Sony's design research project

Creating new value through creativity and technology.
DESIGN VISION is a design research project at Sony that predicts societal trends from
a variety of perspectives and explores the course that the future might take.
Creative Center designers go out into the field, conduct research,
and then analyze their findings to come up with recommendations.
The initiative represents a broad application of the power of design.

A design research project
at Sony Creative Center

DESIGN VISION is an ongoing, independent design research project at Sony's design division, the Creative Center. Amid a rapidly changing world propelled by technological progress, the project asks important questions: how can we think about the company's societal role and mission? How can we guide it in a new direction?

The Creative Center's DESIGN VISION effort addresses these questions by utilizing the power of design to quickly identify trends and emotional values in the world. The initiative aims to present new perspectives and hints that go beyond the boundaries of any single field or department.

The design research that goes into DESIGN VISION is the work of the Creative Center's global team, the result of which is a report that is released annually. The report helps shape output by the Creative Center, including its products and services. The Creative Center is also expanding the scope of the report’s application to include sharing knowledge and recommendations with Sony Group employees.

Attempting to visualize
the story of the future

The goal of DESIGN VISION is to visualize the story of Sony’s future from a design perspective by applying design research methods at an organizational level.
Design research is a method of discovering hints for new products, services, and systems. It relies on having the innovator experience things firsthand from the perspective of users and consumers.

DESIGN VISION goes beyond the traditional fields that people may associate with the word "design". Designers at the Creative Center undertake design research spanning a wide range of angles, from societal trends to concepts and behaviors, developing insights that will inform future design activities.

Design research differs from conventional research methods such as marketing research in many ways. With DESIGN VISION, the goal is to leverage the Creative Center's vantage point as an in-house organization. Unlike most research methods that focus on market conditions outside the company, DESIGN VISION weighs Sony's management policies, R&D direction, business strategy, brand strategy, and other internal policies in interpreting its insights. This facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between internal and external trends, which can then be channeled towards creating a new vision.

Design research practice

The design research for DESIGN VISION employs a variety of methods, including field research in various parts of the world, fixed-point observations in cities where the Creative Center is based, desktop research and ethnography (*1), product- and service-user surveys, in-depth interviews with experts.

(*1) Ethnography: In cultural anthropology, ethnography is a method of embedding oneself in another culture to understand the behavior, ideas, and cultural context of the people who live there in a comprehensive manner. In recent years, businesses have used ethnography as a survey method (via behavioral surveys) for understanding consumers.

Using these methods, designers get a firsthand understanding of what is happening in the world today. They then share their personal discoveries and insights with the rest of the project members. In a feature that is unique to design research, insights that appeal to human emotional values are taken more into consideration. This creates a deeper empathy and appreciation of individual contexts.

Based on the findings from the design research, the societal trends, both global and regional, are analyzed. Through workshops and discussions, the trends are synthesized into a series of stories for how Sony should act and what value it should provide.

These stories come together in an annual report titled DESIGN VISION Insight.
Since 2018, the Creative Center has published the report for distribution and information dissemination within the group. The reports, along with additional findings, are available on this website.

Looking ahead:
Expanding the scope of
design through

While the activities of DESIGN VISION center on design research, the research component is just one dimension of the effort. The key question is how to take the vision derived from the design research and convert that into concrete action. Designers need to take the stories they have built from their own experiences and translate them into new products, services, and communications.

On that basis, the Creative Center utilizes the results of DESIGN VISION to generate ideas for a variety of products and services. In addition, design research activities are generating ideas for future stories that fuel several experimental projects.

One of them is "Affinity in Autonomy", a robotics technology installation presented at Milan Design Week, the world's largest design fair, in Milan, Italy. The project developed stories from DESIGN VISION via a unique perspective to create an interactive exhibition that expresses the new symbiotic relationship between humans and robotics.

Another example of DESIGN VISION in action is the CMF Framework project, which provides a guide for future design direction with respect to CMF (Color, Material, and Finish).

The Creative Cetner is focused on communicating the results of DESIGN VISION across the Sony Group in the forms of reports and presentations. This is an unprecedented initiative for Sony, where designers involved in design research have been involved in raising awareness among Sony Group employees from a variety of functions across divisions and organizations.

In addition, it is implementing efforts to leverage DESIGN VISION on a number of fronts, including incorporating measures based on the annual report into the mid-term strategies of various business divisions.

In recent years, design thinking and other design methods have become more popular in the business world.
At Sony, DESIGN VISION is a practical methodology that takes a vision with roots in design research and extends
it to management, brand strategy, product planning, and marketing from a medium- to long-term perspective.

* Photos of workshops and presentations in this article were
taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020's research and workshops were conducted online
in light of the pandemic.