The New Microsoft Logo
The old tech giant freshens up, but still looks like a follower.
15 Comments on “The New Microsoft Logo”
The trend for mimicking other brands to “breed familiarity” says more about the exectutives of big companies these days and their paralysing advisity to creative risk-taking than the modern consumers needs. Differentiation is what creates dramatic results instead of simply hiding behind more innovative brands.
I remember the controversy accompanying the releases of both Myriad and Segoe, that they were merely knockoffs of Frutiger. But, the tone of both on the page are much lighter and more condensed than Frutiger, which always annoyed me by how large it set in its point size. The newcomers seem more appropriate in their lightness and economy for screen display. Though they display some of their Frutiger inspiration, I consider them entities of their own with more in common with each other than with Frutiger.
Currently, we have so many releases of sans faces with diminishing differences from each other, and historical examples, that I hope the debate over who ripped off whom will be rendered moot. There’s such a wealth of options to choose from, it almost doesn’t matter which typeface one chooses to use within a given class.
I think that’s where the problem lies from the point of view of the article, that in the quest for neutrality all sources are converging on a single monolithic style. I’m sure there will be a backlash in the corporate identity world soon, especially since other classes of type design are providing fertile inspiration for uniquiness within constraints of functionality.
What has been befuddling me is that, though this wealth of options exists for distinctive typographic identities, why are so many designers defaulting to the same tired Helvetica/Gotham choices? I can understand for brands like American Apparel, where a neutral, Swiss design philosophy has become merely ironic, hipster kitsch, but what about other brands? How can this be seen as anything other than laziness?
Interesting seeing the juxtaposition of those two adverts. Another difference is that the Microsoft advert does not show us their product – the computer is turned so we don’t see the screen. The Apple ad shows off in one image that the device is thin, the screen bright, it runs fancy software, and that you will be able to recognize them in the local coffeehouse when you are secretly making the decision based on whatever everyone else is using. :-)
See, I’d agree that the (textual part of the) new logo is pretty lack-luster… The symbol part actually looks fairly good as, e.g., a favicon:
But as for Segoe UI itself, I’m a huge fan, particularly of the newer version that comes with Windows 8. In spite of any superficial similarities, I think it has a completely different feel from Myriad and Frutiger, especially in continuous text. It (along with Segoe UI Symbol) covers a really convenient range of Unicode characters, too.
I never imagined Microsoft could come up with a logo that is even more boring than what they started with. I find the windows panes to be a superflouous tie-in to the Windows brand and the grey text makes the logo appear insubtantial somehow.
Frankly, I think this logo update is one of the lamest rebrandings I’ve seen in quite a while. Instead of trying to create the illusion of being modern and relevant, perhaps they should focus on trying to make good products.
Microsoft ad: happy looking people who *are not me* using some indeterminate electronic device.
Apple ad: slick looking computer of heroic proportion waiting *for me* to use it to make something cool.
I doubt that Apple will switch their identity to Helvetica, which I believe is used as the system font in iOS specifically because of its perceived neutrality. The Helvetica type in iOS is “non-content type.” It is meant to fade into the background and not disturb the presentation of other type within apps and content.
Mac OS X was initially way more colorful and textured and it was great until all the apps showed up a couple of years later and had to compete with it. Since then, the interface has receded again and again in every interation. Flattening the Lucida Grande into Helvetica as on iOS would make perfect sense. We already see Helvetica in Apple’s pro Mac apps.
And Apple developers and content producers specifically agree not to use Myriad in order not to confuse the consumer that what we are saying is coming from Apple’s voice. When they switch from Myriad, I think they will go to something distinctive. Apple’s identity is content, but the system font is not. They need different faces.
There is at least a chance that a Microsoft app for iOS could get flagged for “using Myriad” even though it is Segoe.
With the Microsoft redesign, I would have done custom shapes for these letters, both to make the Microsoft word mark more distinctive, but also to separate the corporate identity from the system font that every Windows app and content is going to be saddled with. Segoe should attempt to say nothing as the system font, yet Microsoft is making it say Microsoft. But I would bet they prioritized engineering over design — they can show the Microsoft logo in any context just by typing it. No vector art is needed. Engineers happy.
