Windows

The new Windows logo: It's not as bad or as good as you think

Ugly or not, Deb Shinder argues that the new Windows 8 logo accomplishes its primary objective.

I recently wrote about what the role of a name is in a company's or product's branding and how the right moniker can contribute to the success or failure of a brand. Another important aspect in creating brand recognition is the logo, which is a graphic representation designed to identify a particular product line or an organization as a whole.

Companies put a huge amount of money into developing logos that will create an instantaneous positive image in the minds of customers or potential customers. They also go to great lengths to legally protect and restrict the use of their logos through the trademark registration laws. Sometimes a logo consists of, or includes, the company/product name, usually in a distinctive typeface, such as the stylized "Coca-Cola" logo. Other times, the graphic is a substitute for the written name, as with Apple's piece of fruit with a bite taken out or Audi's four interlocking rings.

Given the importance that a logo can take on as the visual representation of a company or what it makes/sells, it's no surprise that the recent news that Microsoft is making a significant change to the Windows logo has garnered a huge amount of attention and analysis in the tech press. I feel almost obligated to discuss it, since everybody else is weighing in.

Check out this photo gallery to get a refresher on all the previous iterations of the Windows logo.

Much ado

Ever since Microsoft unveiled the new logo a few days ago, my Twitter feed has been, well, all a'twitter with comments, ranging from high praise to harsh criticism. Tony Bradley calls the new logo "Pure Genius," even if only because it has so many people talking. And talking, they are. The Register calls the new logo "bland" and also downplays its importance, noting that nobody buys a Windows PC because the logo looks pretty.

Larry Dignan calls it "Metro happy," says it looks forced, and compares it to a pink shirt. Stephen Chapman doesn't like it at all and suggests that maybe it's just a "placeholder" for a later, more finished incarnation. Some of the less formal tweets have been far less diplomatic, with some of the comments not fit to print in a family publication.

Unfortunately, according to at least one poll, those who like the new logo are outnumbered almost 3 to 1 (at the time of this writing).

Sometimes a logo is just a logo

There has been a great deal of effort put in to analyzing (and in some cases, I think, overanalyzing) the change. TechCrunch interprets it as a signal of Microsoft's intent "to cut itself off from the last 20 years of its most widely-used and widely-recognized products." Forbes sees the new logo as an inverted version of the Finnish flag and postulates that since Finland has a reputation for a superior education system, maybe the logo "is a subtle nod to Microsoft's interest in getting into the education market" (I thought they were already there).

Some see the new design as a return to the look of the Windows 1.0 logo, perhaps signifying a return to the company's "roots." Many commentators have pointed out that the new logo looks more like a window (in contrast to the "flag" that it had morphed into over the years), but I haven't seen anyone point out that this comes at a time when the Windows interface is actually moving away from the concept of windows on the desktop. Thus it seems to make more sense to me to interpret it as a set of tiles, instead of a window. Maybe those are grout lines rather than panes.

But does it really matter? If the logo makes you think "Windows 8" and if "Windows 8" conjures up good associations in your mind (easy to use, fast performance), nobody cares what those squares are supposed to actually be. How many people realize that the Cisco logo is supposed to be the golden gate bridge? Is it at all obvious that the Mercedes Benz logo symbolizes the company's dominance over air, land, and sea? Who knows or cares that the Chevrolet logo was inspired by either the Swiss cross or the wallpaper in a French hotel? What does a peacock have to do with television broadcasting?

I would argue that the most successful logos are those that represent nothing except the companies/products with which they're associated.

Keeping it simple

Among all the complex analyses of the meaning of the new logo also come the inevitable accusations that Microsoft is just "copying Apple" by simplifying the logo design. But Apple doesn't own the trend and didn't even start it. Look at the difference between how elaborate the "International Business Machines" logo was in the 1920s and how much simpler it had grown by the 1940s -- long before Apple even existed.

