Last week Microsoft presented its new, highly-anticipated brand identity. It is the first logo design in 25 years for the Redmond tech giant. In preparation of exciting new product launches such as Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and several store openings, Microsoft also decided to redesign their brand identity. However, Microsoft’s new direction has been received so far with mixed emotions.
The new design consists of four multi-colored square tiles. The colors of the tiles are orange, green, blue, and yellow which we have seen Microsoft use in its past identity and several other touch points. The block is followed by the logotype “Microsoft” using the Segoe font. The “f” and the “t” are connected (Ligature), following the old design element. Although the new symbol is clearly a simplification of the former Microsoft flag, and the Segoe font has been used by Microsoft on various touch points for several years, the new brand identity falls flat and appears underdeveloped.
According to Jeff Hansen, general manager of brand strategy, the new design intends to “signal the heritage but also signal the future — a newness and freshness.” With the upcoming product launches, they “felt that it was a good time to express the newness in the Microsoft logo as well.” Microsoft claims that “the symbol’s squares of color are intended to express the company’s diverse portfolio of products” and that the new logo “takes its inspiration from [the] product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of [the] brand values, fonts and colors.” It’s rather unfortunate that the new design falls short.
The new design lacks personality and does not convey the intended emotions. Albeit following the design direction of the new Windows design by Paula Scher from Pentagram, the block of tiles are boring. The tiles don’t appear to draw much inspiration from Microsoft’s new, promising line of products, other than the flat tiles found in the Windows UI design formerly known as Metro. After years of being in the doldrums of innovation, Microsoft seems to have regained its mojo. Surface, Windows Phone 8 and other products are launching in the upcoming months with high expectations. Unfortunately, the new brand identity does not reflect any such freshness and boldness in its design. Especially when viewed in black and white, the choice of colors and the overall design does little to convey these emotions. The mark by itself is neither memorable nor inspiring. Interestingly, Microsoft seems to have explored this logo design already seventeen years ago in a commercial for Windows 95.
In all fairness, to design a brand identity is not an easy undertaking, especially when it involves a company as huge as Microsoft. In addition, Microsoft’s new brand identity is only part of its branding. Microsoft has presented us so far only glimpses of its new brand design across different products. Together, they seem to create a more cohesive and coherent picture.
Although friendlier and more approachable than its previous designs, the designs simply do not convey the company’s core values:
“As a company, and as individuals, we value integrity, honesty, openness, personal excellence, constructive self-criticism, continual self-improvement, and mutual respect. We are committed to our customers and partners and have a passion for technology. We take on big challenges, and pride ourselves on seeing them through. We hold ourselves accountable to our customers, shareholders, partners, and employees by honoring our commitments, providing results, and striving for the highest quality” (Microsoft).
Microsoft’s global software dominance in the personal and enterprise solutions was followed by a long list of failed product launches (Tablet PCs, Zune, Vista, Kin). With the notable exception of Xbox, Microsoft arguably failed to innovate for years. Finally the company seems to turn things around. This makes it, however, the more disappointing that Microsoft did not create an emotionally charged brand identity that reflects clearly a new direction and company culture that embraces fully its core values. Microsoft’s symbol alone should be able to stand by itself and signal strength and innovation. It is a missed opportunity. Microsoft once again fails to signal the beginning of a new era.