This week saw the long-awaited release of the new PS Vita, which features a slimmer, lighter design, enhanced battery life, and 1GB of onboard storage, in addition to a host of subtle refinements. We caught up with two key individuals responsible for the new PS Vita design — Taichi Nokuo, UX Platform Design Group for the SCE Corporate Design Center, and Mika Nagae, Strategy and Product Planning Dept — to learn more about how this elegant overhaul came to be.
PlayStation.Blog: Have you been involved with designing other PlayStation hardware? If so, what?
Taichi Nokuo, UX Platform Design Group for the SCE Corporate Design Center: Yes, I have been involved with the Pulse wireless stereo headset, PlayStation Move charger, PS Vita TV (available in SCEJA regions), and I am also involved in Project Morpheus. A lot of wearable hardware!
PSB: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced? How difficult is it to strike a balance between keeping certain design elements and changing others?
Taichi Nokuo: I personally think there is always some kind of challenge involved when working on a new design. I think hardware design is, overall, very challenging.
When designing the new PS Vita system, I took general button positions and ease of use into consideration. I aimed to design a hardware that felt intimate, and something that fit comfortably in the users’ hands. I had extensive conversations with the engineers so I was able to see the hardware’s internal structure, and understand how to achieve my goals.
The new PS Vita inherits the overall silhouette of PSP and the first generation PS Vita, but I also tried to accentuate its freshness, lightness, and slimness. I also incorporated our vision that a new world of PlayStation is about to unfold with the launch of PS4.
PSB: Tell us about your approach to redesigning the new PS Vita — what were some of the key areas you wanted to improve and address?
Mika Nagae, Strategy and Product Planning Dept: The concept of the new PS Vita was “casual, easier to use, and makes users want to play their favorite games every day.” I think users will be able to tell when they actually hold the new system in their hands, but the thin, light, and round silhouette makes the system very comfortable to hold, allowing users to play their games continuously over longer periods of time.
We also improved the shape of the buttons and adopted a micro USB port to further enhance usability. I encourage both new users and current PS Vita owners to go and try out the new design!
PSB: When did you start working on the redesign of the new PS Vita, and how long did it take overall?
Taichi Nokuo: I began designing around spring of 2012. I continued to work on it until the beginning of 2013. So overall, it probably took me a little less than a year.
PSB: How were you able to reduce the weight of the new PS Vita?
Mika Nagae: We optimized and reduced the number of components, and also downsized the circuit board. The optimization of the internal mechanical structure and materials also contributed to the lighter design.
PSB: The new PS Vita incorporates many smaller design changes. Why did you decide to make these revisions?
Mika Nagae: The new PS Vita inherits the overall design of the current PS Vita, but also incorporates many new elements. The shape of the Start button, Select Button, and PS button is slightly larger than its predecessor, and has a round convex shape so that it’s easier to push.
Furthermore, the new system features the power indicator and notification indicator at the top of the system so users can see the status of their PS Vita just by a quick glance. The new PS Vita’s rear touch pad is decorated with a simple dotted pattern to indicate the area where users can tap, and we also placed the PlayStation family logo at the very center of the touch pad.
PSB: Do you ever find design inspirations in unlikely places?
Taichi Nokuo: I get inspiration when I’m eating good food, especially sushi and Korean barbecue. I also like to play the drums, so being in a music studio sometimes inspires me as well. I think I come up with more ideas when I’m relaxed.