Why the unique Nintendo Switch logo works

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Why the unique Nintendo Switch logo works
November 10, 2020

The Nintendo Switch is now undoubtedly one of the most successful consoles ever released. It has now crossed the NES to become only Nintendo’s second most successful system after the Wii. The success of the system can, of course, be attributed to various factors. Nintendo exclusive first party games have always been a big draw. And this system launched along with launch title Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which is an insane success story of its own right.

But there is something more to the success of this system. More than just the great games, its hybrid nature and the Nintendo brand recognition.

As far as the latter is concerned it is worth noting that brand recognition did little to sell Nintendo’s previous system which, equally emphatically, was a failure. With the Switch, Nintendo has their hands on a different, more desirable beast. And Nintendo knows it.

An argument can be made that this is one of Nintendo’s best looking systems yet. And this does not seem to be a case of a happy accident. After the tepid response to the Wii U it seems Nintendo really went all in to try to make their next system stand out, or at the very least stand apart from Wii U.

One of the often highlighted failings of the Wii U was its inability to look distinguished from its own predecessor, the highly popular Wii. This, along with confusing advertising, famously left many potential buyers thinking it was merely an accessory to the Wii. A new overpriced, oversized tablet to control your Wii games, instead of a new (at the time) generation console.

This fact was not lost on Nintendo. With the Switch, clarity in communication was a big thing Nintendo had to figure out. Nintendo was taking a risk betting on adding portability to the home console, instead of competing on raw hardware capabilities which is what everyone else was focusing on at the time. And Nintendo did not need the risks to be exacerbated by muddled messaging. They needed to sell their idea as much as the product itself. And boy have they succeeded.

nintendo controller

This brings us to the beautifully unique Switch Iogo and everything it signifies, and how it stands for Nintendo’s triumph in communicating to their customers, plainly and simply, the Switch.

It is not difficult to tell, provided you have already seen the actual console, that the logo is just two Joy Cons placed side by side, basically just a part of the actual physical system. For the benefit of the uninitiated - The Joy Cons are the newly designed detachable controllers that work both as a single controller as well as two separate controllers allowing for co-op play out of the box.

Now, having the logo be a representation of a part of the physical product itself is not common. Traditional design wisdom might even warn against it. But here it makes sense. This, along with the name – Switch, tells the audience what Nintendo wants them to know - this is not only a new console from Nintendo, it is an entirely new kind of console.

Using the detached Joy Cons as a visual stand in for the new hybrid functionality is genius. Coupled with ads that include scenes of people playing the Switch handheld, and then dropping it onto the dock and detaching the Joy Cons in a single swift motion to continue playing on the big screen, or vice versa, the messaging is complete.

But there is more to it. There is an asymmetry here that almost goes under the radar. And that is because it is asymmetrical only to trick the eye into thinking it is symmetrical. It is also not centered and yet it seems to be.

Furthermore, while the logo works perfectly well without any colour, or in monochrome, as evidenced by the logo on the dock and the controller grip against grey plastic, its beauty is enhanced against the default colour of red on the box itself.

Another interesting thing about the logo is the subtle evocation of yin and yang. Beautiful, flowing, universally recognised, this symbol in Ancient Chinese philosophy signifies duality. The coming together of two different forces that work together, creating balance and becoming more than the sum of their parts. Duality is a part of the appeal of the system. The Switch is the first system that truly embraces the hybrid console idea. It is obvious there was a lot of work put into making the actual switch between the two playable modes seamless and smooth.

Now this might easily be seen as the ramblings of a fanboy. But looking at it as objectively as possible there is no denying the fact that the Switch stands out from every other console. It is not the newest iteration of a concept decades old - The concept that the arcade could be a tiny box beside the TV. That was revolutionary in its own right. And of course Nintendo had a big role to play in that as well.

But this is that box leaving your entertainment center to get on a bus with you, or chilling with you on the sofa when the TV is otherwise engaged. And this new revolution deserved nothing less than a distinctive logo that would go on to be adopted by, and incorporated into, the logos of so many YouTube creators focusing majorly on the Switch. A logo that subtly recalls the face of the revolution. The product itself. A great logo of our times.

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