Microsoft had invited three brand designers to Redmond, Washington, in 2004 to present a new identity for the upcoming Xbox 360
Landor, the incumbent, was an obvious choice as it had created the packaging for Windows and attained legendary marketing status for transforming Federal Express into FedEx, including the slogan “The world on time” and the masterpiece logo. Turner Duckworth, out of London and San Francisco, authors of the Amazon.com identity (with its “logo that smiles from A to Z”) was also a contender. And then there was David: JDK Design.
First up was Michael Jager, JDK’s creative director. Standing before the tribunal, Jager (pronounced like the Rolling Stone) illustrated his vision through a combination of street theater, design psychology, and cultural fluency. Comparing the original Xbox with the Incredible Hulk, Jager used a razor to slash an X in a sheet of paper and then thrust his head through the hole. “X today is all AARGGHHH!” he bellowed. Pure aggressive power.
Jager acknowledged power as a critical component separating Xbox from its competitors but urged the company to see it–and express it– differently. “Our approach was to transition Xbox from this hulk of escaping power into this quiet power that is lurking, something still incredibly dangerous but with more of an elegance and grace,” he recalls. “The analogy we used was Bruce Lee.”
Indeed, Jager’s illustrative shorthand became a mantra for the 360 team as it created the look and feel of the new system. “Whenever we evaluated our work in terms of guiding our decisions for Xbox 360,” Hall says, “it was like, ‘This is too Hulk’ or ‘We need more Bruce Lee.'”