Computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Gerald Teo said about “Integrity” of the Sony Design Philosophy. Computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Gerald Teo said about “Integrity” of the Sony Design Philosophy.

In the language of design,
you have to be mindful about
what you want to say and
how you want to say it

Gerald Teo

Sony's design philosophy spoken
by a communication designer

Portrait of Gerald Teo

Designing for the future:
The hardest part is
being “visionary”

What are your thoughts on the Sony Design Philosophy?

First of all, being “visionary” means designing for the future—not for the present. It basically comes down to whether you can express something that nobody’s ever seen or experienced before, which is probably the most challenging part of the whole philosophy. But going through that process, a constant search for ways to spark new emotions and get people thinking, is how you foster “empathy.”

A constant search for
ways to spark
new emotions and thoughts

Empathy is all about outward awareness. Designers really trust and value their own sensibilities and inspirations, but you have to go beyond that to get people to empathize with your designs. You need to read, look around, observe, get out, and do whatever else you can to pick up on what’s happening in the world around you. When you have that kind of awareness, you can perceive the messages in all the designs you see—and that, in turn, sparks new emotions and thoughts.

Empathy: Being aware enough
to perceive messages

Integrity: A concept with a
Japanese dimension

One of the biggest keys to the whole Sony philosophy is the concept of “integrity,” the idea that we have a responsibility to our users—it’s our duty to do whatever we can to make sure that they’re happy. I think it’s a Japanese way of looking at things, but it’s also an outlook that people around the world really respect and embrace. The design process at Sony is rigorous and meticulous, with people coming together for meeting after meeting to perfect every last detail. It took me a while to get used to the amount of time and work that goes into even the simplest designs, but it’s an approach that I’m really glad I’ve learned.

I wouldn’t say I consciously focus on the design philosophy in my day-to-day work. That’s not to say it does not play a part in my work —it’s actually the opposite. Having been a Sony designer for some time, I’ve absorbed the ideas such that the values, customs and design methods all almost second nature. Having that philosophy ingrained in you, running through everything you do, is what it takes to “create new standards,” I feel.

Seeking out integrity
through a rigorous
design process and
meeting after meeting

What do you value as a Sony designer?

The message. Whatever the medium, whatever the format, design has the power to make impressions and reach people in intuitive, efficient ways. If a message doesn’t get across, you haven’t used that power—you haven’t designed anything. Environmental consciousness is a good way to think about how that message element works. You might design a package that completely eliminates plastic, a material that we’ve just taken for granted as the standard packaging material. You could come up with structural designs that make items easier to separate when you throw them away. The more we can use the power of design to make a positive impact on the environment, however small that contribution is, the better we’ll be able to convey a message to the world. There’s a lot more that companies can do along those lines, I think, and I want to keep exploring ways to help messages get across even more effectively.

Do you have any fond memories of a Sony product?

I have great memories of the portable CD player. When I was in my later teens, I got really into music—indie rock, especially. I’d listen to bands on my Sony stereo system at home and, whenever I went out, I’d have my trusty CD player with me. I loved how smart and chic it was with that modern-looking feel, and I just had to have it. The design was completely different from the other CD players on the market at the time.

My CD Walkman®, a trusty companion through my years in school

The language of design
opens up worlds of

Photo of Design Vision booklet
Playing a part in the Design Vision research project

How can design contribute to the world in the future?

Sustainability is one thing I’m really passionate about, and I think it’s going to be really important to use design in addressing the problems that humanity’s facing.

From pandemics and climate change to social inequalities, there are so many issues out there. Our job as designers is to use the language of design to communicate important ideas and help guide the world toward solutions to those crucial problems. In that sense, we’ve got a vital role to fulfill.

Photo of Diana the cat, Gerald Teo's friend
Diana the stray that welcomes me home by escorting me to my front door everyday

Gerald Teo

Since joining Design Center Asia as a communication designer in 2012,
Gerald has developed his career over a broad spectrum. He handles creative and art direction for marketing campaigns,
multi-disciplinary design for various touchpoints, and strategic research to identify global macro trends for Sony to act on.