Geometric and effortlessly intuitive: Sony’s PlayStation controllers have withstood the test of time, says graphic artist Nikki Farquharson
Our world is constantly evolving, and with that comes the fear of our work and interests becoming redundant. Being given the task to comment on my favourite ‘design classic’ led me to take the opportunity to remind myself of the things in my life that have not just been popular or fashionable momentarily. I believe that in order for a design to be regarded as a ‘classic’, it should be able to fit comfortably within our modern lives throughout the continuously changing trends. It ought to be timeless and yet constantly relevant.
For my design classic, I’ve chosen the super-simple yet instantly recognisable icons you’ll find on the Sony PlayStation controllers. A PlayStation console has been a part of my life since my schooldays and I have no shame in admitting that I’m a bit of a gamer. But while the machine has been reinvented several times over the years, the triangle, circle, X and square-designed buttons have proved sustainable. To me, these symbols are like cheerful mascots for the Sony PlayStation.
As a graphic artist, I’m already in a love affair with geometric shapes and I include them quite heavily in my own work. So for that reason alone, the PlayStation icons already tick an important box for me.
But what is more significant than my unusual aesthetic preferences is that the design just works. Each symbol is assigned a specific purpose that applies to all games across the genres. Whether you’re playing The Sims or Grand Theft Auto, it makes perfect sense in how the symbols are utilised to help you. When reading the instructions for a new game, their uses feel obvious. When faced with a controller for another console, a bizarre feeling of loss is triggered. Complexity replaces simplicity, and the building frustration inevitably kills the enjoyment.
The Sony PlayStation console will continue to develop and change, but I believe their triangle-circle-X-square design will always remain. It is clever, it is practical and it is simply iconic.