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The birth of the COOLPIX design

"Familiar tools for capturing special moments"
The philosophy behind COOLPIX design is to continue to face the challenge of achieving essential value

Since the birth of the first COOLPIX camera in 1997, the COOLPIX series has continued to introduce innovative new designs including the swivel design and the wave surface design. The COOLPIX S8000 and COOLPIX S6000, released in the spring of 2010, introduced a design offering perceptible quality through its look and feel. Available in a wide variety of fashionable colors, the COOLPIX S3000, another model in the spring 2010 lineup, proposed new value not only in terms of its basic camera functions and performance, but also through its design. So, what are the concepts behind COOLPIX design and how do final designs come about? We will provide an insight into some of the secrets behind COOLPIX development.

Nobuo Hashimoto
Executive Staff, Product Design, Industrial Design Department
PROFILE:
Joined Nikon in 1988. Worked on the design of a variety of products, including cameras, binoculars and microscopes, as a product designer. Has participated in COOLPIX design since 2003. Currently puts skills to use overseeing design of all COOLPIX cameras

COOLPIX design is completed with the combination of technology and sense contributed by each individual team member

It has been 13 years since the birth of the first COOLPIX camera. Both the technologies built into COOLPIX cameras and the designs of the cameras have progressed significantly over the years. What is the concept behind COOLPIX design?

Over the years, COOLPIX cameras have introduced a number of superior functions and set new performance standards. A COOLPIX was the first camera equipped with face-detection autofocus (face-priority AF) and several models have offered the world's fastest power-up times in their class at the time of their release. Of course, these technologies are still evolving at an extremely rapid pace. We have made the primary concept behind the design of COOLPIX cameras, which proudly offer superior performance and versatile functions, the expression of the cameras' value as familiar tools for capturing special moments. We are constantly thinking of ways to design the cameras so that their intrinsic quality is visible with just a glance. We strive for designs that evoke a sense of possibilities and also offer the subtle assurance than anyone can take beautiful pictures with the cameras. This is the same philosophy that Nikon has maintained since the days of the film camera.
While maintaining a focus on this primary concept, we design each COOLPIX camera to suit the needs of a diverse group of potential users, as well as according to the unique characteristics of each model. Despite their compact size, COOLPIX cameras are designed with great attention to detail to express their authenticity as photographic tools, and to be colorful and fashionable so that users will be encouraged to take the cameras everywhere they go.
Sometimes, however, it is more important that the design of a particular model, such as one that offers an innovative digital function like a built-in projector, suggest new value to potential users.

Once the team determines the product concept, each designer expresses their own ideas regarding specific form and feel through sketches

What is the actual process that gives birth to the design of a particular model?

First, our marketing department constructs a product lineup and then they create the concept for each individual model. Naturally, camera designers actively participate in the development of product concepts. Once a general product concept has been determined, a team of designers is selected from the design department and serious work to come up with a design that satisfies the determined concept begins. At this stage, design work includes the complete examination of fundamental factors such as customer expectations for the product as well as the designers' ideas of what the design should express. With the COOLPIX S8000, for example, design work did not begin with sketches of possible designs, but rather with discussion focusing on the central theme of the camera, "the world's slimmest 10× zoom camera." We imagined the aspects that potential customers would find attractive with purchase as well as with use of the camera, and then each team member put their thoughts in writing. We included as many details as possible in our written proposals, including our assumptions of customer feelings and response as they enter a store, make their way to the camera section, pick up the camera for the first time, and so on. We then went through the proposals together to come up with common keywords that could be applied to the product. We worked as a team to sift through these keywords to establish a firm key concept for the product, and then each designer expressed his or her own view of the product through sketches. In short, initial work was performed as a team. Later in the process, however, designers worked on their own competing against one another to come up with the best design.

Many mockups are created from designers' sketches. The designers then go back to the product concept to refine various aspects and improve the design.

How is the final design determined?

The first step is to create mockups from those sketches. This happens more than a year before the product is released. At this stage, we examine a wide variety of possibilities. For example, we create a number of mockups with a broad range of styles from modern designs that express innovation to more orthodox camera designs. With the S8000, the key phrase determined by the design team was “hidden power.” Design proposals were refined with close physical examination of mockups to ensure that their form, feel and operation conformed to this key phrase.
As a result, we finally decided on a slim design with an elegant appearance through lens housing integration with the body in a smooth, curved form that resembles a volcano and conceals the energy of the high-power zoom capability.

How many people comprise the design team for a single model? What kind of experience do designers have and what are their unique characteristics?

Each design team is comprised of two to five designers. These designers bring a variety of characteristics to the table. Some have just completed their study of industrial design while others have experience designing household appliances and even automobiles. With such a broad base of experience to work from, we are never at a loss for new ideas. Each designer offers unique strengths, whether they be in mechanics with the ability to consider and even offer suggestions regarding internal design, or a specialty in colors and materials.
On the other hand, all members of the team maintain a consistent concept regarding factors essential to the camera as a tool. We work together on the design of dial and control placement and materials, as well as the shape and feel of the grip, without compromising on even the smallest detail. This allows us to apply and further the operational characteristics Nikon has spent years cultivating with its SLR cameras to COOLPIX design. In this way, designers with varied experience and specialties work together to come up with COOLPIX designs that are not only immediately attractive, but also express a sense of functionality and simple operation.