Think GAIA

Think GAIA
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This is a product to materialize the ideal of clean energy to charge the eneloop charger with solar energy.  The pyramid style was devised to adjust the angle to the height of the sun. The design can fit well in the interior and contribute to the solution of the environmental problem in a natural manner. Winner of the Good Design Grand Prix, and iF Award (Germany).


Product Design under the Brand Vision “Think GAIA”

Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.
Shigenori Asakura + Itsuro Shibata

Eneloop Universe Products by Sanyo Electric won the Good Design Award for 2007 on October 25, 2007.  The award was given not only in appreciation of the quality of product designs but also the company’s efforts to display its brand vision through product designs.  The GK Design Group was assigned to design the “Solar Charger Set,” one of Sanyo’s product series, and at the same time, was involved in the product identity formulation project.  We had opportunities to discuss new Sanyo designs together with designers in the company.

 

Think GAIA and Design
Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. proclaimed its “Third Inauguration Declaration” in July 2007.  Sanyo initiated the project to reconstruct its operations focusing on the environment, energy and lifestyles under its new brand vision “Think GAIA for Life and the Earth.”  Attention was given to the strength of design in the project.  What can design do to convey the message of the new brand and to upgrade the image of the corporation?
In order to reply to this question from the management, two goals were set forth, one to create a new product identity based on the brand vision, and the other to realize product designs that will convey the message that “Sanyo has changed.” It was considered necessary to involve designers from outside to achieve these two goals simultaneously, and the GK Design Group was invited to join the discussions with the in-house designers of Sanyo.

Formulating the product identity through discussions
The product identity is the fundamental ideology of Sanyo design, and an outside design consultant should not impose its views on its client.  Therefore, GK proposed some informative materials such as the concept of product identity, keywords to create the product identity, and samples of other companies.  Based on the materials, our counterpart in Sanyo Electric, Advanced Design Center (ADC) had a series of discussions with the design staffs of various departments in the company.  These centered on the question of how products can be designed under the new brand vision while at the same time succeeding the DNA of Sanyo designs.  The in-house designers and GK designers with a third-party view exchanged opinions.  As a result, the design identity of “Think GAIA, Think DESIGN” was conceived, and the Six Design Points of “Living Together, Consonance, Sincerity, Attachment, Intellect, and Moving Sensation” were set forth as the guidelines to put the identity into practice.  It is, of course, difficult to define designs with these words, and we need prudence to interpret these words when actually designing products.  However, the defining of the product identity effectively enabled designers to share the new direction of Sanyo design inside the company, and to speak about it toward the outside.

 

The Sanyo Advanced Design Center and GK jointly worked on the basic design principle of Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.. It is intended to add to the value of Sanyo design on the base of making simple designs without superfluity that would serve as the prototypes of future products. Initially, design concepts proposed were intended to be harmonious with the surrounding environment and to be graceful to moderately express the presence of the products. Finally, these concepts were included in the slogan “Think GAIA, Think DESIGN,” which was further explained with six keywords.

 

Product designs symbolizing universes
Along with the formulation of product identity, GK was positively involved in designing strategic products to which Sanyo Electric’s technologies were incorporated in order to materialize its new brand vision.  From the point of view of brand strategy, it was necessary to merchandise products in groups (named “universes”) instead of presenting them individually.  In designing products, features of respective universes should have been made distinctive, taking the product identity into consideration.

An air purifier, for example, was considered as a symbolic product of the universe of products including humidifiers and fan-assisted heaters which are equipped with a “virus washer function” using electrolyzed water.  With the concept of “music from furniture,” it was a simple and elegant design based on a geometric form so as not to stand out in an interior.
Another example is the “eneloop universe” with the eneloop battery already in the market at its core and other products that can be repeatedly used with the aim of promoting the cyclical use of clean energy.  GK designed the solar charger set, as a member of the universe.  We considered that it should symbolize the environmental consciousness of the company and at the same tim

e, it should be an elegant interior article.  From the concept of function and adjustability of the angle by changing the angle of the surface of the body, and from our desire to give it an elegant form, the conclusion was reached to give it a symbolic pyramid form.  Together with the “mobile booster” “rechargeable portable pocket heater” and “rechargeable portable warmer” developed by Sanyo design staff, the “eneloop universe products” received the Good Design Award for 2007.
It was not only the products incorporating environmental technologies that GK was involved in such as those introduced above.  Rice cookers made of stainless steel had been selling well with their familiar “helmet” style.  However, based on the concept of product identity, an overall design change was applied from the new rice cooker series.  It was quite risky to change the design of the existing product for product development and marketing reasons, but in order to show the new direction of Sanyo Electric, the change was deemed necessary by all means from a strategic point of view of the brand.

 

Along with the humidifier and fan-assisted heater, the air purifier is considered as a symbol showing the direction of the universe of products equipped with the virus washer function using electrolyzed water. It was designed with a simple and elegant geometric style in order to express its presence moderately in an interior space. The following photos show the products equipped with the virus washer function in uniform design. GK and Sanyo Electric Advanced Design Center collaborated to design these products that clearly embody the product identity. Air purifier (top), and spatial purifying system (below, extreme right) were designed by GK. Humidifier (below, extreme left), humidifying ceramic fan heater (below, second from the right) and others were designed by ADC.

 

Mechanism to continue design innovation
Products designed in accordance with the new product identity have been launched since 2006.  Other than those mentioned above, if you look at Airsis, an air purifying cyclone vacuum cleaner, and Aqua, a washing and drying machine that have been designed by in-house designers with their flexible conception and persistent efforts, you will soon notice that the Sanyo brand and designs have changed.  These series of design innovations may have resulted in winning the Good Design Award for eneloop universe products.
Activities so far are in the 1st phase of the product identity plan.  The 2nd phase will be to strengthen the Movement, or design management to continuously manufacture high quality products of Sanyo design.
We expect that Sanyo Electric and ADC will lead the expansion of the future of Sanyo design.   Design can exert impact on the market through presenting new values not only to consumers and society but also to corporations.  GK serves on the strategic business management level as well as on the actual manufacturing level. As a design consultant that is supposed to create new values, the role expected of GK will be broader.

Shigenori Asakura + Itsuro Shibata, Director, GK Industrial Design

Product Design under the Brand Vision “Think GAIA”  – Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. -
Shigenori Asakura + Itsuro Shibata