Sony’s Design Offensive – Comeback through Design
Since the great stock exchange crash in 2000 the stock price of the Japanese electronics manufacturer Sony has never really recovered. In the past year alone, it dropped by about 27 percentage points at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Unlike its competitors Sony showed not much resistance against this slump in the past five years. In contrast, Apple, Samsung, LG Electronics or Philips, improved their stock prices more or less been steeply in the past few years. With a comprehensive design offensive the Japanese electronics manufacturer seems to control this negative trend struggling to regain market shares it has lost over the past years to more flexible and aggressive competitors.
For decades, Sony has been a synonym for the latest technologies combined with excellent and original design. Thereby, it has succeeded again and again to launch innovations on the market that became symbols and cultural assets worldwide. We have only to think of the first transistor television set in the world, Walkman, PlayStation or Aibo the computer dog. Consequently, Sony has been honoured with the red dot design award: design team of the year, the highest award of the design world. However, after the turn of the millennium the company lacked major investments and seemed to become rather cumbersome. Now the electronics group is remembering its former strength with regard to design and innovation. It is starting out to create new icons. Design teams in Tokyo, Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Shanghai work at new Sony products and enhance their profile.
New Design Highlights
Some of the results are products such as the “Sony-Rolly” music player, a small, compact egg-shaped music player, whose fascination is to a large extent due to the fact that it seems to have a life of its own. It moves to music with softly blinking lights and learns about “dances”. It is an intelligent-playful product that you want to possess because it is emotionally so appealing - like the Aibo. Or there is the PRS-505 e-reader, which allows taking along about 160 volumes of eBook data and which is so captivating thanks to its ultra-flat casing, a classic, purist line arrangement, high quality materials and an internal memory. An international expert jury has selected both products for the “red dot: best of the best” for outstanding design quality. Only 50 out of altogether more than 3,000 products have received this award.
To differentiate at the point of sale Sony is increasingly focusing on design in other segments as well. Not only the PCs of the diverse Vaio series are convincing with their excellent design but also digital cameras, PlayStation, navigation systems or television sets which have won the company 16 other awards of the red dot design award for high design quality.
Visionary Source of Inspiration: Sony Design Center
Design and industry expert Professor Dr. Peter Zec, initiator of the red dot design award and professor for industrial communication recognises therein the attempt of the electronics giant to reposition itself by means of design: “While Sony has become a bit lethargic during the past years, competitors such as Samsung, LG Electronics or Apple, have let no grass grow under their feet and strongly expanded their design competence thus enormously increasing their market value. Apple in particular has been able to follow Walkman’s footsteps with the iPods without Sony being in the position to set anything against it. But the sleeping giant seems to have awoken”, says Zec. “The motto of the company’s founder Masaru Ibukas ran: ‘to do what never has been done before’ and has been complemented in the course of time by the principle ‘ you act on the markets you don’t react.’ – Sony’s Design Center seems to be well on the way to find back to its original role as a visionary source of dreams and inspiration for new ideas.”