It must have been July last year (1998) when I first asked Mr. Itoi about making a logo for HAL.
Yes, it was around July or August.
We already had a logo, but it didn’t have any particular message or meaning. Even when our customers played the games we developed, I think they played them thinking, “This game was developed by Nintendo.” And, well, that wasn’t good. To get people to know more about HAL Laboratory through our products, I felt that we needed a symbol that would really express our personal policies and our way of thinking. I thought we could make people aware and think, “Hey, this game is developed by HAL!” by putting up a high-impact logo there on the game screen. As a result of talks I had with the previous president, Mr. Iwata, I decided to go and consult with Mr. Itoi.
A better name for it is brand strategy. Using a symbol that everyone will recognize. Say you had previously made a best-selling game, you could market your newest software as “by the company that brought you xxx”, but if the game style is completely different, then it will seem strange to the customers. Or, to speak of it in terms of times and seasons, HAL had finally grown up to a point where it could take on those sorts of things. At last, the company had become able to think about how it looked to its customers (lol). Up until now, the plane had just floated lazily in the atmosphere, but at last it has shot up to where the air is thin. Something like that, right?
Exactly. With that, Iwata and I went to your Tokyo office to talk things over for a few hours.
Though I had often been in touch with you and Iwata as a matter of course, I think that was the first time I’d talked quite that much about HAL (lol). Not just about what you wanted to do with the company from that point onward, either. We went back 10, 20 years in our talks… That kind of work, which is a bit like drawing up a chronology, was fun in its own way.
We started with a discussion about HAL’s strengths, what our main appeal was, didn’t we? Going from what sort of things we’d created up until then. Tools to connect computers with electronic organizers, hardware that lets you fax directly from your computer, a universal remote controller that works for your TV, your stereo…
That’s right, the universal remote! I really liked that thing and ended up going around recommending it to everyone, saying, “This really is a great remote, you know.” But, that remote was a bit of a hassle, too. People who use remotes generally tend to be the sort who will go out of their way to avoid hard work, but you had to jump through some serious hoops programming that remote before you could start using it for lots of different devices. Sure, it was a major convenience once you just got that out of the way, but…
Actually, I’m the one who came up with the idea for that remote (wry smile). We were targeting audio and video enthusiasts. That’s why we thought we could get the user to program the remote, even if it was a little troublesome. It definitely would’ve been great if everyday people were to use it, but at the time we didn’t think in that direction at all (lol). We didn’t have any idea that if we’d made the interface a little easier to engage with, more people would’ve used it, not just enthusiasts.
And that’s why I have that remote as my image of the HAL of the past (lol). Lately, as you’d expect, your company hasn’t had any of that, but around when the logo was decided on, HAL still had a little of its old self tailing behind it in places. It was a kind of awkwardness. We believe that if you make good things, then people will just get it, even if you don’t say a word. However, something that’s really good has to be talked about. I felt what was needed was work that would wash clean thoughts and notions in that particular area.
Deciding on the logo’s keyword went surprisingly smoothly, didn’t it?
We went with “bond,” didn’t we? A long bond, a thick bond, a deep bond… There’s lots of different imagery with the word, but at any rate the desire was to have HAL become a company built on bonds. We also wanted to build in an image of fostership. That is, to make HAL a company that could grow up ripe and healthy, for human resources too.
I remember when I first heard the keyword “bond”, I was curious about what kind of logo would come out of it. In my head, I had this idea of a paperclip or something like that. To think that it’d end up being a dog with eggs!
Actually, I’d had that image in my head for about 20 years. Dogs and eggs are two completely different things, right? But, even if it’s a dog providing the warmth, as long as the eggs are warmed well, they’ll hatch properly. Maybe birds will hatch from those eggs…or maybe something different, something even greater. There are all these hidden possibilities where you don’t know at all what might come of it. What’s being incubated is the ideas, the people even. But, up until then, I never found a company that was just right for the image, so I carried it with me all that time, waiting for a company that could use that logo. That’s why, when we had the conversation we did, I thought to myself, “Ah, the time has come at last.”
The first time you showed me the illustration for Inutamago, I thought, “This is nice.” Actually, I hadn’t heard anything at all about the eggs, that they had that sort of meaning behind them.
Oh? We didn’t talk about it? (lol)
No (lol). But, the meaning behind the dog, behind the nest that it’s sleeping on, I understood that right away without any explanation.
With the nest, I envisioned it as being a gathering of various things. Nests aren’t just made of twigs–sometimes you’ll find a bit of wire from a clothes hanger in there. You know, nests can be made up of all sorts of ridiculous things like that, too.
And the dog, it represents affection and an atmosphere of warmth.
Exactly. Dogs are pets, but they’ve also been our companions since ancient times. Anyway, if it were a cat, you’d have this feeling like it’d just abandon the eggs and go off somewhere, right? (lol)
From Smash Bros (“Super Smash Bros.” for the N64) onward, we included Inutamago in our games’ opening screens, but because we’ve received inquiries from players asking, “What’s that picture?”, perhaps this means it’s starting to get some attention. I think it means that, from now on, we’ll be able to start using this logo in different places as a kind of road sign for our customers’ expectations. Of course, we’ll need to work harder than ever in order to fully live up to those expectations. Change and challenge – these are things I don’t ever want us to forget.
In this era, where traditional rice cracker shops have been going on to make Western-style sweets, I feel like we can’t know what will become of “specialist” domains. That’s why, in addition to your fundamental ideas and knowledge, I feel you need to be ready and able to set off in any number of directions, like how baseball players set their posture to stay light on their heels, able to head off left or right. I say that because I think that a company without a stance that leaves you wondering what they’ll get up to next is a company that can’t make something uniquely their own.
You mean, you need to throw away your preconceived notions, right?
Just so. Persistent dedication is rigidity. Up until now, there has been a lot of boasting from enterprises about being unwaveringly dedicated to this or that, but in the future this might become something to be embarrassed about. Lighter movements, suppler minds, that sort of thing.
Exactly. That’s exactly the idea in the dog and the eggs. To exist in that way, to make something that has compassion, something filled with sincerity… I guess that’s the one thing I want to persist with (lol).
Yes, do! Persist in that, please! (lol)