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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 27, 2007 at 9:20 AM

A Seattle story: The Xbox and Bruce Lee

In a story about cool dude Vermont creative director Michael Jager, Fast Company magazine talks about how he won the Xbox 360 brand design account.

During a 2004 pitch to the Xbox team in Redmond, Jager compared the first Xbox with the Incredible Hulk. He told them the next one had to be more like Bruce Lee, “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 said.

The Hulk vs. Bruce stuff became a “mantra” as the team developed the system’s look and feel, the article said, quoting then Xbox brand director, Don Hall:

Whenever we evaluated our work in terms of guiding our deisions for Xbox 360 it was like, “This is too Hulk” or “We need more Bruce Lee.”

Jager’s firm, JDK Design, is credited with the shape of the box: “The reverse parenthesis design [ )( ] of the console is itself Jager’s symbolic conjuring of the martial-arts master, representing the inhalation of breath befroe a strike.”

JDK Design won over J Allard. He told the magazine it’s the first time he’s had a wandering career eye in 15 years at Microsoft.

The article doesn’t mention it, but Allard went on to hire JDK to work on the Zune and apparently come up the brown color scheme.

JDK must be using its Xbox loot to buy some PR. Not only was the firm on the cover of Fast Company alongside Jimmy Wales, but it also received glowing treatment in a March 22 Business Week story that revisits the “brown is cool now” theme.

From the Business Week piece:

Taking cues from high-end audiophile gear, JDK first thought to design the player with a wood veneer, then considered leather or copper, which would take on a patina over time — anything to depart from what (design director Malcolm) Buick calls the “preciousness” of white. Eventually, technical considerations mandated a molded plastic design similar to the Zune’s competitors. But JDK sought to reproduce the analog emotional experience by using brown, a warmer tone virtually absent from personal technology products since the first Atari consoles a quarter century ago.

Comments | Topics: Games & entertainment, Microsoft, Zune

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