Simplification seems to be the inevitable evolutionary direction in the logo world, and some predict (perhaps not entirely in jest) that in the future, it may reach ridiculous conclusions.

Color me customizable

Interestingly, one of the elements of a logo that can be trademarked is its color scheme. Trademark infringement lawsuits have been filed over companies using the same color in their logos or packaging as another company. Would we think of McDonald if we saw double arches that were green instead of golden? Would a Coke taste the same from a blue labeled bottle or can?

So, one of the most interesting characteristics of the new Windows 8 logo, to me, is the fact that the users themselves will be able to control the color of the logo. At least in the computer's interface, the color will change depending on the color theme that you select.

I like that. I've complained long and loudly that what I don't like about the Metro interface as implemented in Windows Phone is the lack of choice that it gives users. Anything that reverses that and allows me to have more control over the look of the interface is a good thing in my book.

The power of a good logo

Last week, my husband and I were in Nivelles, Belgium, for TechDays Europe 2012. The first day we were there, he was looking on the web for a nearby grocery store, but the results showed nothing closer than 19km away. I was looking out the hotel window and pointed across the street. "I think there's a Food Lion" right over there, I told him.

He thought I was nuts, because the sign didn't say "Food Lion" -- it said "Delhaize" -- but I would know that unique stylized logo anywhere. I looked it up on the web and, sure enough, Delhaize Group is a Belgian company that operates stores under the "Food Lion" name in the United States. That monochromatic outline of a lion isn't the most attractive rendition of a big cat that I've ever seen, but it accomplishes its purpose; anyone who has seen it knows what it symbolizes.

That should be Microsoft's goal with the new Windows logo. Those who complain that it's ugly are missing the point. It doesn't have to be a work of art. In fact, the more artistic it is, the less likely that it will be instantly recognizable, through the rain, on the other side of the street, when you can't read the words accompanying it. It doesn't have to "get the perspective right." It doesn't have to "make sense." All it needs to do is make us think "Windows 8."

It does that for me.

Also read:

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

67 comments
jtreepro
jtreepro

>All it needs to do is make us think ???Windows 8.??? Would it make you think "Windows 8" through the rain? illegible? No type? Again... No accounting for taste... Clueless... Sorry... The Windows 8 Logo IS as bad as I think... (I'm a graphic designer, and have been for 30 years...)

jtreepro
jtreepro

>Unfortunately, according to at least one poll, those who like the new logo are outnumbered almost 3 to 1 Well, DUH! They use Windows... They have NO idea what good design is... No class... Just follow the herd... It's great... And they call Mac users a "cult?" There is no bigger cult than the brainwashed masses that insist that Microsoft and Windows is a "good," even "GREAT!" Operating System... Have they gotten Audio recording right yet? I was doing Studio Quality audio on a Mac in 1987... (LMAO @ To The Point: "4 Blue Screens at once! :)"

cbcc4techrepublic
cbcc4techrepublic

Hello all, I think the new Logo is Bland and Boring, but I don't have to like it. I'm not the one making the decisions, and if it accomplishes WHATEVER Microsoft is trying to accomplish with it, then good for them, but I have to agree with the comments made about instant product recognition by association, and consistency. I really liked the colorful flag logo, and while I didn't understand what the Flag thing was about, I was used to it, and I Liked it. I also have to agree with a comment made, saying... "Microsoft seems obsessed with changing things without necessarily making them any better. They change software; they change the names of the software; they change the logos of the software - so why?" These persistent changes have always aggravated me. You get used to and comfortable with the way something looks and works, and where things are located, and what they are called, and the next release has changed so many things, it's like having to learn a whole new language. What's up with that? What's wrong with Consistency? There has to be a better way to Shake Things Up!!! OK, I'm a Baby Boomer, so maybe I'm not thinking as Young as the new executives these days, but I have always been big on Consistency. Thanks for letting me Vent. OK, This is Off Topic, and I have done Zero Research on this, but a statement was made in this post, and I quote: "... I haven???t seen anyone point out that this comes at a time when the Windows interface is actually moving away from the concept of windows on the desktop." This is news to me. If Windows 8 is moving away from the Desktop Concept, then what is it moving TO? Is there a thread on this? If so, please direct me to it. Thanks

