The Meaning of the PlayStation Button Symbols
By Chad Upton | Editor
We are surrounded by symbols and they’ve been around for a very long time.
In public places, where people may speak many different languages, we often see symbols instead of words. Some examples include signs for bathrooms and restaurants and even many road signs.
In the West, we have a some common symbols in writing. Check marks often mean correct or yes and an X usually means incorrect or no. In Japan, they have four symbols that are commonly used in surveys: X, Triangle, Circle and Double Circle (circle within circle). These four symbols make up a four point scale, although sometimes the double circle is omitted for a three point scale. The circle means good or satisfactory and the double circle means excellent. The X means no or bad. The triangle means average (or below average on the four point scale when the double circle is being used). These symbols are just as common as the checks and Xs in the West.
So, when Sony charged Teiyu Goto with designing the original PlayStation, he wanted the buttons to represent ideas rather than label them with arbitrary letters like everybody else. It didn’t take long for him to settle on the triangle, circle, X, square icons.
They were easy to remember because they were associated with meaning. The triangle represents a user’s viewpoint or perspective, making it a great button to launch maps or change the game perspective. The square represented a piece of paper, making it ideal for showing navigation lists and menus. The circle and the X mean yes and no, and they’re meant for navigating yes and no operations.
When asked about the impact of the design, Goto replied, “”Getting to use such simple symbols in a design is an extremely rare opportunity, and it was really a stroke of luck to me.”