|Company:Sony||Release: Dec 94 (JPN) / Sep 95 (NA)||Platform: PlayStation||Creative Director:|
In the early 1990s, Sony and Nintendo partnered to develop new CD-based hardware to compete with the burgeoning PC gaming market and take advantage of the then increasingly popular compact-disc format. (in)Famously this deal fell apart and Sony eventually went on to build the PlayStation. Recently I came across some prototyped logos from this era and appropriately it appears what would become the Super Famicom/Nintendo’s brand identity influenced the PlayStation’s own mark.
|Playstation Logo Concepts|
Unfortunately, like most things “pre-internet” its near-impossible to find out more on these logos: who designed them?; what kind of image and brand was Sony striving to create at the outset of the project? Regardless, I selected a few of these to recreate; either out of preference to the final logo (I am not a fan) or just because I feel they’re interesting designs for the time.
|Recreated Sony proto-logos|
One of the first things I notice about these is the use of the red, blue, and yellow primary colors. In the finalized logo, green was added to the mark, producing a more “rainbow” like effect. In my opinion, the rainbow/spectrum is exceedingly difficult to employ in a logo, and outside of ironically outdated “retro” logos it is rare that I see one that I like. This small change is interesting if only because of the general “heritage” of technology branding in the 1980s/early 90s. Utilizing a spectrum of colors is meant to convey a multitude of related ideas and messages: a wide “range” of product offering, color fidelity, many colors, richness and breadth of experience, etc. All positive messages to send to a customer. Interesting to me that looking at the above concepts it appears Sony originally wanted a more minimal “iconic” look for their PlayStation brand, but ended up sort of following the same tack that other technology competitors of the day were using:
|Acclaim Entertainemnt Logo||Apple Computers||Original Activision logo||LJN Toys Ltd logo||Spectrum Holobyte logo|
And lest we forgot its origins, PlayStation and Super Famicom/Nintendo logos, both using the same 4 colors:
|Super Nintendo logo||PlayStation logo|
The similarities extend even to the “P” letterform in the final PlayStation logo. It bothered me for many years as a young teenager; I knew it looked familiar. One day it came to me while looking at the remote for an RCA brand television we had in our home. The “P” looked very similar to the then (and still) current logotype for RCA. Most notably the disconnected under-side of the letter and the rounded-end of the negative. I went through the trouble of illustrating this a little more clearly:
|RCA logo since the 1980s||RCA vs PlayStation “P” comparison|
What could have been…
All of this implied “branding heritage” ridiculousness aside, lets look at the handful of recreated logos. I’ve given each a name that to me evokes the “spirit” or “sense” that the logos give off; also because I like making things up:
Its likely a decades-worth of nostalgia talking, but I actually like the PlayStation’s original mark now. Looking back it became so synomymous with “the PlayStation experience” that I feel like it really ushered in the new era of game consoles as legitimate household products and not toys for children.
That said the use of the 3 primary colors here really makes it feel like logo for some kind of “edu-tainment” toy. Here, as with several others in this group, we can see hints of the Super Famicon/Nintendo logo with its 4 different colored blobs. I prefer the finalized mark to this if only because its “PS” whereas this is just the “P”.
This mark I feel made it pretty far into the internal process of creating the PlayStation brand. The “P” forms a question mark that I think would’ve become quite prominent in the identity plan for the console. It fits in with the aura of mystery Sony tried to put around the machine in its early days with the “Enos Lives” and “U R Not e” taglines. I really like the timeless quality of this mark; its easily my favorite of the concepts.
Getting the “S” shape was tricky. The upper part of the P is a simple half circle, but the “S” is not two half-circles connected, the middle part was a weird transition from the upper to the lower that took a little effort to get right.
“Discs of Fun”
Playful, if not a little childish; the colored circles are arranged in a way that brings to mind game discs falling down into the system. The multiple colors illustrates the different kind of experiences you can have with the machine, and it gives a sense of motion; a moment in time captured in the logo. If this were animated, I bet I’d like it less because I would probably resemble the branding of an early-90s PC game developer.
When I first started this article I thought this mark was pretty interesting. Its a little tribal, a little cryptic, and sort of looks like a character from an alien alphabet. Then I realized it looks like the logo from the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games and its basically ruined forever. I opted to include it anyway since I went through the trouble of re-drawing it.
Sorry, creating the letters out of multiple lines just screams “Sega logo” to me. I picked to recreate this one because for two reasons: 1) I like how the inside (left) line of the “S” smoothly transitions into the outside (right) line of the “P”. Its a neat visual trick that isn’t readily noticed; 2) Coloring the inside line art of the “P” yellow against the blue of everything else provides an interesting way to solidify this mark as “two letters” and not “one shape”.
Monolith because this mark feels VERY much like a stamp. Rather than an emblem for an experience, an identity, a product, and an attitude (all things Sony successfully marketed to consumers with the PlayStation in the early to mid 90s) this feels like a logo that would have been EVERYWHERE. As it was, the finalized “PS” mark was ubquitous with the brand, but it did not feel oppressive or irritating.
As a design, I like this the best out of all the concepts. Its a clean design and melds the the two letters nicely. The “P” is a little lost and if you stare at this long enough you can convince yourself it actually says “nS”; but I like the terminal ends on the shape as if a sword cut them off at a sharp angle. Unfortunately as a mark for an entire product line, its probably best that Sony didn’t choose this one.
With this design you can see the “RCA” influence a bit, especially in the same negative-space area for the “P” and the way the top and bottom of the curves on the “S” are pinched smaller at the apex and widen out again.
I wish more companies made this kind of material available. I think its fascinating to see post-mortem documents and files to get a better idea of what was going on “behind-the-scenes” while we the eager consumer chomped at the bit for “product X” to finally hit store shelves. Its pretty clear from the concepts and even the finalized mark Sony went with that the origins of the PlayStation as a Nintendo product of the “Super” generation did not completely leave the product when Sony split with Nintendo. Again, likely a lot of nostalgia going into this, but I think their final logo decision was the right one.