How Playing It Safe Is Incredibly Boring
All things must come to an end.
Yesterday, tech-giant Microsoft unveiled their new corporate logo. It is the first logo update in 25 years, and reactions have been mixed, to say the least.
In one day already there have been numerous discussions ranging from all across the spectrum. Everyone has an opinion on the logo, and is said opinion quite clearly. So instead of hopping on either of the "They stole from Apple!" or "This is the design of the future!" bandwagons , I want to go over two points of interest, and then voice my opinion afterwards.
Out with the old, in with the new. Sort of…
First, Microsoft have entirely turned away from all their past logos. There is absolutely no commonality between (unless you count the "ft" ligature) the new logo and any of their previous four. But that doesn't mean they blindly reached up and pulled something new out of nowhere thin air; in fact, the exact same logomark can be found in one of their 1990s Windows 95 TV ad. So they it's recycling-ahem, I mean an homage-from themselves.
But here's why distancing themselves from their previous image(s) is incredibly smart. What is Microsoft most known for? Obviously Windows. It is their largest product and most commonly known; if you've heard of computers, you've heard of Windows. Office, another of their largest products, is a complementary part of Windows but is reliant of the OS for recognition. Xbox is gigantic too, but still nowhere as familiar as Windows.
By incorporating the public's knowledge of Windows, there is a direct link between the company and it's product. People know Windows and various iterations of the waving flag/window. People know the red-green-blue-yellow tiles. By distancing themselves from a meaningless faux-italic Helvetica bold and playing with an invaluable already-made product association, they're already on the right track to a successful rebrand.
It's good, but we already knew that.
To my second point of discussion: Metro. Excuse me, I mean "Modern UI" as it is officially known now. This past year-and-a-bit has really seen the rise of the Modern UI style in Microsoft products. Personally, I love the idea of simplification. Putting the content first should be the first consideration for every design piece large or small, as is the core goal behind Modern UI. And it is typographically-based. Swoon.
Microsoft has done a swell job of pushing its Modern UI style to its products: the Xbox dashboard, Windows Media Center, Zune (which I still believe to be an elaborate prank), Windows Phone, and coming soon Windows 8 and Office. I expect Skype to follow suite soon as well. That's a pretty large number of products, and an incredibly vast area to cover. But they have maintained a consistent look while rolling everything out. It would only make sense to have a logo was consistent as well. I am actually surprised it took this long for them to create (read unveil) a new logo.
The issue as I see it is the new logo isn't merely a natural step, it's a painstakingly obvious one. A thousand people could have guessed what Microsoft was going to do, and everyone's first guess would have been right. It's just too obvious. I assume that's where a lot of the frustration towards the new logo is coming from: a large number of people find the Modern UI style bland, unoriginal, boring, and flat (in a bad way). We've been tailored to have our technology reminiscent of real-world objects, especially lately with Apple's intense skeuomorphic approach, that the idea of a purely metaphorical interface is off-putting.
But what do you think Ben?
Well thanks for asking. In all honesty, I don't mind the new logo. I think Microsoft played it very safe, and as a result missed out on a huge amount of potential. There isn't anything that I dislike, yet nothing I like either.
I think it is very fitting for their current position with their Modern UI style. The issue is there is no way Modern UI will last 25 years, so what happens in five years when they release a their new "Post-Modern UI"? Their previous logo lasted 25 years; they are setting themselves up for a very boring future brand if this logo runs a similar course.
But this is the only the opinion of one designer. Designer or not, what do you think of the new Microsoft logo?