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Vol.24 : Sony's "Black & Silver" Design

"Sony design must be standardized"

A meeting to decide on designs held in 1968 in the Design Office*, as it was known at the time.
Ohga (middle of the photograph; third from the right on the far side of the table, with left hand
on chin) brought the designers together to make final decisions on designs.
*In 1997, the Design Office was renamed the Creative Center, by which it is known today.
The TFM-110 three-band
portable radio (on sale 1965)
featured the renowned "Black &
Silver" design. Its almost
square shape challenged the
consensus at the time that all
radios should be rectangular,
and it became a major hit.
The KV-1375 Trinitron
"Citation" Color TV (on sale
1977). While most TVs at the
time had wood-grain cabinets,
the texture of the plastic used
for this model gave it a hard
metallic look. Its black and
silver color scheme made it a
major best-seller among the
young generation in particular.
According to Ohga, "It
demonstrated the importance
of product planning."

Having signed a temporary contract with Sony in 1953, Norio Ohga joined the company formally in 1959 and would later go on to become Sony's President and, subsequently, Chairman. In 1961, he offered some advice to Akio Morita (one of the company's founders) who was Executive Vice-President at the time.

"Sony design must be standardized. Let's bring Sony's designers together in one place."

Prior to this, Sony's designers had been allocated to individual divisions---the tape recorder designer to the tape recorder division, the radio designer to the radio division, and so on. Each designer used their own discretion, and designs were approved via each designer's immediate supervisor. If approved by the immediate supervisor, the product received the Sony logo and was then put on the market. Ohga believed this made it impossible to create a unified image for the company.

Morita's response to his advice was, "Well then, you do it!" This led to the establishment of a new design office in 1961, and Ohga became its first manager. The company's designers worked together in one place, and adopted a firm policy on creating uniform designs. Ohga was convinced it was essential that (no matter which business division manufactured the product) there must be a single uniform philosophy behind the Sony logo placed on each. This quickly led to the birth of the "Black & Silver" design. The use of these two colors (black and silver) as an esthetic expression ultimately became a definitive signature design for Sony.

Founded just after the war, Sony had arrived at a crossroads where it was at last about to emerge from the ranks of small and medium-sized enterprises, and Ohga was the first person to realize how important design was from the perspective of establishing a unique corporate, product and brand image. "Black & Silver" was the result, and remained the basic style for Sony products for many years.