remoran
remoran

Being a corporate Identity designer, I have had quite a bit of experience creating marks able to be used in all media, something the W8 logo accomplishes without a problem. Be as it may, the mark itself reminds me of the NBC disaster 30 years ago whereby NBC paid $500K for a logo as simple as this that an affiliate had done for $100, thus necessitating NBC to pay the affiliate a cool $150K in order to get sole ownership of said logo. This ID is pedestrian at best, a huge step backward, IMHO, from the Win 7 effort, which is stylish and cool. The W8 mark is something I would never present to a client as I know it would not past muster in any way due to the boring nature of the design set. Just my take on this. Good article nevertheless.

JSL69
JSL69

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I don't buy a car because I recognize the logo. I don't buy a soda because I recognize the logo, etc. etc. I research the product. I'll try generic and branded to see which ones I like. The Apple logo reminds me of the poison apple with the missing bite that the wicked witch used to kill off her competition. Personally I don't buy Apple, but it's not because of it's logo. I do buy Microsoft but it's not because of it's logo. I'm interested in the product and not the looks of the package. To each his own.

pikeman666
pikeman666

Who gives a fig about the logo? I just want an OS that works right. How about we get priorities in order???

psaxelby
psaxelby

Naff, boring, bland, cheap, useless, rushed... I'm sorry but that really is a joke of a logo - If that's supposed to represent the new product I'm not looking forward to it. If it in any way said to me 'We've gone back to basics & done things like ditching the ribbon in favour of a nice understandable, logical menu system, then that'd be another story. Unfortunately it doesn't say that to me at all...

sahil_matrix
sahil_matrix

Taste is what can't be developed, it's either there or just not!!! Looking at her picture it's obvious why she doesn't think it's FUGLY..!!!

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

Yea, the logo, that's what I'm basing my opinions on. If the logo is great the software is great, right? Please. If you're going to waste our time waste it on something more worthwhile than a debate on the new Windows logo. Based on your story my opinion of your articles has dropped to the bottom of the barrel. Yawn.

mjc5
mjc5

The new Windows Logo: It's not as bad as you think". Pretty much sums it up. We geet something new from Redmond, People say they don't like it, What's next? We're told we don't hate it as much as we hate it. They are doing a Vista us. The Windows 7 logo was pretty good. The only thing to improve it would be to remove the words. Now they would be cooking, completely branded, and no need to make a new one. The new windiws logo? REmember with logos, first impressions are important. Impression 1. It looks like it was designed by a high school student. Impression 2. It looks like the word Windows being fed into a log chipper. You can tell me all you want that it isn't bad and that I don't hate it. Mostly I find it embarrassing as a logo.

Carl.Lee4
Carl.Lee4

I think the logo is fitting the product, simple, plain, ordinary. Of course if I were releasing a new product, I don't think I would use those words to describe it.

msalvatini
msalvatini

He hit it spot on. It's not the logo, it's the brand. Like it or not, the 4 color flag or what ever it is says Microsoft. That's the BRAND. They make a ton of products, like Windows, Office, hardware, etc. An angled blue four screen in a washed out blue doesn't say Microsoft. Apple had a shape that as unique. They've gone from rainbow, to white to silver, to any color because the logo represents the brand. How does a slanted 4 rectangle logo say Microsoft? So you can change the color. BFD. If i put a four square face-on is it a Microsoft product? The logo should say MICROSOFT.....Windows 8.9.etc. Cisco's logo id's the brand without the name underneath....you still know it's a Cisco product. Unless you're on a quiz show no one gives a rats pitoot it's the Golden Gate. HP is the letters hp in a circle; doesn't matter the color it's an "in your face" logo that represents the Brand. Does MS get rid of the 4 color Brand logo? and use this pos just 4 W8? Hell next to the blue slanted figure are the words. Ballmer has turned a great brand logo recognized everywhere into people asking wtf is this and who makes it. It will disappear into the background noise. I wish Ballmer would!

