The Origins of Triangle, Circle, X, Square

August 26, 2010Written by Allen Tyson

After 15 years of pressing those same unique buttons…who knew? Who knew that those buttons we took for granted, would have intrinsic worth to the PlayStation brand? — Teiyu Goto knew.

Teiyu Goto, the designer responsible for the sleek look PlayStation is known for, provides us insight into one of the most unique design elements of the system — The X, O, Square and Triangle buttons that went on to define the brand.

In a recent interview with Famitsu, Goto-san gives us details on what those iconic symbols mean. In discussing how the controller came to have the buttons we all know so well, Goto-san had this to say:

“Other game companies at the time assigned alphabet letters or colors to the buttons. We wanted something simple to remember, which is why we went with icons or symbols, and I came up with the triangle-circle-X-square combination immediately afterward. I gave each symbol a meaning and a color. The triangle refers to viewpoint; I had it represent one’s head or direction and made it green. Square refers to a piece of paper; I had it represent menus or documents and made it pink. The circle and X represent ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision-making and I made them red and blue respectively. People thought those colors were mixed up, and I had to reinforce to management that that’s what I wanted”

Goto-san’s design went on to differentiate the console from everyone else — Even after all these years when you see those buttons, you think PlayStation. The impact of those design choices really made an impact on people. Goto-san went on to share an experience that is truly moving:

“I was at a PlayStation party in Los Angeles once, and a man came up and asked if I was the designer of the PlayStation. I said yes, and he said ‘I develop games for a software company, but we started supporting the PlayStation because of the system’s design.’ I was really moved by that — I thanked him and shook his hand as strongly as I could. That moment made me really glad to be involved with the design. Being able to launch a new brand and have people around the world use it can make a designer very, very happy”

It’s not everyday we get this type of insight into, not only the history of a console , but the passion that some individuals have for the work —  Teiyu Goto could have spent the past 17 years of his life designing anything he chose — Thankfully, he chose the PlayStation