CR Blog

After 25 years, Microsoft unveils new logo

Graphic Design

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 23 August 2012, 16:33    Permalink    Comments (44)

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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44 Comments

Microsoft has never seemed to be deeply concerned with design. This appears to be another reactive attempt to embrace design out of what Microsoft's primary deep concern has actually always been: ruthless competition. It's too little too late to convince anyone they actually care about design. Sorry.
Bob
2012-08-23 19:35:04


Open the floodgates...
Steve
2012-08-23 19:38:09


A solid piece of mind-numbingly boring corporate design. A perfect fit for microsoft I would say! :P
jeffrey
2012-08-23 20:22:03


It's not exactly logo design of the year is it.
Tom
2012-08-23 22:04:54


I love it – my response
Luke Tonge
2012-08-23 22:17:32


it promises more than it delivers...just like any Microsoft product...
Peter
2012-08-24 02:57:35


Trying to own the square might be painting yourself into a bit of a branding corner.
That said, the framework/programme they've devised is elegant - and the rebrand of the logo to be consistent with this is very clever indeed.
But I'd be very surprised if they have the discipline to push the design into all the nooks and crannies of the company's products like Apple has done starting with the original Aqua. That is likely to be their ultimate stumbling block.
Robert
2012-08-24 03:16:15


Good effort all round, but completely ridiculous seeing the dude in the blue tshirt with a carbon copy Apple uniform! I hate looking at a new product or design and being forced to think of a better competitor. I look at Apple and think of no one else.
Stu
2012-08-24 08:50:51


*goes to the Winchester*

*waits for this to aaallll blow over*
rob
2012-08-24 09:44:38


A student had a crack at it and did all this in 3 days... And it's pretty good I reckon, especially the rationale.

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1670245/a-students-smart-microsoft-rebranding-is-better-than-the-real-thing#17
Misha
2012-08-24 10:02:54


(take the 7 off the end of the address otherwise you go in half way through...)
Misha
2012-08-24 10:05:52


The student's 'crack at it' in 3 days is obviously going to be dragged up a lot here, but let's not forget that a self-initiated project only answers to the designer with no brief or client and is effectively a 'styling exercise'. It's easy to make something that designers think looks cool when you write the brief yourself.
sg
2012-08-24 10:18:31


The citing of the designers as influence just says they've watched the Helvetica documentary.
Pieter
2012-08-24 10:30:36


Didn't go through the whole of the student presentation referenced above but I think Deutsche Bank might be a bit miffed with the brand device and as SG said it's pretty easy to do 'cool' design when you make up the brief yourself.

The new logo might look a bit boring but the UI system devised from it works well.
James
2012-08-24 10:56:26


Shit, on design forums you will almost only find people who are just too incompetent when it comes to computers that they will throw shit at whatever comes from the Microsoft/Linux side. No, really, apple's products are brilliant, and they have for long branded themselves as the ultimate tool for designers, so it's no wonder designers favors apple. But apple products care as much about design as any other company: if it's helping their sales it's a go. I don't see this "hero aura" around the company as some seem to do. Apple started out this decennium as "the underdog" and therefore claimed the position as the small but smart company with a sense for style. Their product placements and other marketing techniques are smart, but it only highlights that apple is just that, a company.

I don't own a windows phone or anything but it's easy to say that the design of their new ui shows that the competition from apple have made Microsoft some good. I'd even say that Microsoft's new ui shows better and more timeless design than apple's who actually relies on glossy effects and glitter to a much higher degree.

Now, it wasn't like that when the iphone was released. Back then, apple actually stood out as the sane and less glittery product compared to it's competitors.

So stop throwing these fanboy-quotes around, it's too easy to look cool by favoring the obvious choice. I'm actually happy Microsoft has gone even more towards this timeless form of design, hopefully, it will force apple to simplify and make their design even better. As a designer, it's actually a blessing that Microsoft finally starts to work on it's design, that means design has become a very important factor.
(no, I own products from both and I'd happily try the new Nexus too)
Erik s Friberg
2012-08-24 11:00:31


All hail Erik.