The thing that is bizarre with adopting this type 10 years after Apple is that the main criticism that Microsoft is trying to overcome today is that they are 10 years behind Apple. It is actually about 7.5 years that they are behind, with amazing consistency, but still — I would have lobbied against anything that echoes Apple. Microsoft has to create their own identity now that they are no longer the poor man’s Mac. The iPad is the poor man’s Mac today. I guess Microsoft is aiming to be the poor man’s iPad, but I think Apple already has that in the works, too, comsidering it is iPod hardware. Maybe I’m wrong, though — maybe Microsoft are aiming for BlandPad. Like an iPad, but much blander. Maybe iPad seems like too much fun and too productive for some people, and they want a mouse-driven Excel on their iPad.
I like the way that the new logo is both a spin on the traditional Windows logo and a reference to the new tiles/Metro design of Windows 8 – it pays homage and looks forward at the same time. Clever.
What I don’t like about it is that it’s a little too bland. Look at that banner on the homepage – the logo combined with the sans-serif type and the obvious stock photo just looks so…generic. It could just as easily be an ad for Dell or HP. It could be an ad for a department store like Target or Ikea. Heck, I’d believe it as an ad for laundry detergent.
What I find the most interesting is how they’re tying the branding of the entire company to an unproven product (Windows 8). What happens if Windows 8 is a Vista-style disaster in terms of public perception? Everything from the UI of Windows 8 down to the very logo of the company has that same look to it. Will they have to do another complete rebranding if Windows 8 is a flop?
[E]ver since [Microsoft] first revealed Metro, a UI design language that is truly innovative and new, I got the feeling Microsoft was making a real effort to be a leader. Yet, in using a Frutiger-esque typeface for their logo and visual identity, they simply resume their position as a follower…'
I still think we’ve (again) missed the point here. Segoe is not a hugely trendy typeface (Frutiger is almost poised to be the Helvetica of the '010s, and that is not a compliment), but in this case it’s not intended to be.
Metro is rectilinear and as such eminently conservative, despite its somewhat radical departure from previous MS UIs. As such, it is an OS that will fit nicely in with 'enterprise’ users.
In going with a very low-key but modern grotesk like Segoe, MS has underscored its conservatism and 'reliability’, which is precisely in keeping with what its 'enterprise’ customers expect.
I really am not all that comfortable defending MS, but I think they’ve made the right choice here.
Fair point. But I wouldn’t describe Segoe as a “grotesk” or “rectilinear”. In nearly every aspect, it’s a Humanist sans with open apertures and curves that are round, not straight.
I have noticed some changes that happens with Segoe UI typeface bundled in Windows 8. I must confess changes like this make me scared. Perhaps they comes out of corporate Segoe family (not UI).
Yep, there were many changes to Segoe UI in Windows 8. You can read more on Wikipedia.
Great article. I liked reading a bit about your interpretation of the Segoe font.
I shouldn’t be surprised there are the usual anti-MS shrills though. *sigh*
@Damian Cugley, River, James: It seems like you guys don’t understand the differences between Microsoft and Apple. Apple, has traditionally been primarly a hardware-focused company, while Microsoft has traditionally been a software-focused company. Of course, both companies dabble on the other side, but those are their primary focuses.
So of course it makes sense that Apple’s site would feature their hardware, while Microsoft has a hardware-agnostic device. Though Microsoft should refrain from using stock-images quite frequently, it makes sense why MS doesn’t use a specific device as they’re trying to sell you on the software experience and peace of mind that comes from using it.
@Hamranhansenhansen: If you kept up with the news, you would understand that Microsoft has been aiming to unify their brands and products, under a “One Microsoft” initiative. So it kind of makes sense for a conistent font used throughout their stuff and their corporate image.
Also, you have your history quite mixed up. If I asked you who had a tablet OS first, who had a smartphone OS first, who had a smartwatch first, among other things, I hope you don’t respond with “Apple.” Because you would be wrong. :)
If anything, Apple is “late” and catching up. I don’t know what you’ve seen, but the Surface tablets from Microsoft have been highly acclaimed by reviewers and they allow more fun and play than the iPads can provide. :)
Thanks to Microsoft we have the best humanist sans serif ever expected for UI use that is shipped with an operating system.