The Experts on Microsoft’s New Logo: It’s Good! Or Bad!

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Techland Illustration / Microsoft

When you’re a journalist, the experts want to talk to you — about every possible topic, and mostly in hope that you’ll quote them in articles. So I wasn’t surprised when I got two pitches concerning folks — both identified as experts by their PR reps — who wondered if I wanted to interview them for any additional articles I did about Microsoft’s new logo.

I wasn’t planning to write about the subject again. Until I heard from representatives of two people — both helpfully identified as experts — who were available to speak about the logo.

Judging from his pitch, Professor N. Venkat Venkatraman, chairman of the Information Systems Department of Boston University’s School of Management — my alma mater! — seems to like the refresh. And he says that it embraces Microsoft’s future as a company whose customers are consumers:

Barring xBox, consumers did not directly pay for Microsoft products and enterprises mandated that their employees use prescribed products. But with consumerization of IT, Microsoft has to change. Now the pull is individual choice–whether it is for personal use or for business use.

The brand pull is powerful and the logo update is part of Microsoft finally accepting the consumerization trend. Simple and elegant, it pays homage to Apple and Google — its arch rivals. It also has used this image in Microsoft Stores — another sign of accepting that Apple has innovated successfully with retail.

Then there’s Jason Cieslak, managing director at global branding firm Siegel+Gale. I also got pitched about his thoughts: “This is clearly a company who is afraid to take a big step forward – be bold and innovative. The mark is fresher and more contemporary, yet at the same time, conservative and a bit dull.”

Further bulleted points provided by Cieslak’s PR person:

  • They’ve created something that appeases both the windows folks and corporate, but still does very little to signal the company that Microsoft is becoming. Imagine GE doing something like this with a light bulb. Never.
  • If I was an employee working on Xbox or Bing, does this new master brand help my business? Not really.
  • I’d put this logo change in the vicinity of the AOL rebrand – too little, too late. Yawn.

In other words, the logo is bad, in large part because it doesn’t embrace Microsoft’s future as a company whose customers are consumers.

So who’s right, Venkatraman or Cieslak? Neither! Or, if you prefer, both.

This stuff is subjective. And their contrasting reactions are a reminder that two people can look at the same logo — or, for that matter, the same anything — and have entirely different impressions.

There’s a rational side to logo design: My friend Angela Gunn commented that the kerning seems wonky on the new “Microsoft,” which seems to be obviously true to me, too. But there’s also a huge emotional component to branding, and I’m not sure whether the emotions of experts are any more reliable a guide to what’s good and bad than those of the rest of us.