He's right you know. Microsofts whole new direction is brave. Windows 8 may not end up being amazing but it's certainly the biggest leap into the unknown since OSX was first released. Good on them. They are finally trying to drive forward. And their logo is a little bland. So what. It's perfect for them. Also - look at the new website. The logo is absolutely tiny and yet you can still read it perfectly. That's got to be great for mobile devices...
Alex
2012-08-24 12:35:49


........ errmmmm! That is all
Stephen
2012-08-24 13:12:36


It's not amazing, but does it have to be 'amazing'? There's a big difference between introducing a new logo and brand style and styling your brand into a new direction which just happens to include a new branding platform.

It retains the legacy of its previous incarnations, whilst 'freshening' up the brand. It kind of reassures its audience that they are still the Microsoft you know and 'love' and they are not trying to be anything different. As much as I like the ideas from the student designs I can't help but feel there's an apple-isitic feel to it all, and surely if the 'slate' icon is based on an office block window this immediately alienates the 'home' audience, also what about the 'entertainment' arm of Microsoft, X-Box et al?

Rest assured if Microsoft had 'thought differently' about creating a new brand ID then they would have been accused of trying to be something they are not?
mike
2012-08-24 13:16:51


A v.positive step forward for the company and the usual the Apple Fanboy/MS bashers wade in...
Yawn.
Chris
2012-08-24 13:21:19


What about single colour?
Hanif
2012-08-24 13:46:15


A major step forward, with a fair number of disclaimers. The interface work most convincingly moves the bar for Microsoft. Intelligent work. Most impressive is that these efforts have advanced under the corporate "leadership" of Steve Ballmer, a reasonably smart, yet bullishly ignorant plaid-jacket who may lay claim to some of the worst decisions and downright hubristic remarks in corporate history. For this refocus, however, I must give Steve and the design crew at Microsoft (and their myriad design partners) their deserved praise.
Hillerns
2012-08-24 13:56:18


YAAWWN!
A
2012-08-24 14:08:19


A few people seem to hate the logo because they feel it isn't brave or cool enough. To me it seems the main problem people have with the rebrand is that it isn't Apple. It is worth remembering this is Microsoft we're talking about: adjectives such as 'brave' and 'cool' do not figure in the values of their brand or products.

The logo is taking something of a panning throughout the online design community but some of this is unjust. While I would agree there is little appealing about the logo, the application of it - particularly the mirroring of the shapes across Windows 8 and the Microsoft website - is, in my opinion, very strong and well considered.
Alex Szabo-Haslam
2012-08-24 15:11:05


One of my Art Directors has just made an interesting comment. The kerning on the type is not quite perfect, also it uses a ligature (something we avoid on typefaces for logos) something we find not 'perfect'. The design itself is not imaginative, it doesn't break-the-mould, also it's what you'd expect from Microsoft, but looks rushed and not considered. It's solid, robust, dependable, but has it's flaws.

A reflection of Microsoft perhaps?
mike
2012-08-24 15:21:04


not a word on apple from me, it just is boring corporate design, apple is not the only company doing it you know... the UI is much better, I'll give them that, but the logo... geez
jeffrey
2012-08-24 15:44:33


Not a revolutionary logo design by any stretch but it's clean & good it's good to see some care in the UI design & branding. Agree with Mike had they had gone much further with the new logo they would have been accused of trying to be something they're not
Alight Design Agency
2012-08-24 16:38:40


Microsoft's choice of Segoe as the font is so close to Apple's Myriad, it makes me think the best form of flattery truly is imitation. If you can't be 'em, at least look like 'em.
Brandon
2012-08-24 16:41:33


Thank god they didn't go with Paula Scher's windows logo. Believe it or not, it was even worse
lance
2012-08-24 18:39:03


While some see this as unimaginative and boring, I think it is a solid design.
Joint Medias
2012-08-24 19:22:02


Do they need 25 years to come out with this?!
Chiara
2012-08-25 06:49:54


Erik. Companies as dominant as Microsoft should take on the role of the responsible adult and strive to educate consumers who are NOT designers to understand what good design is. Paul Rand did this with IBM more than 50 years ago. What this new identity is saying is that it's okay to be mundane and simplistic.

