The origins of the PlayStation controller’s triangle, circle, square and cross buttons can’t exactly be described as a mystery on a par with the disappearance of the Mayans, but we’ve always been pretty curious about where the four symbols came from. Now we know, thanks to a Famitsu magazine interview with Teiyu Goto, the man responsible for the external design of PlayStation consoles, their peripherals and accessories, for the last 17 years. In among detailing the distinctive dual-grip design, Goto says the four symbols were actually an attempt to keep things straightforward while rivals were using letters.
“Other game companies at the time assigned alphabet letters or colors to the buttons. We wanted something simple to remember, which is why we went with icons or symbols, and I came up with the triangle-circle-X-square combination immediately afterward. I gave each symbol a meaning and a color. The triangle refers to viewpoint; I had it represent one’s head or direction and made it green. Square refers to a piece of paper; I had it represent menus or documents and made it pink. The circle and X represent ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision-making and I made them red and blue respectively. People thought those colors were mixed up, and I had to reinforce to management that that’s what I wanted.” Teiyu Goto, Sony
It turns out that Goto had plenty of challenges trying to get his hardware design and buttons through Sony management, but eventually he persuaded them and the rest – as they say in clichés – is history.