Perspectives vol.8

Experiencing photography through the five senses

In Perspectives, we visit people who are experts in their fields and
learn through interaction with their diverse ways of thinking.

For this edition, Head of Sony Design Yutaka Hasegawa headed to Photo Miyota, the Asama International Photo Festival 2019, which was held from September 14 to November 10, 2019. Sony Design collaborated with photographer Takashi Suzuki on an interactive exhibit called “YOU and BAU” at this art photography celebration centered in the town of Miyota, at the foot of Mount Asama in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture.

At the event, Hasegawa had a conversation with Hironobu Shindo, President and Representative director of Amana Inc. and CEO of the Amana Group, who serves as Vice-Chairman for Photo Miyota. Here he reflects on the topics brought up in their conversation, including initiatives that Amana is pursuing and the meaning of Sony Design’s exhibit at the event.

Translating technology into design, and expressing it

Yutaka Hasegawa

This year was the first time Sony Design exhibited at Photo Miyota. I was also at the event last year, but I think there were more interactive works on display this year. Seeing how much visitors enjoyed our YOU and BAU exhibit reminded me how appealing interactive experiences can be.

At the YOU and BAU exhibit

The YOU and BAU exhibit allows visitors to get immersed in the works of photographer Takashi Suzuki. It was brought to life by the technology of the Chromakey-less CG Overlay digital synthesis feature in Sony’s video production support unit Edge Analytics Appliance. This technology can automatically extract the image of a person from video without needing to stand in front of so-called “blue back” or “green back” studio backgrounds, and it can overlay the person onto other images or videos in real time.

People often find technology intimidating, but I think our role is to employ design that translates and expresses technology as something easier to understand and more approachable. With YOU and BAU, I really feel that we delivered a new type of photography experience, and that we made something great happen by combining technology and design to generate sensory value that may have more future potential.

Immersion in a photography exhibit

Mechanisms that lead to creative output

Shindo himself is also a creator, and our conversation touched on our different ideas for how to put together a creative organization. I heard that Amana has internal communication mechanisms for spreading information about personnel and work being performed in the Group. They share information throughout their company about who handled what kind of project, working in what kind of teams. They also have a database of as many as 17,900 creators outside of their company which they utilize in team building and project matching for their roughly 1,000 internal staff.

At Sony Design, we also invite influential external people in diverse fields for presentations, networking events, and research, with the intention of inspiring and motivating our internal designers. However, the explanations I heard from Shindo in this conversation made me think that designers inside the company can probably learn from each other as well.

Even though we work within the same organization we actually know surprisingly little about each other’s work. If we are putting together new project teams, for example, we would quickly be able to go outside the organization and assemble a diverse range of personnel if we had more knowledge about who has what experience and expertise. I felt that we could achieve greater creative output by sharing info about what kind of work has been done, for what clients, and to solve what problems.

At Photo Miyota

How a company’s design contributes to society

Photo Miyota is an international photo festival organized jointly by Amana, a company of visual communication professionals who aim for “gratification of the senses” through invigorating sensory experiences, together with the town of Miyota. I thought it was fantastic that they are holding an event that leverages the strengths of their company and at the same time contributes to the community by fostering photography culture and bringing more activity to the town of Miyota.

In recent years, we at the Creative Center who work on Sony’s products and services as well as spatial and other designs, have been exhibiting at events in Japan and abroad to have forums for communicating about our design activities. We now live in an age where many companies publicize the background behind their products and services. I think it would also be good for us to share our mindsets and ideas through our exhibits and subsequent experiences at events. Our designs tend to lean too heavily toward particular fields if we only stick to our normal work, so exhibiting is also a means of venturing into new territory while testing our abilities in the outside world.

One aspect of being a designer is that you have no direct point of contact with the customers. Over the past few years we have been working continuously on initiatives focused on promising possibilities that might arise through the forums where we communicate about our designs. Exhibiting in various locations offers the opportunity to get direct feedback and revelations, which can pave the way to subsequent creations.

One of the topics we are working on beyond that is social implementation. Hidden Senses, which we displayed at Milan Design Week, has a very significant meaning in that it goes beyond simple displays and prototypes. Rather, it is something that was installed as part of a hotel. I want to continue working to find ways that a company’s design can contribute to society. This exhibit helped remind me of that.

Hironobu Shindo
President and Representative director of
Amana Inc. and
CEO of the Amana Group

Yutaka Hasegawa
Head of Creative Center
Sony Corporation

Editing and layout by AXIS editorial staff

Text by Junya Hirokawa