The Switch comes with a hitch
The Nintendo Switch is an upcoming video game console from Nintendo, and the company’s seventh major home console. The Switch’s main unit is more or less a tablet computer, and features two detachable controllers on both sides called Joy-Con. It not only connects to a TV at home (via a dock), but it also transforms into an on-the-go handheld using its 6.2-inch screen. For the first time, players can enjoy a full home-console experience anytime, anywhere. The two Joy-Con can be used independently, one in each hand, or together as one game controller when attached to a grip accessory. They can also attach to the main console for use in handheld mode, or be shared with friends to enjoy two-player action in supported games.
If that’s a bit difficult to get your head around – and you have to applaud Nintendo for their unabating efforts to break the mould in the video game industry – then watch this video.
You’ve probably realised now that the icon is inspired by the modular Joy-Con controllers, which are what make the home-to-handheld concept possible. Sensibly, the only clue we have that these depict the controllers, are the circles which represent the analog sticks.
There has been a bit of unrest about the symmetry of the icon. As you can see above, the gap between the two halves of the icon lies adrift from the central vertical axis. I gather that this was done so that the two halves have a similar visual weight. And I think they do. It’s fine.
I do have a niggle with the placement of the circles which represent the analog sticks of the Joy-Con controllers. They’re not horizontally aligned to the centre of their respective holding shapes. You can see above how they’re a bit off-centre. Hmm.
The type is set in a geometric sans-serif to complement the icon. It’s close in appearance to Gotham, except for that sweeping “S”; I suspect there has been some customisation here. Now I’m not a fan of justified word stacks in logos, especially when the words are different lengths. The issue for me here is that “NINTENDO”, being the longer word, recedes a little too much in the overall structure of the vertical logo, making for awkward proportions. The horizontal logo is more balanced, because with the icon aligned rationally to the top and bottom of the type, the words have more presence.
In the ongoing war of the home video game consoles, each of the three big brands have come to occupy a particular colour space, which is generally reflected in their hardware/software packaging, and user interfaces. For Sony’s PlayStation, it’s blue; for Microsoft’s Xbox, it’s green; and for Nintendo, it’s red. Nintendo has used red in most of its corporate logos in its long history, the most recognisable being its red “racetrack” logo (which was made grey in 2006). It is also, of course, the colour associated with Nintendo’s famous mascot, Mario. While Nintendo hasn’t always used red for its packaging – see the Gamecube and Wii/Wii U – it’s good to see them go back to their roots here.
In application, we were first introduced to the Switch logo with the above animation which portrays the sliding action of the controllers. So far it’s served as an interstitial in promo videos, and you have to watch it with the accompanying “click” sound (here), which is oh so satisfying.
On the hardware, the logo is set in a glossy black against the matt black on the dock and the grip. For something that’s meant to sit front and centre in my living room, I would hope the contrast on the dock isn’t as stark as it appears in the promo shot above, as if to remind me that THIS IS A NINTENDO SWITCH.
Overall, the concept of the logo was born out of the console’s most intriguing feature – those controllers – and the icon emerges as a good visual shorthand for the new system. I could go on about whether the word “NINTENDO” should be included, but that would be a whole other conversation about the company’s brand architecture and previous gaming consoles. The colour is fine, the typeface is conservative, and I just hope Nintendo becomes confident enough to use the logo without always strapping on the text.