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One of the more low key striking aspects of the Switch is the system’s clean, elegant OS — featuring sleek UI, snappy responsiveness, and minimalistic simplicity, it’s a notable departure from recent consoles. At CEDEC 2018 earlier today, Nintendo developers sat down to talk about the design and function of the OS, as reported by Wall Street Journal journalist Takashi Mochizuki. Here are the key points:

  • Nintendo wanted to focus on the OS being simple yet functional, along with appearing easy to use. To do this, they separated games from applications (News, eShop, etc.); adjusted the size, colors, and density of items; took a “top-to-bottom” approach; and tried to make the screen less crowded.
  • They also wanted to movement across the screen to be intuitive — thus the simple rows and grids. They coupled sound effects with movement to make it clearer what was happening.
  • The NES’ immediacy was seen as a point of inspiration; one switch flip and you’re in the game.
  • The home menu design resources take less than 200kb of data in an effort to be as snappy as possible, which is an impressive feat.
  • Quickness was prioritized. Animations were made as short as possible while still feeling responsive. The number of actions needed to commit actions was reduced. (For example, the default cursor is on “Yes” instead of “No” when it asks for confirmation on quitting a game.)
  • The designers realized that text works better than icons in certain cases — if you use an icon the player is unfamiliar with, then they’ll just check the text anyway.
  • By their philosophy, it’s more important to focus on cutting uncomfortable elements than putting in comfortable ones, but you need to do both to make a proper UI.
  • The Switch’s focus on rhythmic sound effects with no background music was to centralize on quick access to content.

While not exactly hype-inducing, the talk is an interesting explanation of design choices, and hopefully valuable to any visual design folk in the readership.


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Written by Amelia Fruzzetti

A writer and Nintendo fan based in Seattle, Washington. When not working for NinWire, she can be found eating pasta, writing stories, and wondering about when Mother 3 is finally going to get an official localization.