As many of you know, Microsoft has completed a rebranding effort to firm up its position in a hyper-competitive marketplace. It’s a gargantuan task to rebrand an entity of that size and there is a wide range of opinion on the success of the venture due to it’s huge exposure. So why not dive in! Or maybe pile on would be a better phrase.
Logos are sensitive projects and the appeal of the solutions is very subjective. These reactions can be monitored and quantified by focus groups and surveys but those tactics can often create the answers you want to hear. I won’t go into all the facets that affect a solution here as I would just like to state my personal reaction without analyzing too much.
Boring! I could just stop there because the effectiveness of any design solution, including logos, is often gauged by gut reaction and that was mine. I was prepared to be impressed when I had heard they were taking on this challenge, but the final solution looks like it has seen one too many committees. Yes, I agree it’s an improvement from their previous mark, but that is faint praise.
The new logo just strikes me as a very safe evolution of their identity. Microsoft has been criticized in the past for not embracing good design principles, and with their current challenges in the market, I don’t think it’s the time for this company to play it too safe. Just as they are showing leadership in design with Windows 8, this is a perfect opportunity to reinforce that stance.
The three properties that affect the memorability of a logo are shape, colour and content, in that order. I guess square is a shape, but you can get too simple. There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fonts these days. A san serif font can take on a lot of character with a few variations to the design, but this one is devoid of personality. On the positive side, the letter spacing might look a bit open but this is correct spacing for a logo with this many applications. Tight spacing will close up and affect legibility when viewed from a distance or used small. If this logo is to represent the company in a highly competitive sector and oversee their move into a more consumer-oriented product mix, it lacks the dynamic character to do so. This logo seems appropriate for their IT and server customers, who are necessarily concerned about safety, but it needs more interest to appeal to a broader market.
Sometimes the type or symbol elements of the logo are used on their own, such as the front of the new Microsoft stores. Already they’ve needed to adjust the design to try to make it more interesting and dynamic, and they just launched it! Consumers will look at the store symbol and assume that it is the correct Microsoft logo. When they see the corporate logo with its solid colours it will create confusion. The identity starts to feel fragmented and disjointed and the consumer might feel that the company is not exactly sure who they want to be.
The colours create a positive, energetic feel, but the fact that it is a rainbow-coloured symbol creates reproduction issues. How do you use this symbol in one colour applications? Although we are in the digital era, one of the classic tests of good logo design is that it will work well in black and white. These applications still arise frequently. Hmmm…
Apple (you knew this was coming) abandoned the rainbow colours a decade ago. The shape factor works so well for Apple they don’t even worry about colour any more. The Apple approach exudes confidence, while this Microsoft solution just says we don’t want to offend anybody.
I’m not a Microsoft basher and don’t wish them any bad mojo, but they are struggling in the consumer marketplace and needed to get this right. I admire the fact that they have created a new identity for themselves, and creativity seems to be making a place for itself recently in the company. Judging by the most important visual touchpoint for the company, it appears that good design has a foot in the door but still doesn’t have a seat at the big table.