Why The Xbox One Was Designed To 'Disappear'

The Xbox One is an interesting console but perhaps the least interesting thing about the Xbox One is its design. It's big, it's relatively bland, it looks like a VCR or a set-top box. Turns out plenty of that look was deliberate.

On its official site, Microsoft shone the light on Carl Ledbetter, the man behind the design of the Xbox One. It's a console that barely even looks designed — just a big black box with components — but that simplicity was apparently by design.

"We wanted to take every component of what people love about Xbox and amplify it, but also make it disappear into the living room – to stay in the background, robust and reliable," he said.

"We were trying to push boundaries, to do something new and inventive, but there was so much at stake that we had to be really careful as well. The reason why there was so much at stake is that people really, really care about Xbox."

There seems to be this push and pull in design. An attempt to simultaneously create something radical, but also maintain some sort of sense of safety. It makes sense: the Xbox One is supposed to feel like a device from the future but to make Microsoft's dreams of mass market penetration a reality, it also has to feel accessible.

The word 'reliable' is also interesting, considering the massive issues the Xbox 360 had with the 'red ring of death'.

And the idea that the console should 'disappear'. I also find that interesting. Consoles are usually designed to stand out, to be bold. The Xbox One is almost conservative and familiar by design. That's a relatively new idea for video games.

Carl Ledbetter [Microsoft]


    Of course he would say that.


      What made me laugh was "We were trying to push boundaries, to do something new and inventive".... so we created a box. That looks like a VCR. Cause thats new and inventive.

        It doesn't even make sense because in the modern TV cabinet, a VCR would be completely incongruous. In a world of Apple TVs, Rokus and Chromecasts, the Xbox is positively gargantuan. The console itself looks like an anachronism from the 80s, which jars horribly with the (also large) Kinect sensor which conversely, does look futuristic.


          Though I wonder now if Carl actually has a TV cabinet full of VCR's and the like, so it looks good in HIS cabinet.

        I'm so tired of people saying it looks like a VCR! It does NOT look like a VCR because it's missing the most vital features of one: the impossible-to-program blinking 12:00 on the front. Doesn't anyone remember that?

      I just assumed they got the guy who designs the new Porsche 911 each year, you know the one with tracing paper and the creativity of a stone.

    "Consoles are usually designed to stand out, to be bold."

    Says who?

    Asthetics are a question of personal prefence. There's no formula or standards for design considerations and I personally love the fact the Xbox one design is simplistic in nature.

    I don't see the problem with this situation in all honesty, I love the Xbox one design - it looks like (strangely enough) a box designed to sit on your entertainment shelf and blend into your entertainment environment.

    Mission accomplished?

      I agree it looks comfortable next to any standard receiver, or home theatre setup. Where as almost every other console is screaming to be up front and in the open - which really isn't necessary with wireless controls the norm.

      If Microsoft had got there way and done away with the need for discs we'd have placed the console in the entertainment cabinet and forgotten about it. Which would have been totally fine with me.

      I can't think of a console before the Xbox one that didn't have an air of "look at me, touch me, turn me on" about it. The Xbox one doesn't give me that vibe, and probably doesn't give serrels it either

    Yeah, I eat extra chocolate cos fat guts are cool :P

    Since the advent of big TVs and home theatre systems, everyone wants their consoles to blend in. That's why black non-flashy versions of Xbox 360 sold so well, why PS3 comes in black-only usually, why black Wii sold buckets, why the best WiiU is black.

    Both Xbone and PS4 are decently sleek and black to fit away into a cabinet.

    My XBox 360 disappeared as well. I kept forgetting I still had one. *Badum tish* But seriously folks, don't you get the feeling that coupled with the Kinect, the XBox One is like a Ninja Dog? It disappears into your living room setup and then sits there, watching and waiting until you cautiously call "XBox On", to which it leaps out at you in a flash of light and three little bips of happiness that you remembered it was still there.

    Thank you, I'm here all week. Don't forget, if you want more of my XBone fan fiction, you can buy my book "Where in the Living Room is the XBone?" from all good retailers.

    Wouldn't it be nice if corporate types were just honest? Wouldn't it be nice if they just said stuff like. "Yup, it's a black rectangular prism, it ain't anything flash because we don't think people want their appliances to make statements or be works of art, it's about what's on the inside and the cool stuff they can do."

    People would fall in love with such candid talk.

    Last edited 21/01/14 1:18 pm

      Couldn't agree more. My Xbox One may not look like a grilled cheese, but it snaps Arrow on netflix while I play Peggle 2, and that's all I need to enjoy my VCR.

    Give me my shiny silver Reach 360.
    Give me my Platinum and Indigo Gamecubes.
    Give me the see through white plastic of the Panzer Dragoon Xbox.
    Give me the bright pink of a Hello Kitty Dreamcast.
    Give me the happy yellow of a Pokémon Gameboy Color.
    Give me my vibrant red DS Lite.
    Give me the stand out white of a PS3.

    Give me colour! Give me something to stand out! LET ME AND MY CONSOLES BE HAPPY SHINY UNIQUE SNOWFLAKES!

      I agree with you completely, I love coloured consoles, so much to the point where I'd trade in my previous console and pay the extra cash just to have the same thing with a splash of color! I've also pulled apart many consoles and controllers to spray paint them in various colours and patterns. Black and/or white are just bland. I'll pick up a ps4 once they change the lights to color changing LEDs and give the whole thing a nice coat of white paint.

    You know what consoles need more of these days? Faux wood panelling. Look at the Atari 2600 - that's timeless. Let's have more of that.

    I never got the whole hype about what the PS4 and Xbone looks like. I mean, during the leadup to the release, there was so much talk about their design but really... who cares? When I'm playing a game, I'm looking at my TV. I am not going to sit there staring at the console for hours on end writing essays on it's curves and edges. I don't care if it's a big square box or if it's a dome. Just so long as it fits under my TV and doesn't take up too much space, it's fine. I'll start caring once the game video is on the console itself, so I'm forced to stare at it

    A list of items to care about their aesthetics: TV, Game, Controller, Game Cases
    A list of items that you shouldn't care about their looks: Everything else

    sorry they want the console to be reliable?
    I turned it on the other day and my internet was down. it took AGES to boot up, then my menus wouldnt load i got a screen saying sorry your apps havent loaded yet. it took longer than the wii u at launch to open settings.
    as soon as my internet came back it was fine.
    its clear to me that they never really removed the online component, they just built over it

      I would call support, mine works fine without internet?

    I'm thinking they will come out with a flashy arty farty Xbox with a bigger HD which will have a spike in sales as people purchase it a second time around like collector items.

    I have friends like this that have bought most limited edition xbox's purely on look, personally I like the look of the Xbox as it goes well with my AV receiver and blue ray player as all have the same footprint in size and all relatively new I really don't get where people are getting their tiny blueray and AV players from go into JB HIFI and that size is the norm.

    Plus I don't want some arty console ruining the aesthetics of my home theatre room, this is my opinion but I really think limited edition consoles look tacky and don't get me started on bright or fluro colors unless its for a kids room.

    Probably good that it blends in, you can't be embarrassed for owning an xbox one if no one can notice it there.

    Look like a mess. I hate it.

    I've loved the design of the One from day one. It really does disappear into the background when playing. It's a great design.

    Looks both retro and modern at the same time which is very very hard to do. The PS4 looks very very modern, but it seems like a design that wouldn't age that well (like most consoles).

    To me, the Xbox One design is more akin to the PS2 fat design in that I think it will age far better than most consoles, which don't age well at all.

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