Creative Center,
Sony Corporation

Fumitaka Kikutani

Designer, Sony Creative Center


  • Replaced PowerPoint presentations and scale mockups with VR to accelerate the design review process
  • Presented designs to all major stakeholders in VR
  • Collaborated with design teams in remote locations inside VR

The Sony Creative Center is responsible for overseeing everything from product interface design and packaging to other corporate communication that is involved with releasing products from Sony. Fumitaka is a designer within the spatial and communication design group at the Sony Creative Center.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I initially joined Sony as a product designer, working on designs for audio equipment and cameras. Eventually I started working in the Sony Design Center in Brazil and London to oversee product design in each region. While working overseas I received a request from the head of sales in Japan regarding the design of a display space at a Sony exhibition. After that, I began to design Sony exhibition spaces for electronics trade shows around the world.

Eventually I returned to Japan and joined the Sony Creative Center to oversee event space design, a position that had never been held in Sony before then. Currently, I am in charge of overseeing Sony store and event space design at the Sony Creative Center.

Left: Broadcast Camcorder
Right: Digital Micro Recorder

What is the relationship between product design and space design?

In the past, after developing new products, we often found that the event spaces and displays created for each product didn’t accurately convey the essence of the product as we’d hoped, particularly at large events in regions like America and Europe. Eventually it was decided that important corporate projects were to be handled by the Sony Creative Center, which would be involved from product design to the design of event spaces and storefront displays in order to most effectively communicate the product to customers. Through our products and the design of our spaces we wanted to relay the value of the Sony brand, and in order to do so we needed to be involved in the design process from start to finish.

How did you initially go about proposing designs?

At the beginning we’d start with hand sketches and eventually get into 3D modeling. We’d discuss 3D models created in SketchUp, and up until recently we were just taking screenshots of the 3D models and putting them into PowerPoint presentations when presenting the designs internally. We occasionally created walkthroughs and experimented with other methods, but even then we were constantly thinking to ourselves, is this really getting the space across as we intended?

As part of a rendering workshop for SU Podium, I found out that panoramas could be exported and viewed using mobile VR devices. That was my first experience using VR. I thought that VR would solve our issues, and proceeded to present designs using a simple mobile VR panorama. The initial reaction to our first presentation using VR was lukewarm, and the presentation abruptly finished. I continued to work toward improving the experience by exporting different views of each design, but my audience remained unmoved.

“At the beginning we’d start with hand sketches and eventually get into 3D modeling. We’d discuss 3D models created in SketchUp, and up until recently we were just taking screenshots of the 3D models and putting them into PowerPoint presentations when presenting the designs internally.”

What was it like using SYMMETRY for the first time?

At SketchUp 3D Basecamp 2016 in Tokyo I tried SYMMETRY for the first time, and thought This is what I’ve been looking for! The pre-rendered VR viewers that I’d used up until that point placed the user in the center of a sphere of a rendered image. If I wanted to bend down to look under a table I couldn’t because the view was fixed within the scene at a certain point. On the other hand, with SYMMETRY, I could move around freely within the 3D model in real-time, which gave a much greater feeling of being inside the space. I felt immersed within the space like never before. I could crouch and look below tables and look from above to get a bird’s eye view. After my first experience with SYMMETRY, I immediately started using it on company projects. I set it up in the office for the first time, and several designers came around to try it out. The reaction was very positive, and everyone started importing their designs into SYMMETRY to view them in VR, which prompted many design discussions. The experience of immersion in SYMMETRY had everyone convinced. Additionally, everyone else in the room could see what the viewer was seeing within VR, which was great for communication.

In terms of product design, it’s a given that final mockups will be created at 1:1 for review. Of course, not all spaces can be built at 1:1 for review, so the ability to experience spaces at human scale during the design process is an invaluable aspect of SYMMETRY.

Exterior mockup for the Sony Design exhibition at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2018

There was an incident that happened before introducing SYMMETRY to the office when we were reviewing the size of the SONY logo that would be installed on the exterior of a new store with the marketing department. We pasted the logo on a building of a similar size to the new store and asked around for suggestions. However, the context of the building was completely different from the new building, which made it difficult to judge. We ended up projecting a 1:1 scale rendered image of the building and its surroundings onto a 400 inch projector screen in the office and used that to make our final decision. With SYMMETRY, it's easy for us to simulate things like signage and event space designs at 1:1 scale, improving understanding between everyone and accelerating the decision process.

As an example, before we found SYMMETRY, we were working on a project to add a large Sony logo to the exterior of a shop and reviewing the size and placement of the logo internally with the marketing director. Naturally, it was difficult to judge because we couldn’t convey the scale of the environment. In the end, I decided to use a large-scale projection on a 400 inch projection screen in a large office space to render the image and review it at full-size. With SYMMETRY, I can avoid the hassle of booking large conference rooms and setting up massive projections by creating a 3D model and viewing it in VR at 1:1 in close proximity to reality.

Exterior photo for the Sony Design exhibition at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2018

How are you using SYMMETRY?

We’re currently using SYMMETRY to review and present event space designs, large banners, store signage, and spatial design proposals for various projects utilizing 3D models created in SketchUp.

Initially, we used SYMMETRY as a presentation tool, but as we became more familiar with it we started to use it to review designs on a daily basis, becoming an essential design tool for us. For example, we used SketchUp to create various design patterns saved as Scenes, and in SYMMETRY we could utilize those Scenes to view the different design patterns in VR at 1:1. Using this method, it became possible to instantly compare and review many different design proposals within VR with the freedom of movement we desired and unlimited viewpoints.

I recently worked on the Sony Design event space at The Salone Internazionale del Mobile while utilizing SYMMETRY. My team members had already modeled the venue before I saw the site in person, so we had an understanding of the size and scale of the exhibition space. This made it easy for us to recognize and amend any design-related issues that arose. For example, circulation plans, partitioning spaces, equipment layouts and spacing, partition wall heights, descriptive signage, etc. were all reviewed in VR at 1:1 scale before construction. With this preparation, we only needed to make minor adjustments on site.

Interior mockup for the Sony Design exhibition at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2018

Interior photo for the Sony Design exhibition at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2018

What sort of capabilities would you like to have access to in future releases?

I’d like to be able to utilize lighting functionality to reproduce a more realistic space. The appearance and atmosphere of a space changes depending on the lighting conditions, and to be able to utilize lighting functionality within VR we could control the lighting within a space without windows, for example, thereby creating a more realistic experience of the space.

In the future it would also be great if we could revise our 3D model on a separate monitor and have those revisions immediately reflected in VR within SYMMETRY.