Brandon, I totally agree with you, word for word in Myriad bold!
In Hebrew we call this Chutzpah!
Eddie
2012-08-25 07:47:58


Lol Chiara, they didn't spend 25 years working on this logo :)
Thi
2012-08-25 10:32:06


I like it. It's simple. I love how some people here believe that it's not well considered and lazy. It's like bringing my grandma to an art gallery with her saying "hey, I can do this - easy". Well, the hardest thing to do is to be simple - even though it seems 'lazy' i think it's functions quite well. I wonder how much pizzaz some of you were expecting.
Thi
2012-08-25 10:43:42


Well, it's better than the old one at least...
Which, as we all know, isn't saying all that much.
Dullness and blandness aside (it's dull enough and sufficiently non-decript to last another 25 years...), the biggest mistake here is basing the branding on the current OS. Once the OS changes it'll all look incongruous and messy.
A bit like old school Microsoft.
Andi Rusyn
2012-08-25 17:00:18


I like it, and I especially like the new Metro "a pixel is a pixel" look. It's a bold move to try and do away with drop-shadowy buttons and touchy-feely graphics. I think the rationale behind Metro makes Apple – with it's torn-off calendar sheets, background textures and notepaper apps – look a bit naff in comparison.
Ed Wright
2012-08-25 22:35:42


Microsoft – thinking outside the Box – 4 boxes!
PM
2012-08-26 09:58:50


The new logo resembles a quadra diagram. Instructions on how to use one in my forthcoming book, The Dimensional Philosopher's Toolkit.
N. Coppedge
2012-08-27 00:32:02


a great trend in design - The metro design of microsoft!! I am looking forward to the changes they have made to the icon design as such. The mac look is getting old and skeumorphs abound.
karthik
2012-08-27 06:11:59


Well it certainly is nice and clean, which I've noticed quite alot around the web that alot of websites that have been redesigned are going back to basics. A nice, easy to read big font for headings, clean edges, few images such as gradiants, icky textured background but rich colours.

It seems to be a reimaging of Microsoft to make them look more cooler as Apple, who themselves used a clean and modern image to advertise themselves to young people. It's more about products though. Apple got to where they are through innovation (granted they've now turned very monopolistic and abusive towards any company that threatens their market share now, although Microsoft have been guilty of that in the past), but they have lost ground.

Microsofts products are improving, the new Metro UI does look nice and all, but not suited for desktops which puts me off Windows 8 on a PC (unless they retain the explorer interface), I do like the ribbon bar on all products since for me it makes things more accessible (although that's personal preference, other people hate it), and their antivirus program has improved greatly. Microsoft is going in the right direction, but they seem to be abandoning their PC roots. However, as long as they don't adopt the pricing strategy of Apple and Adobe, which is to fleece everyone for as much pounds as they can get, (especially in the UK), they'll be fine.

I don't understand in one way, why designers actually choose Macs... most of the software is available for Windows, and whether it is a greater choice, or whether it just works better on Macs, I'm not sure. I have used a Mac at work and whether it is how it is set up or not, it does seem to have frequents hangs on finder (most commonly when I'm opening folders on an external drive), and doesn't seem as resonsive as Apple claim.
ash
2012-08-27 16:14:29


Congratulations to Microsoft. I like your simple logo and color schemes. Everything in 4 boxes. Kamran
Kamran Rauf
2012-08-28 06:20:59


I dont own any Microsoft products so cant comment on functionality but overall I'd say the understatement Microsoft are making is a smart one. They know they're not a cool brand and with this project it's clear that clean and functional usability is the new philosophy.

Need to back this up with products and aftercare of course.

Good luck to them.
Ray
2012-08-28 13:01:50


Makes you wonder how much they actually paid for that? I don't find it inspiring but then again it isn't very offensive so it ends up being just a bit plain. The coporate image reflects the company, has microsoft evolved into something that is plain. I think that their products have improved after a blip but there really isn't anything that is mind bending, creative or world changing coming out of Microsoft recently, they seem to have become just another corporate, does the logo reflect this?
Green
2012-08-28 16:42:04


Microsofts attempt at updating themselves has only proven how far off they are from Apple.
Poor show from them, and even poorer show in not allowing their brand to naturally evolve with it's own personality. They are now nothing more than a brand stalker, lurching in the shadows of apple. waiting for the next thing to copy. poor.
beta-love
2012-08-29 11:21:46


When all is said & done. More was said than done. I like the motion which will work  on any screen no matter the size, which I imagine is the point.
Andy
2012-10-01 21:33:43


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