As someone born in the early ’90s, it’s almost impossible to remember a time before the Sony PlayStation existed. Officially launching in Japan in December 1994, PlayStation has since grown into one of the most popular gaming platforms on the planet, even giving us the best-selling home console of all time, the PS2. The more recent PS4 rounds out the list of the top five best-selling consoles ever, with the original PlayStation just behind it in 6th place. The PS5 is now hitting some impressive sales milestones in Japan, too.
But before PlayStation was a gaming juggernaut, it went through many iterations and prototypes. The platform was first conceived as an upgraded CD-playing SNES system called “Play Station,” a failed partnership between Nintendo and Sony that would inspire the latter company to instead strike out its own and become the Big N’s biggest competition.
Just like with the hardware itself, Sony created many versions of the PlayStation logo before landing on the multi-color “PS” logo fans around the world recognize today. The first version of course was attached to that Play Station prototype, the words written out next to Nintendo’s Super Famicom logo. You can spot it at top center of the controller in the video below:
There were many more proposed designs after Sony decided to pursue its very own hardware, combining the words “Play” and “Station” into one word to avoid litigation with Nintendo over their “Play Station.” Quite a few ideas from the logo’s concept art stage were compiled by the excellent Twitter handle Retro Tech Dreams, giving us a better look at all the different directions Sony explored for the symbol that would go on to represent their gaming brand for decades.
You can see that even in those early days, Sony was pretty set on highlighting the console’s initials in the logo, although some designs are way more abstract than others. The optical illusion that makes the logo look like it’s in 3D went through a few iterations too, including a few designs that make the letters look more like bookends. Most notable are all the different colors the designers experimented with before landing on primary colors fusing into a green in the middle of the “S.” In fact, many of the designs favor the contrast between black and yellow, although red seemed to be a mainstay in most of the concepts.
Of course, it was Manabu Sakamoto now-iconic design that became the face of the PlayStation brand. In 2019, on the occasion of the platform’s 25th anniversary, Sakamoto explained the process and thinking behind creating the logo.
“Back then, one of the biggest features of the PlayStation was the 3D capability with polygons. So, the aim for the logo design, naturally, was to capture the ‘3D-ness,’” Sakamoto told Game Informer. “I was, however, determined to avoid typical 3D representations such as adding thickness to the design elements. What I wanted to focus on is the sense of space with z-axis, something subtle, something more like an optical illusion. Teiyu Goto, who designed the PS consoles, was especially keen with the logo design as well and wanted it to reflect a ‘fun’ feeling.
“The colorfulness was very important. I chose those primary colors because they are so simple so that you can describe them with the words that everybody knows: red, yellow, green, and blue. Green needed to be slightly adjusted to have better harmony, but such simplicity in communication, I believe is the key to a successful brand.”
The rest is gaming history.