Computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Asami Yamagishi said about the “To be sincere about what we design”. Computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Asami Yamagishi said about the “To be sincere about what we design”.

Every Aspect of a Design has to have a Meaning:
That’s How We Refine the Essence of an Idea

Asami Yamagishi

Sony's design philosophy spoken by an ID/UX designer

Portrait of Asami Yamagishi

I calmly assess the various opinions I receive and
discuss them until I’m satisfied

What are your thoughts on the Sony Design Philosophy?

At the root of the Sony Design Philosophy, to “Create New Standards,” we can find the following words that Sony has upheld for many years: “do what has never been done before.” This aspiration lives strong to this day. After all, every designer wants to create something original. It’s a very pure and basic desire in the creative world, which is why many designers, myself included, are in tune with the philosophy.

Creating something that’s “Visionary” is extremely important, but at the same time, very difficult for designers of this day and age to do. We have to notice and come up with new ideas in a world already overflowing with products and services. This often involves an arduous and incremental process. In my case, I try to objectively sort out the ideas in my head by drawing them out or putting them into words. Then I talk to other designers and engineers to slowly refine the ideas even more. I repeat this process over and over.

- committing
our entire
attention to
what we design

Committing our entire attention to what we design is an important part of our work that also ties into the “Integrity” element of the Sony Design Philosophy. It’s not enough for a design to simply look pretty. If a design has a curve, for example, we have to ask ourselves, “What’s the purpose of this curve?” Adding meaning to every aspect of the design leads to true beauty and ease of use. That’s my way of working toward “Integrity,” or in other words, the essence of an idea.

To be sincere about
what we design

Lastly, when it comes to “Empathy,” I always remind myself of what one of my seniors told me when I first joined the company: designers are not artists. Naturally, we need to draw on our creative senses, but that’s not the same as putting our personal tastes front and center. We have to make sure that the product fits the situation it will be used in, accommodate the users’ behavior and be considerate of their feelings. Only by creating an attractive design based on such careful considerations can we produce something convincing that can connect with our customers.

‘Empathy’ – design by
thinking about the
person who uses it

What do you value as a Sony designer?

Experience is what adds depth to a designer’s work. That doesn’t mean we need to go on wild adventures. It means we need to keep our eyes open and not overlook the small hints lurking in our daily lives. I’m sure we all have those moments where we think, “I wish this was a little more this way or that way.” I do my best to never overlook these moments and keep them stashed in my mind. That way, I can draw on them whenever an appropriate opportunity arises.

In the field of product design, an important part of the designer’s work is to calmly assess the opinions and feedback received from other designers, engineers and customers and to determine the best solution. What I pay close attention to in this process is striking a balance between what to compromise and what not to. When creating a product, we have to overcome numerous obstacles like cost and technological issues. When I run into conflicting opinions or methods, I sit down with others and discuss the matter thoroughly. But oftentimes, overcoming one problem only leads to another. For that reason, I try to strike a balance when exchanging opinions so that I can turn discussions into constructive action and create a good product. Not allowing myself to take any shortcuts in this process of refining a design ultimately leads to presenting the world with a product that I’m satisfied with.

Checking samples before production. Huge amount of samples needs to be checked multiple
times to enhance the level of the product.

Do you have any fond memories of a Sony product?

The trend nowadays is shifting toward more simple designs, but when I was a child, many of the products were flashy and colorful. The Walkman I received as a birthday present was particularly memorable. Back then, there were more color variations than there are now, and I remember feeling extremely excited as I picked one out. The TV commercials of Sony products I saw in those days were also very different from other electronic appliance manufacturers. Even as a child I felt Sony was a unique company where people could think out of the box.

Photo of successive Walkman®

In this age of rapidly changing values, I hope to
explore different ways of creating new things

How can design contribute to the world in the future?

With people’s values changing drastically, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I personally feel that our values toward things and products will also change significantly from now on. I don’t think physical objects will lose their values per se, but I think a greater emphasis will be placed on the experiences and memories associated with objects.

I believe we may be able to contribute to this trend by working with people who have ideas but don’t know how to express them. Our roles may be to draw out what’s in their minds. After all, a designer’s greatest strength is turning vague ideas into shapes and visuals.

Changes are going to happen more rapidly than ever. Going forward, I hope to explore different ways of creating new things.

Photo of Mini me, a stuffed frog
“Mini me (Froggie)” -my travel companion who has been with me nearly 20 years.

Asami Yamagishi

Yamagishi joined Sony in 2004. She has mainly worked on product designs for digital cameras,
the Walkman®, and XPERIA smartphone. Concurrently working in Sony Design Consulting Corp.,
she has expanded her expertise into spatial design, installation and UX designs.