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Microsoft explains the design of the Xbox One

Matt Leone has written about games for three decades, focusing on behind-the-scenes coverage of the industry, including books on Final Fantasy 7 and Street Fighter 2.

As part of its reveal for the Xbox One console, Microsoft opened a few of its hardware labs to give the media a look at the creation of its new box. One of them provided an in-depth look at the branding and design decisions made for the look and functionality of the system and controller.

One of Microsoft's primary design goals for the new hardware was to create a "boldly understated" design that would appeal to both traditional game players and a wider audience interested in other types of entertainment, says Senior Principal Creative Director Carl Ledbetter. In practical terms, that means the company went with a 50/50 split matte gray/glossy black look for the console. Or "liquid black" as Microsoft calls it, to give it more of an entertainment industry feel and bring it in line with other Microsoft products like Surface.

According to Ledbetter, Microsoft's internal design hardware team for Xbox 360 was two people, while now that group has 27 people to work on details like creating a functional venting design on the right side of the console and creating consistency between the box, the controller, Kinect, the power brick, the retail packaging and the on-screen menus. Each was designed with simplicity in mind, such as how much of the new Kinect's technology is now hidden behind a panel in front.

Unlike on Xbox 360, Xbox One features the same Xbox logo on the console itself, Kinect and the controller, and each of those can glow white to communicate with the player, which team members say was done to show that the new console has more of an entertainment focus and to distinguish the console from 360 — a running theme for the new hardware.

Despite the glow changing to white on the logo, Microsoft says green is still the primary branding color for the new hardware, while Kinect's use of purple is going away. And the team has also removed the four quadrants surrounding the Xbox logo on the 360 controller and power button to identify each player, replaced with the single, simpler glow.

On the controller, the design team also incorporated many other small changes with the overall goal of making it more approachable and able to fit in more people's hands. These are mostly subtle changes, and the team created more than 200 3D models to test hand posture and orientation before settling on them. Some include hiding the screw holes on the exterior and slimming down the battery pack in the back, changing the controller's center of gravity and making it easier for kids to hold, according to Ledbetter.

"It feels lighter even though it isn't," he says. "It's interesting."

Further tweaks include adding a new grip on the surface and texture on the edge of each analog stick, making them easier to hold for players who put their thumbs on top and more durable for players who push them from the side. And each button is now clear rather than a bold color, which prioritizes the letters underneath and brings their design in line with the console itself.

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