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A simple, modern, easy to use DAB radio for Sony

SONY  /  2017


Much of my work at Sony is on future facing projects, but I occasionally work on routine industrial design. With 100,000 units sold, the XDR-S61 is a simple, modern and easy to use DAB radio, suited to the modern interior with a compact form and clean design language. I designed this radio to keep the high usability and functionality valued by it's core market, whilst also appealing to a slightly younger audience. 


Design the DAB radio that would be successor to Sony's S60. Improve the usability, modernise and the look and feel, and design a radio with quality sound, build quality and appearance. 
Role: Lead designer
Team: Design manager, Mechanical engineers, Product managers
Timeframe: 8 months
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The radio is mains powered but also has the option of running on batteries if you want to take it into the garden or to the park. Other features include 5 preset buttons, an alarm clock, a back-lit LCD display, and a grip that makes it easy to carry.
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Users: Cultural Connaisseurs

Radio listeners are typically listening during the day, perhaps on the weekend, looking for some light entertainment, cultural inspiration, or real-time news. They might be listening as they prepare lunch in the kitchen or are pruning in the garden, but they always want the radio to be easy to use, fuss free and immediate. The core user group of DAB radios tends to be slightly older generations, and this makes usability a fundamental value.
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This product was the successor of the S60, and we used this as a chance to make small but significant improvements. Through usability analysis we identified a number of features that could be improved or added, but also ones that worked really well.
Features to improve:
1a) The volume knob placement means the radio cannot be placed with it's right side against a wall/object
1b) It can also make the radio frustrating to use with your left hand
2) The finger grip on the back is too small and does not help with carrying the radio
3) The body could become thinner so its easier to carry
Features to keep:
1) In general the buttons are well spaced and positioned, and clearly isolated by function
2) Separating the two dials makes it clear which one operates the control panel
3) Previous user testing suggested this configuration was preferred by users
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Sony produce hundreds of products across a wide range of areas, and this can make brand consistency very difficult. Different products require different levels of consistency, but in this case I wanted to be strongly aligned with the other radios in Sony's range. Although this limited my freedom as a designer, ultimately the product and brand are better for it (and designers work better with constraints anyway 😉).
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This product was developed in close collaboration with engineers in Tokyo, and our communication was a very important part of this project. Aside from the difficulties of different languages and almost incompatible time-zones, communicating small, specific details about an object is surprisingly hard to do in a clear and effective way. We tackled this with almost daily conversation, constant iteration, and many prototypes.
We wanted to produce a radio that is high quality, has great sound, and has an accessible price point, and I really enjoyed working with the engineers to make this happen.
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In a sea of smart-speakers, streaming services and podcasts, stand alone radios have much less relevance in the world today. However, for a large number of users, particularly of older generations, they still hold a lot of significance. The XDR-S61 has been very well received so far, praised in particular for its ease of use and sound quality.
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