Two weeks ago, Microsoft unveiled Xbox One. We saw the physical hardware and the system’s operating system in action. The company positioned the device as an all-in-one media solution that plays games but also handles television and video content. The engineers and designers inside Microsoft are now talking about the challenges in creating something that can do everything.
“Xbox has always had something to say,” Xbox industrial design creative director Carl Ledbetter said in an interview on Xbox.com. “It’s always been bold with a strong personality. Xbox One needs to serve our most loyal gaming fans and deliver unique entertainment experiences, so its design has to make an appropriate statement that reflects its capability as an all-in-one entertainment system.”
Microsoft set out from the beginning to build Xbox One as an all-encompassing piece of hardware. To help it achieve that, it built the hardware and software in tandem.
“We wanted to think from a holistic perspective,” Xbox design creative director Ramiro Torres told Xbox.com. “When designing anything on Xbox, you have to consider everything from the way the hardware and user interface looks, to the way the box and branding is expressed. Everything has a role in the way you experience a brand.”
To that end, Xbox One designers took cues from the Windows team. They used Windows 8’s Modern UI, the touch-optimized side of the latest OS, to inform the look of Xbox One.
The designers also wanted to keep everything within the 16-to-9 aspect ratio that is the standard for today’s high-definition televisions. That even extends to the hardware itself.
When it comes to the case for Xbox One, Microsoft wants the box to reflect the OS. For example, the edge of the heat vents on the side of Xbox One match the look of a selected tile in the system’s menus.
“Having the design and engineering teams working closely together was paramount to the design process,” said Ledbetter. “It makes it faster and more efficient, and allowed us to rapidly prototype new samples for testing. Constant iteration was instrumental.”
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