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Friday, August 24, 2012


Microsoft unveiled a brand-new company logo Thursday morning, and graphic designers have given it a split vote.

While some believe the company has a winner with the new logo’s simple, square design, others say it’s too boring. (You can have your say in the poll at the end of this article.)

Sagi Haviv, who designed logos for the Library of Congress and Armani Exchange, thinks the logo simply isn’t distinctive enough. By opting for a simple array of four colored squares, Haviv says Microsoft missed a big opportunity.

“Because they’re so big they’re in a position to do something great,” he says. “And this unfortunately is not something great. And it’s because it’s a bit too generic.”

Simple vs. Distinctive

As Haviv explains, logo designers constantly struggle to create imagery that’s both simple and distinctive. Too much of one often means not enough of the other. In Microsoft’s case, he says it veers that while the new logo is definitely simple, it fails the distinctiveness test.

“It needs to be unusual enough to persist in the mind. Those four squares — it’s very inert. It just sits there. It has no motion, no tension — it’s not dynamic in any way.”

Although Haviv thinks Microsoft missed the mark with its new company logo, he has much more praise for the Windows 8 logo, which still has the standard “four panes” that are common in Microsoft logos, but has them skewed to imply perspective.

“That is fabulous. Because that is distinctive. It’s still just as simple, but it burns in the mind. It doesn’t look familiar. It will stay with you.”


Thinking Somewhat Different

James Coulson, a designer who helped design the logo for the Syfy network with Proud Creative, has a different take (disclosure: I worked with Coulson at Syfy’s DVICE). He thinks Microsoft nailed it.

“I think it’s really good,” Coulson says, “It’s a very logical progression. It’s more friendly.”

Coulson thinks the new logo embodies the “new” Microsoft, especially with how the company’s rivalry with Apple — the traditional “design leader” among tech companies — is perceived.

“For a long time I felt Microsoft is the evildoer and Apple could do no [wrong], but I actually think the tables are turning. I was blown away by the Windows Phone interface. Microsoft looks like it’s becoming the innovator.

“High technology should be invisible, its the information that matters. I think Microsoft is getting closer to this, and I think thats what the new logo embodies.”

Windows Baggage

Andrew Kim is a graphic designer who actually worked up an complete update in Microsoft’s branding and messaging for his site, Minimally Minimal. He has mixed feelings about the new logo.

“I think the simplification is a step in the right direction, but the big problem is that it has the Windows logo in it. I don’t think that’s forward-looking because the Windows brand has baggage.”

Ultimately, the logo is a just a detail in Microsoft’s bid to re-invent itself with Windows 8, which is due to hit store shelves on Oct. 26. The company is large, influential and known to almost everyone. The logo doesn’t necessarily have to be that distinctive, because the brand already is.

“The rules are a little different for a huge entity like this,” says Haviv. “Look at Google — they change their logo every day and it works for them.”

by Peter Pachal

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