Sony Design

Sure, Sony seems like a pale shadow of its former self – it is no longer the defacto category leader in most of its audio/visual business, the brand value is falling, Blu-ray seems destined a premature exit, et al. Yesterday though I was flipping through a book called Digital Dreams – The Work of Sony Design Center, and I must say that I am still rather impressed by some of its concepts/designs.

 1989

 1989

Sony Earphone Concept 1996

The amazing thing about the concept products in these pictures is that they’re all designed eons ago (relative to the digital age anyway). The first two are Walkman concepts by Joe Wada, done in 1989. The last one is a Street-style earphone, designed by Hiroshi Yasutomi in 1996 (which has sinced evolved into the mass-production version of the category-defining MDR-G61 StreetStyle. While the technology has moved on, the design to me is still very classic and dare I say, avantgarde even in 2007. The design principles and rationale behind them are still very relevant and inspiring.

And did you know that the Sony VAIO logo (VAIO – acronym for Video Audio Integrated Operations – the sub-brand in Sony that handles items using consumer audio/video) is supposed to represent the transition from analog to digital? The letters V and A forms a analog sine wave, while IO looks like the binary inputs of the digital age – and in fact, the people over at Sony is geeky in some ways – the startup melody made by VAIO products is actually the equivalent to the sound of punching V-A-I-O into a dial tone telephone.

Cool stuff – do check out the book if you have the chance – it’s a great read on the philosophy and legacy of the (once-great, and hopefully will revive to its former glory someday) Sony.

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3 comments so far

  1. hann on

    VERY interesting note on the VAIO logo. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to know why… especially after seeing the backs of the new uber-cool paper-thin titanium VAIO laptop screens. I must say I do wish the logo was a bit more savvy, and less obtrusive (i.e. taking up less real estate on the backs of the laptop screens themselves), a la the eponymous Apple logo, or even… the Fujitsu Lifebook logo (with its cool infinity symbol).

    (On another note, I’m not sure how their laptop line falls along the lines of “Video Audio Integrated Operations”…)

    Sony’s really taken a hit with their recent foul-ups with laptop batteries, faulty digital camera CCDs (which affected a whole host of Canon cameras), their farcical insistence on sticking to their proprietary Memory Sticks (which thankfully isn’t the only option on the Sony Alpha DSLR) and Blu-Ray and what not… so it’s really lost my respect in that respect, so to speak. With Apple in the driver’s seat, industrial design is beginning to take priority in the push for new products – which even Korean companies are beginning to catch up on.

    I say, let’s just hope Sony goes back to what they were really good at – innovation in design – by the time they actually get sick of making all that money.

  2. Gems Sty on

    One of my main gripe against Sony is their insistence in using proprietary technologies and systems – Betamax, Memory Stick, Blu-Ray, etc, and then expects it to be automatically adopted by the entire market.

    The intention to have a seamless system between digital devices is good – but I’ve always thought that Sony’s assumption that users would adopt their standards as somewhat arrogant/ignorant. They seem to think that they can actually tie users down by the common MemoryStick for example, and that the users would go on from owning Sony’s camera to their laptops, PSP, handphones etc so that the MemoryStick works. Clearly that is not the case.

    And this insistence on their own standards, I’m afraid to say, seem to be deeply embedded within the Sony culture. In the book, it was mentioned that they had to develop their own CAD systems back in the 1980s to create the complex surfaces they desired. When asked about it, someone (forgot who) replied that Sony will always only use the best technology, and most often to get the best technology they’d have to develop it themselves. They fail to see that sometimes, best technology isn’t everything, ala the Betamax video cassette standard.

  3. james on

    this is so fucking stupid it should be much cheaper it is so expencive $600 is too much for anyone to afford


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