Last week we caught up with Ying Shao, lead designer behind the recently announced XperiaTM T3, to talk fashion, tech, and the challenges posed by re-inventing the premium mid-tier phone.
1.Lovely to meet you Ying! So tell us a bit about yourself and your background. What was your role in the design of Xperia T3?
I’m one of the senior Industrial Designers at Sony Mobile and was lead designer on Xperia T3. It’s been my life, right from the conceptual stage all the way to creation of the first prototypes and the tweaks to the final product. T3 is like my baby!
2. What were you working on before Xperia T3 and how did it affect the work you put into this project?
I’ve been working in the design and mobile industry for over ten years so I’ve been lucky enough to do an awful lot. During my time at Sony I’ve worked on Xperia Tipo, Xperio Miro, Live With Walkman and WT8i, and there’s always been a consistent theme throughout. Sony has a very clear and distinct design strategy that enables a level of consistency even when fresh elements and technologies are added to our products. Each product shares Sony’s DNA but also has its own identity, which you can definitely see – both in my early stuff with Xperia Tipo and with the new T3. Sony encourages innovation in their designers to ensure a unique edge and identity while making the most of new tech.
3. Can you tell us about some of the design challenges involved when creating Xperia T3?
When designing T3 our mantra was ‘mirror and merge with the world around you’. We opted for stainless steel for the hardware instead of aluminium, not only because of the premium texture of the metal, but also because of the sharp reflective nature of stainless steel. No matter where you put the phone it will merge into the environment, almost becoming a part of it. Deciding which material to use for T3 presented us with a challenge; we’d never used stainless steel on our products before and compared with aluminium, it’s a lot harder, both in terms of touch and how to manipulate it. But at just 7mm it is also one of the slimmest smartphones on the market and a combination of the material, colour and footprint – as well as the curve on the back of the phone – make Xperia T3 perfect for blending in to its surroundings.
4. What makes Xperia T3 stand out?
T3 has kept the design language of other Xperia devices in terms of its premium look and feel, but stands out with its matte back finish and shape. It is slim, yet robust and really feels great in the hand. Although similar to other Xperia models, T3 targets consumers who are just as concerned with fashion as they are with function. The finish of the matte stainless material not only displays the quality of the phone, but also highlights the slimness of the shape.
5. What do you think are the 3 most important things to consider in design?
For me the three most important things to consider are function, fashion and emotive reaction. It is important for a smartphone, or any consumer device to connect with the user and understand their needs.
6. What external influences inspired the design of T3?
There is always a high demand for the design work we do at Sony, so we are always searching for new materials and new technology and looking at developments in fashion as well as tech. The challenge comes when we have to incorporate these new technologies and design trends with the existing Sony ecosystem and visual identity. The stainless steel antenna that wraps around the body of Xperia T3 is a great example of this, a new technology merging with existing products.
7. What’s your favourite piece of technology from your childhood?
My first Sony WALKMAN™! It was pink and a birthday gift from my father. I didn’t go anywhere without it!
8. Who’s your favourite designer?
During my student life I was really inspired by Harmut Esslinger, the founder of Frog [formally Frog Design]. I also love seeing what new and young designers get up to; it really shakes up the business and keeps us on our toes.