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Microsoft defends the look of the Xbox One

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xbox one MS design video
xbox one MS design video

Microsoft is painting the Xbox One as both a gaming hub and a home media center, and it certainly has the blocky looks to back up the latter. Our initial impression was that the large, black console resembled a VCR, but Microsoft is hoping to help consumers see the beauty in the One's hardware by pointing out some of the more thoughtful areas of its design. The company's idea was to translate the square and rectangular tiles of its modern-style interface over to the actual hardware. After "dozens and dozens" of prototypes, the team landed on the two-tone, matte and glossy black console design.

The console isn't meant to be noticed

The team was led by Carl Ledbetter, the designer in charge of the Xbox 360 S design as well — and it's easy to see similarities between the two, such as the vented stripes and segmented body. Microsoft's hope was that the black box wouldn't be noticeable, and it claims that it used the "blackest black creatable" for the controller and Kinect sensor. On the controller, Microsoft suggests that the dark tone will help the brightly colored lettering on the A, B, X, and Y buttons stand out.

Ledbetter's team built over 200 prototypes for the controller and over 100 prototypes for the Kinect, iterating until they believed the designs were perfect. "Many people may not notice some of the small design touches," Ledbetter said. But while the team is going for subtle and unnoticeable today, that's a big distinction from what Microsoft did with the debut of its last console. The 360 was supposed to be almost ornamental, with interchangeable faceplates and a zen design meant to resemble someone inhaling air. Despite the stark change, the company is proud of what it made this time around. "We call it boldly understated," Ledbetter said.