How Barber and Osgerby made their Sony exhibition

Was this British design duo’s sonic take on interior design a little too progressive for the Japanese giant?
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Near-field speaker with stool and prototype television in an anechoic chamber, Sony exhibition, Salone del Mobile, Milan, Italy, 2010. All images from our new book Barber Osgerby, Projects
Near-field speaker with stool and prototype television in an anechoic chamber, Sony exhibition, Salone del Mobile, Milan, Italy, 2010. All images from our new book Barber Osgerby, Projects

Come the 21st century, Sony found the market dominance they had enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s under threat from emerging companies such as Samsung, Microsoft and Apple. They had to think hard about how to re-energise their brand. So they turned to Barber and Osgerby. The result was an extraordinary project launched at the 2010 Salone del Mobile in Milan.

As we explain in our new book Barber Osgerby, Projects it wasn't the usual commercial presentation. Barber and Osgerby even persuaded Sony not to feature any of their branding at the exhibition they devised. Instead, it would be a speculative installation looking at the possibilities of integrated sound technology in the home. It was staged in an aneochoic chamber (fully soundproofed) and featured ambient music, near-field speakers, flat screen TVs with no visible means of suspension, technologies subtly blended into the living space.

 

Pendant speaker/light prototype, acrylic, LED lights, acrylic, Sony, 2010
Pendant speaker/light prototype, acrylic, LED lights, acrylic, Sony, 2010

The exhibition was a success with visitors and critics alike. However, it was ultimately Sony's decision as to whether Barber and Osgerby's ideas would be further developed. Faced with a conservative market, Sony evidently declined to do so. This was the downside of working with a corporation – despite the license the duo had to innovate, their innovations would most likely never see the light of day.

 

Tabletop speaker/light prototype, Corian, LED lights, Sony, 2010
Tabletop speaker/light prototype, Corian, LED lights, Sony, 2010

For more on this brilliant design duo, their outlooks and work order a copy of Barber Osgerby, Projects here.

 

Barber Osgerby, Projects


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