To Create New Value by Blending Technology with Design

Yoshihito Ohki

Sony's design philosophy spoken
by an Interaction Designer.

We shouldn’t be bound to our own fields. We need to step into other
people’s territories and hold in-depth discussions.

What are your thoughts on the Sony Design Philosophy?

I believe many designers have already given a lot of thought to the philosophy “Create New Standards.” As such, most surface-level ideas that immediately come to mind have probably already been created by others. What we need to do is venture a few steps further. I always tell myself that that’s where we can discover new and important ideas that are hiding from plain sight.

Pioneering the creation of new values
through design and technology
This video is a computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Yoshihito Ohki said about "Visionary" of the Sony Design Philosophy.

In Sony’s interactive design field, I believe it’s particularly important to create new products that not only focus on design but also weave in Sony’s unique technologies. As I see it, that ultimately leads to creating something that’s “Visionary,” which in turn leads to creating new standards.

“Integrity,” or the essence of an idea, plays an important role when embarking on this process. We have to identify the new element that will become the core of the product experience. To do so, it’s important to have two types of perspectives. The first is a micro perspective that zooms in and works with the small details. The second is a macro perspective that zooms out and overlooks the project as a whole. When I get stuck, I switch perspectives, either completely or by degrees. By leveraging these two perspectives, I can sometimes find issues that I had previously missed. I believe every designer, including myself, consciously strives to search for the essence of ideas through this sort of process.

’Integrity' is to determine the core experience
This video is a computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Yoshihito Ohki said about "Integrity" of the Sony Design Philosophy.

Finally, when designing an experience, nothing is more important than “Empathy.” It obviously makes no sense if we’re the only ones having fun or the only ones who think a product is easy to use. It has to be used and enjoyed by a great number of people.

The best way to measure this is by looking at the honest reactions of our customers. There’s a lot we can learn from them. At the same time, we must never forget to always maintain a strong, unwavering core that is unique to Sony. As a designer, when we say, “This is what I’m going to make,” we have to uphold that resolve first and foremost before we incorporate any opinion we receive. I’ve become acutely aware of how important this is as I look at the various designs that Sony has made to this day.

Responses are the indicator
to create ‘Empathy’
This video is a computer graphic representation of what Sony’s designer Yoshihito Ohki said about "Empathy" of the Sony Design Philosophy.

What do you value as a Sony designer?

Sony has many outstanding designers in each of its three design departments: Product Design, Communication Design, and Interactive Design. The departments are split up for convenience’s sake, but I constantly remind myself that all three need to work together and support each other in a triangle formation to successfully complete a single Sony design.

When we create designs, we shouldn’t be thinking within just our own field. All three departments need to come together as one, share common principles and move in the same direction. This is extremely important. Being able to step into other people’s territories and hold in-depth discussions is, in my opinion, what makes Sony designs unique.

In terms of the discussion itself, I usually try to avoid relying solely on words. If we’re discussing software, I prepare something that moves on-screen, and if it’s hardware, I prepare a mock model. That puts something in front of us that we can both touch and feel. To discuss what’s good and bad about a design, we often need to actually see it first. If we’re both talking about something while trying to imagine it in our heads, that’s bound to cause misunderstandings and stall discussions.

Project members on ‘The Cube’ project

Do you have any fond memories of a Sony product?

Speaking in terms of the field I specialize in, which is interactive design, my answer would be the Xross Media Bar. When I first worked on the interface, I received a lot of detailed comments on areas like the animation’s reaction speed. The experience hammered into me how important it is to create designs by paying close attention to the details. I count it as a fond memory since it was very memorable and, more than anything, it taught me how to be committed to making a user-friendly design. That’s part of what makes Sony so attractive.

In terms of a product that perfectly blends technology with design, I’d like to point out the 4K OLED A1 TV series. The TV produces sound right from the screen itself by using vibrating actuators. This makes it feel like the sound is coming straight from the picture, creating an immersive experience. This is the height of a minimalistic design, and I think it’s great. What I like most is that the technology isn’t “in your face.” Instead, it’s offered subtly as part of the overall experience, together with the sleek design.

PlayStation®3 XMB™ (Xross Media Bar)

I hope to explore how people will interact
with new technologies.

How can design contribute to the world in the future?

I hope we can continue creating more new and attractive products that cleverly combine technology and design, just like Hidden Senses and A(i)R Hockey. We have the technologies. The challenge is figuring out how to use them.

Since Sony is a company that specializes in technology, I have no doubt it will continue producing new technologies in the future. However, it’ll be meaningless if they don’t reach the hands of many users across the world. I believe our mission as Sony’s in-house designers, and the significance of our existence, is figuring out how to best leverage those technologies to create new products.

At the same time, there’s also the issue of thinking about how people will interact with those new products. I think this is a question we’ll have to address for as long as new technologies continue to be developed. Just as people learned to use computers and the internet when they were invented, how will people interact with new technologies? Design will most likely play a role in determining what happens, so I hope to continue offering a variety of solutions going forward.

Yoshihito Ohki

Ohki joined Sony in 2007 and worked on the research and development of interactive products at the R&D Center. In 2013, he transferred to the Creative Center out of a desire to help bridge designers and engineers. Since September 2020, he has been working at Design Center Europe, located in London.