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[Op-Ed] ‘Optimised For Series X’ logo is everything wrong with Microsoft’s branding.

Our resident designer takes a deep dive into Xbox's marketing for Series X. Why isn't it exciting?

Dear readers (or listeners), if you are an avid follower of our humble podcast, you will know that we had a bit of a discussion about the new Xbox Series X logo which Microsoft are seemingly using for their next console.

I have a real problem with it. As a graphic designer, it is arguably the most unexciting logo I have seen in a long time. It doesn’t instill the consumer in excitement. Back in the day a new logo reveal for a new console was almost as exciting as the console reveal itself. But this lazy uninspiring logo is not thrusting NEW, POWERFUL, THE FUTURE at me. Choose any buzzword you like for a new console and the Series X logo will relate to none of them.

Now before all the fanboys kick off, yes, the PlayStation 5 logo could also be considered lazy. After all it’s the same logo, just with the number changed from 4 to 5. The important thing here is that it instills excitement. The numerical upgrade fills you with mystery. If the PS4 is good, then the PS5 is bound to be better. It’s a simple process designers go through day in day out.

The other thing about is brand awareness. PlayStation, give or take from the very beginning have used a numerical name for their consoles, updated the style and tweaked the looks. Now, their brand awareness has been nurtured and grown so consumers now know that something is unmistakably PlayStation. How does the new UI look? Will there be a crossmedia bar? are we going to go back to ‘The Third Place” a simple change of a number makes PlayStation owners sweaty in anticipation.

I’m not a fanboy, I’ve owned both PlayStations and Xbox. But for some reason, Microsoft really has trouble with usability and brand awareness. First, there was the Xbox, then the Xbox 360. With the next generation, everyone and their pinata assumed that the new console would be the Xbox 720. Hell, there was even an Easter egg in Real Steel that showcased an Xbox 720 logo. Surely that would make sense?

Link the consoles together. Following that pattern, I think the eventual Xbox 1080 sounds pretty good, powerful. Instead, we get the Xbox One, a strange title considering it was the third console. It almost sounds like a reboot. Then there was the One X and One S. And now we have the Xbox Series X. To the untrained gamer, parents, for example, looking for a new console for their children. What do they buy? Is the Series X an upgraded One X, the premium Xbox One console like the One X is supposed to be? Is it the next level up, the pro version, the ultimate gamer version? They won’t know, the logo doesn’t help. If they were to go on the logo alone, they would rightly assume that it was nothing to do with Xbox. ” MUM I want a Series X for Christmas” what does that mean to the untrained ear?

The whole point of a designer is to make something that is understood by everyone. To communicate the brand, the ethos, the idea to everyone, not just other designers. Something universal that has to work across the board. In my humble opinion, this Series X doesn’t do anything to help anyone.

And the confusion doesn’t stop there. Unlike previous generations, new consoles need to live side by side with there older counterparts. Xbox Series X games will work on Xbox One, at least for the beginning of the new consoles life span. So now let’s think about this. Let’s take Cyberpunk for example. It’s available on the Xbox One, the One S and the One X. Microsoft in their wisdom have noticed that confusion could reign so they have designed a new logo telling people that a game is optimised for Xbox Series X. So do you see, that now sounds like it’s optimised for a pro version of the Xbox One, not a brand new, next-generation console.?

So essentially what you have here are three logos in one. The Xbox “Abyss Cheese”, the Series X logo and the overall logo. Some of you may think it looks OK, it’s Xbox Green, it’s black it’s all good. But what happens when it’s not on black. A logo always needs a full-colour version, a black version and a white version. Will this logo have the same impact? Will the Series X be lost on the green if there is a lot of white surrounding the logo? Trivial matters for some, sure I get that, but a logo needs to be universal.

The bigger question perhaps could be, how would the logo look, when shrunk down to fit on a game box? If you look at the PS4 Pro logo, it’s just a simple logo on the back of a game case that is non-obtrusive. It sits there informing everyone that this particular game is optimised for the Pro. If the above is shrunk down to a similar size. Would you even be able to read it?

The below is 2cm across, a decent size for something to place on the back of the box along with all the other info guff. If they want to put it on the front, then, of course, they can make it as big as they like, but, would that be something you would want to see covering half the awesome artwork from the box cover? Will it be a black box, slapped somewhere on the cover. That would be ugly and lazy.

I do love a new console. I don’t really care if it’s Xbox or PlayStation, I just love the excitement and the hype train that comes with it. It’s probably just me, but I just can’t get excited about the Series X. It’s not inspiring me or exciting me, especially after that gameplay reveal event a few days ago, which really was bad.

Conversely, Sony released an image of the PS5 controller, which filled me with excitement and wonder. What do all the new buttons doe, what is this haptic feedback they are talking about WHY IS IT TWO COLOURS!?. Sony generally is trying to do something different, where Microsoft are just happy churning out the same thing with better graphics and worse logos.

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