all getting on the same page and even bringing outside partners into the mix,” designer Jogano recalls, “I could tell that everyone had the same goal—delivering emotional experiences. I could see great potential for human aspirations to pave the way to the future in this collaboration.” The VISION-S Prototype is an engine of growth for Sony’s design projects, driving collaboration and fueling constant expansion into new areas. As design sparks new visions of mobility, those new visions will again need to rely on design to engage with broader audiences. “Communication design moves in tandem with product design,” explains designer Maesaka. “Working together, I think both sides can make big things happen—and I’m excited to take on the bold challenges on the horizon.”

Chief Art Director Daigo Maesaka, Senior Art Director Nobuhiro Jogano