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  • Sony's VAIO Triggers Tiny Notebook PC Boom: Designer
  • June 18, 1998 (TOKYO) -- Sony's "VAIO Note 505" (product name: PCG-5 05) series became the trigger for the B5-size notebook PC boom.
    Teiyu Goto, the chief art director of Interaction Design Department of Sony's Creative Center, talked with BizTech's editorial staff about the external appearance and design of the series.

    Sony's PCG-505 series has been a hit product and been much talked about since its release in November 1997 for its usability and fresh external appearance. Despite the existing PC market sluggishness, the 505 series is still maintaining its 10,000-unit a month shipping pace.

    "The 505 series was the chance to bring up the B5-notebook PC market ," one PC manufacturer said, and there are many PC makers who are conscious of the 505 series.

    For the VAIO series, Goto was in charge of designing the mini-towers (PCV-T700/500 series), A4-size notebook PCs (PCG-700 series) and 50 5 series. He has also designed TVs and PlayStations for video games in the past.

    BizTech: What is your design concept for the VAIO note 505 series?

    Goto: A notebook PC that college students can carry under the arm, walking groovy and cheerfully, was the concept. It is so much fun to have it, that the users want to dash out of their rooms with it.

    Sony normally is a follower in the PC industry. So we wanted to release a more enjoyable PC that no other makers are producing.

    BizTech: How did you decide the trade color, purple?

    Goto: It's my favorite color. Of course, we chose it for the visual effect to soften the stiffness of hardware as well.

    The very first product for the VAIO series was a mini-tower type PC. Seeking the color that can fit into both offices and homes, we selected gray as the base color and added purple as an accent color . As you know, we adopted this color scheme for the notebooks.

    Considering the coordination with the mini -towers, we used the same color tone. This is the initial design, "Version 0" of VAIO notebooks. (See chart 2) The configuration ultimately became like this because we combined straight lines and curves.

    Purple is a very popular color in the United States. In fact, many home appliances are made with this color. This color is very fashionable and neutral too. Also violet (purple) and VAIO make puns. (Note by the editorial dept.: VAIO is an abbreviation for Video Audio Integrated Operation.)

    In Japan also, purple is recognized for its noble image. Moreover, we needed to select the color to express originality. We excluded the colors already given fixed images, for example, green for Acer, blue for IBM, and red for Compaq.

    The mockup that we made in the early stage of the B5-file size notebook plan was with darker purple. (See chart 3) But in the actual production, a lighter color was chosen to give a pleasant feeling and mobility. The same color of purple, but with a different brightness and chroma, are used per part, for example, inside and outside of the body, batteries and touch pads. This is to bring an effect to make the product look more compact. If a solid color were used, it would look larger.

    BizTech: Is the metallic feeling by magnesium alloy also a part of the design?

    Goto: No, it isn't. To make the notebook PC groovy and to be carried under the arm, we needed to make the body thin but strong at the same time. Therefore, we adopted magnesium alloy. The heat radiation effect was also a reason.

    The metallic feeling might make it look fresh and feel good, but they are only secondary elements. If we were to use magnesium alloy for a design purpose, we would have only used it in the liquid -crystal display (LCD) cover portion. It brings the cost up if all four sides used it.

    BizTech: The mockup is slightly smaller, isn't it? Did you compromise on the design in order to come closer to the mockup size ?

    Goto: If we are to thoroughly review the matter, it will be the VAIO logo at the LCD cover portion. We actually wanted it with caved-in letters. But to keep the current thinness, we were told it would be impossible to have letters caved in.

    We still did not want loose the concept "thin and groovy notebook". If the letters make it thicker, it does not fulfill our aim. Understanding the circumstance, we changed the letters to printed ones. The floppy disk and CD-ROM drives have caved-in letters though.

    BizTech: Other makers seem to output new products conscious of the 5 05 series. Do you foresee the release of some look-alike products?

    Goto: Designers are facing a hard time now since many makers are thinking that design is more critical for PCs. Size and performance will not make much difference, so they want to think out new designs. However, if they only imitate Sony's design, they cannot create originals. So, designers' sense and abilities will be tested and will become more important.

    I myself will also experience harder times from now. I am fully satisfied with the design for the 505 series, and am very pleased to know that the design had such an impact.

    This is the first time in my 21-year work in design that I have ever received such public response. Because of the design, I know it will be difficult to surpass it. But it is the zest of design work too. I want to keep challenging myself in creating designs greater than of the 505 series.

    BizTech: Are you using a VAIO notebook PC yourself?

    Goto: You bet I am. I am a heavy user (an enthusiast) about the 505 series. You can say, it is always Goto if you see a man working with a VAIO on the last train. I took time myself to buy a VAIO at a shop.

    It is a lot of fun using PCs you designed yourself. I also like the touch of VAIO, I can't help patting them.

    Chart 1: Teiyu Goto (with VAIO Note 505)
    Chief art director of Sony Corp.

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    Chart 2: The initial design "version 0"

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    Chart 3: Two colored mockups

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    Related stories:
    Portable PCs Priced Less Than US$2,000 Become More Popular
    PC Makers to Counter Sony in Summer Sales Campaigns
    Sharp to Sell Thin Notebook PCs to Rival Sony's Vaio

    (BizTech Editorial Dept.)

    Copyright © 1997-98
    Nikkei BP BizTech, Inc.
    All Rights Reserved.
    Updated: Wed Jun 17 15:40:50 1998