Microsoft Swaps Its Logo for the First Time in a Quarter of a Century

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Techland Illustration / Microsoft

Microsoft just rolled out the most significant change to its iconic corporate logo since 1987, trading curves for straight lines and black-and-white for vivid colors.

It’s not just the four-color Windows icon that’s morphed, either — swapping its twisty “page in the wind” look for a clean-lined, four-block stack — but the company name itself.

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Instead of the classic thick, black, italicized font Microsoft’s used for decades, the new company logo is a study in simpler, thinner lines and grayscale coloring.

And in case you’re wondering, that font is Segoe, which Microsoft’s been gradually working into its product family for some time (Microsoft owns the trademark, though the font was originally developed by type foundry Monotype). It’s what’s known as a “Humanist” typeface, meaning there’s little variation in stroke width, and the x-height — the distance between the baseline and the mean line — is relatively low (for more on this, and some serious font wonkery, see here).

The logo change comes in advance of Microsoft’s flagship operating system reboot, Windows 8, due on Oct. 26 — a radical rethinking of the world’s most widely used operating system.

According to Microsoft general manager of brand strategy Jeff Hansen, it’s all part of Microsoft’s strategy to give its mainstream products — Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, the Xbox 360 (technically “Xbox services”) as well as Microsoft Office — a “common look and feel.”

The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

What do you see when you look at the old logo? I think 1980s “New Wave,” simultaneously punk (look at that ‘o’!), forward-leaning and Borgian-bold. And the new logo? I’m thinking “lively” meets “economic” (and now I’m clearly over-interpreting things).

Here’s Microsoft’s promo trailer, which…why does everything with bright colors and a catchy groove make me think of an Apple commercial?

Says Hansen:

The logo has two components: the logotype and the symbol … The symbol is important in a world of digital motion (as demonstrated in the video above.) The symbol’s squares of color are intended to express the company’s diverse portfolio of products.

And yes, it’s a little silly to make this big a deal about a logo — logos don’t insta-boot your computer, make your games run any smoother or make one version of Word any more compatible with another — but I admit, I kind of like it.

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