Computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Noriaki Takagi said about “Visionary” of the Sony Design Philosophy. Computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Noriaki Takagi said about “Visionary” of the Sony Design Philosophy.

Sony Designers Share a Common Understanding that Transcends Words

Noriaki Takagi

Sony's design philosophy spoken
by an ID designer

Portrait of Noriaki Takagi

Importance to interpretate what we can’t see into a visible message

What are your thoughts on the Sony Design Philosophy?

Back when I was still young and inexperienced, I thought, “Why spend time thinking about a philosophy when we could make better use of that time creating new standards?” My thinking changed when I started getting involved in training junior employees and felt how important and necessary it is to turn what we can’t see into a visible message for people inside and outside the company. Now, I believe the only way we can “Create New Standards” is by fully leveraging all three of its elements: “Visionary,” “Integrity” and “Empathy.”

To do what has never been done before,
I pay attention to everyday life

I was struck most deeply by what Masaru Ibuka, one of Sony’s founders, said: “do what has never been done before.” We cannot create something that’s “Visionary” just by blindly pursuing efficiency. What we need to do is step away from universal thinking, and at times even subvert it, to freely pursue new trends. We can also sometimes find unexpected pieces of inspiration hiding in our ordinary lives, so I always strive to keep an open mind so that I can catch those moments and turn them into what has never been done before.

Think things over and over to shape the possibilities

That being said, new products and services often cause people to reject them. That’s because no one has seen them before. This is where “Integrity” takes on an important role. “Integrity” is about “refining our ideas into a distinct essence.” To do so, we have to repeatedly ask ourselves whether our creation is worthy of becoming a new standard and fine-tune its potential. Equally important is looking back at past projects and seeing whether the new product is an extension of an existing trajectory. After all, creating something that’s completely out of the blue isn’t always the right answer. Some products, like the RX100 cameras, are popular because their exterior appearances haven’t changed over the years. I believe such considerations lead to identifying “Integrity.”

Dig deep into the points you think are important,
make them your own, and link them with others

Furthermore, to demonstrate “Empathy,” we need to draw on experience. The world is filled with all sorts of hints for designs, so what we create depends on how many of those hints we can pick up on. We need to expand our knowledge and dig deep into what we feel is important so that we can make it a part of ourselves. I believe “Empathy” is born when our experiences connect with other people. It’s important not to pick and choose. We need to put up our antennas and be open to what we catch.

“To produce things the world has never seen before,
I “imagine” and “create.”

What do you value as a Sony designer?

To be honest, a philosophy is like a mentality, so it’s hard to express it all as words. Our predecessors have held many discussions on the Sony Design Philosophy, but it’s still not possible to make every aspect of it visible. Nevertheless, there are moments when Sony designers share a common understanding, even if it has never been put into words before.

My favorite Sony product is the digital camera, Cyber-shot® DSC-F505, and I used to play around with it all day whenever I got stuck with work. I would sometimes then realize things about the product that I hadn’t noticed before. It made me think, “Oh so that’s why this is like this.” It was as if the object was speaking to me. I think Sony’s uniqueness ultimately lies in the stories that past products tell.

When I’m working on day-to-day creative projects, I try to keep my mind somewhere between reality and dream—in other words, between the present and future. My work process is a repetition of “imagine” and “create.” I believe that’s how we produce things that the world has never seen before, and it’s what I value as a designer.

Cyber-shot® DSC-F505V

Do you have any fond memories of a Sony product?

When I was a child, my father bought a TV called Mr. neLLo (TV-501) - a TV that enabled him to enjoy baseball games lying down as the screen can be changed 90 degrees. But when I saw him lying down to use it, it looked like my father was angling his head to meet the angle of the TV. The novel idea caught me off guard, but more than that, I was surprised by the power people have to adapt to things. This TV was one of the reasons I came to see Sony as an interesting company.

Mr. neLLo TV-501

“As designs start to take on
greater roles in the future,
I want to awe the world.”

How can design contribute to the world in the future?

Unlike a little while ago, the word “design” is now used in a wide range of contexts, even when discussing topics like society or the environment. If this social trend continues, I feel that designs will contribute to almost every aspect of life in the world in the future.

In fact, we’re already receiving more projects that involve UX designs or communication designs. When I think we’re approaching an age in which designs will be key to resolving various issues, I feel both excited and nervous. When we get used to the convenience and smoothness that designs bring to our lives, we start taking them for granted. So even the smallest malfunction stands out like a sore thumb. So the burden that’s placed on designers will no doubt increase as technologies, systems and structures grow ever more complex.

It’s hard enough not to let our customers down. To exceed their expectations and deliver awe will be a Herculean effort. But that’s what it means to “Create New Standards.” I’m prepared to give it my all.

Photo of Noriaki Takagi visiting the Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum, which I re-visited to go back to the starting point.

Noriaki Takagi

Takagi joined Sony in 1995. Since then, he has worked in almost every design category at Sony. He has been in charge of product designs for digital cameras including NEX series and RX1, and also aibo, and VISION-S among others.