After 25 years, Microsoft unveils new logo

A quarter of a century after its last update, Microsoft has unveiled a new logo as it prepares to launch a host of new products

A quarter of a century after its last update, Microsoft has unveiled a new logo as it prepares to launch a host of new products with a common look and feel

In a statement on a Microsoft blog, Microsoft’s general manager of Brand Strategy Jeff Hansen explained that “The logo has two components: the logotype and the symbol. For the logotype, we are using the Segoe font which is the same font we use in our products as well as our marketing communications … The symbol’s squares of colour are intended to express the company’s diverse portfolio of products.”

A video demonstrates how the new mark will work in animation.

 

 

1975 logo

 

1975-1987

 

1987 – present

 

This is the first time in 25 years that Microsoft has changed its logo. As we reported in our April 2012 issue, the company is in the midst of reimagining its approach to the design and branding of its products with the roll out of the Metro design language. Over the next year, it will launch new products including Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, new Xbox services and a new version of Office in which, Hansen says, “you will see a common look and feel … providing a familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs”.

 

From today, the new look will appear on microsoft.com and in three of the company’s shops in the US.

 

Segoe, which was designed by Steve Matteson at Monotype, may not be the most exciting typeface in the world and the logo itself is hardly revolutionary but what is worth applauding here is the ongoing work that Microsoft has been doing across the business on its UI design and branding.

In various public pronouncements and blog posts, Microsoft designers have paid tribute to the influence not just of graphic design but of the Swiss International Style in particular in developing what has come to be known as Metro, the visual language based on clean typography and a grid system of coloured tiles that Microsoft has begun to implement across its products.

Metro has its roots in work done by various Microsoft design teams for the ill-fated Zune music player, Windows Media Player and even Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia software in combining graphic design, interaction design and motion graphic design to attempt to create a compelling user experience. But it was the Windows Phone team that developed those principles into a coherent design philosophy that is now being adopted across the group, including for Windows 8 OS.

 

Windows 8 start screen

 

The new logo comes out of this thinking and style. In our April issue, Jeff Fong, who was creative director on Windows Phone 7, explained how a team of designers at Microsoft started working on conceptualising a design direction and principles for the Windows Mobile redesign using transportation wayfinding as a major inspiration. “It’s a clear, direct visual language that helps people navigate a complex environment. Why not take inspiration from that and apply it to helping people navigate complex technologies?” he said.

 

The new interface, they decided, should be clean, light, open and fast. Unnecessary visual elements, including gradients and faux 3D were to be stripped out. Particular emphasis was to be given to motion, to the way in which one element transitioned to another, and to typography. And the interface would be ‘honest’ in that it wouldn’t be dressed up to look like real world objects or materials – no ‘skeumorphic’ shading or glossiness (Apple take note).

 

Windows 7 screen

For so many years, Microsoft’s graphic design has been about as stylish as its founder. With Metro it has developed a coherent, clean, considered typographically-led approach across its entire portflio of products. Moreover, it is one that rejects so many of the clichés of tech companies in favour of an attempt at least to learn from the masters of graphic design – in developing Metro, for example, the Microsoft team cited Vignelli, Müller-Brockmann and even Experimental Jetset as influences on their thinking.

This is not the most visually exciting piece of work that we will cover on this site, but there’s certainly something very interesting and ambitious going on at Microsoft and its approach to graphic design.

 

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