Refining designs by going back and forth
between “Integrity” and “Visionary.”
What are your thoughts on the Sony Design Philosophy?
Broadly speaking, I have two underlying goals. The first is to always take on new challenges and never leave them as mere concepts. I always strive to turn concepts into products that can be used in society. The second is to continuously build up our designs so that we can connect with people. By building upon ourselves and refining our efforts, we can come up with products that resonates with others. That process then creates a mechanism of sorts for Sony’s designs. To me, the Sony Design Philosophy functions as a standard to achieve these goals.
I work in the UI/UX field, which takes an overarching approach to creating products, such as by using the same methods or the same visual elements across a variety of products. Furthermore, the UI should evolve in step with technological advancements in software, so we have to always be mindful of balancing uniformity with evolution. After all, getting Sony’s messaging across would be difficult if products in the same category are developed disjointedly from one another. That wouldn’t allow for unified branding or user experience.
It’s important to think carefully about what to change and what not to change as we listen to our users’ voice. We have to always keep updating—always keep building. Some people put these thoughts into words. Others don’t. Either way, having standards enables us to enhance the quality of our designs and products. As a Sony designer, this should be at the core of our work.
’Integrity’ - distilling our ideas into a distinct essence
- This video is a computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Satoshi Akagawa said about "Integrity" of the Sony Design Philosophy.
To be more specific, we have to first identify what the “Integrity” element entails. “Integrity” involves “refining our ideas into a distinct essence” and that essence changes depending on what the challenge is. It’s extremely difficult to put into words, but in its simplest form, I believe “Integrity” is the value that users experience. What is the value of using this service or product? We have to extract what this core value is and translate it in a way that users can understand. Our approach is to create a meaningful customer journey. That means designing an integrated experience and drawing on our insight to find the peaks or “summits” of the experience. By connecting those points, we create a story as grand and as vast as a mountain range.
I believe that by thoroughly designing how users will experience this story, we can produce “Empathy.”
designing how users will
experience this story
- This video is a computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Satoshi Akagawa said about the "Visionary" "Integrity" "Empathy" of the Sony Design Philosophy.
What do you value as a Sony designer?
If we’re going to release a product under the Sony brand, it has to have a design that reflects “Integrity,” is “Visionary” and can “Empathize” with its users. In particular, when identifying what the “Integrity” element is, we have to thoroughly verify that it will ultimately be something new. The world today is overflowing with new things, and we should use them as benchmarks to figure out how we can differentiate our products from those of our competitors. To me, being scrupulous in this process is especially important and something I value. If I think our approach may be wrong, I return to our starting point and go back and forth between the “Integrity” and “Visionary” elements. That’s what many designers do in the field, so “Integrity” and “Visionary” are crucial keywords for every Sony designer.
When identifying the summits of a product experience, it’s equally important to create low-points too, so that there’s contrast. In this day and age, users won’t feel much “Empathy” if the experience is a constant string of summits. We’re already starting to set up processes that allow us to make improvements even as we receive feedback, so it's on us to respond to the world and our users.
Do you have any fond memories of a Sony product?
The VAIO® PCG-505 notebook computer that I used as a university student. The shape and style of the computer itself came as a shock to me, but I was also amazed by its functions. Many of them have become the norm today, but back then, they were totally new. It was packed with product and application UI/UX. That computer was what got me interested in Sony as a company.
Once I joined the company, I was struck by the fact that the creative and engineering aspects of designing are undertaken together in the production process. I recognize now that this sort of culture at Sony is what hones the skills of its designers. I also believe it’s what led to the establishment of the current Sony Design Philosophy. It’s always one step at a time. Even today.
Designs can show people visions of
what the future may look like.
How can design contribute to the world in the future?
The world today has really changed. I feel it on a personal level as well as on a societal level. Changes in society have made information more visible, but they have also created a myriad of new problems. It’s important to express those issues in words, but designers can go a step further. Our greatest strength is being able to imagine and visualize a future that lies beyond the issues. In other words, we can show people visions of what the future may look like.
Design has the power to open up shells and present the pearls inside in ways that can connect with many people. I believe this is the sort of value that people are looking for in designs. It’s something I feel very keenly these days.
Akagawa joined Sony in 2002 and designed the UI of products such as BRAVIA TV, VAIO® personal computer, and Alpha™ cameras.
In 2008, he began working at the former Design Center in the US. He was appointed to his current position in 2019 and is engaged in R&D projects as well as those involving existing products. His latest work was designing the UI/UX of Sony’s first vehicle, the VISION-S Prototype.