onamish4life
onamish4life

Everyone abbreviates Windows 7 as W7. So, why don't the design team just use W8 but with the 8 designed as 4 windows. Yes Microsoft Design, I'm happy to discuss the concept.

michael.michaelgray
michael.michaelgray

Sorry, the artistic side of me sees this as flat, boring, non-creative, unattractive, and too simple and reminiscent of a time when this was the best that graphics could offer. It is less likely to attract children either, who have seen far better graphics grab their eye and hold their attention. This receives 5 thumbs down on a three thumbs survey.

devand
devand

I am still a huge fan of the Windows 95/98/2000 logo. So much that I've photoshopped my own Windows 7 start orb after it, and still use the "Flying Windows" screensaver for the retro effect. Then again, I'm a retro kind of guy. Kudos to the 4 blue screens at once comment, brilliant!

matthewhastings
matthewhastings

OMG 1 color! well that will be the first thing I customize. Is the creator color blind? just terrible!

mdavis
mdavis

Yes, I know.. a logo is a logo is a logo and it is not the finished product. However, it IS a representation of that product and right off the cuff that logo looks plain, vanilla, uninteresting, screams of "I am mediochre!"... etc... It does NOT look refined, thought out, iconoclastic, representative. I like the post that the person below wrote about Apple and Cisco's logos. They are represenative (Apple) or are interesting (Cisco) and EASILY discernable. I would have thought that the very first look at the marketing of Windows 8 would have been a little more colorful at least.

mikeholli
mikeholli

Dunno, looks like a box to me, if they added a ribbon to it, would look like a gift box. I think the previous design was better looking, instead if the straight lines they were wavy, like the former Windows logo. Just cannot get excited over something that looks like a 1st grader's classroom art drawing.

bobc4012
bobc4012

Abracadabra, you are no longer a "pig's ear", you are a "silk purse" - in a "pig's eye"!

vercingor
vercingor

This design, to me, points into the future of things to come. Coor is blue but the idea behind is green. Simple and environmentally friendly. It may even be Fen-Shui inspired.

RockerGeek!
RockerGeek!

It's clean and well-done. I just miss the colors :( Otherwise, it fits the Metro UI

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Wasn't blue IBM's color? Isn't this pretty close to the same shade Twitter uses?

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

[q]What does a peacock have to do with television broadcasting?[/q] Your youth is showing, blatantly. Those of us who lived in the days of black-and-white television know that NBC was "Proud as a Peacock" that they were able to broadcast in the all-new COLOR format. The peacock was a very colorful beast; over the years the logo was stylized, but one of its major functions was to test and prove color transmission. It was so much prettier than the color bars. You probably don't remember late-night black-and-white transmitter test patterns either.

juntunen
juntunen

But maybe that will actually describe Windows 8.

abbos
abbos

...it makes me think "Horrible Windows 8". Where the older logo's made me think "Windows.. a lot to do about but it has its flair".

deICERAY
deICERAY

False advertising - only 4 BSOD!

BearH
BearH

To me, at quick glance, the logo is misleading. I think of an actual windows manufacturer.

jmohr
jmohr

I'm willing to wager that the savings Microsoft garnered from not paying for a good design team for the logo won't be passed to the user.

salembruce2
salembruce2

In your thumbs up or down poll, there should be a middle finger vote...meaning, "Who cares!"

xangpow
xangpow

Well its not ugly. What i would call it is "boring". We do live in an age of color, so if you want to get noticed you have to have muticolors. The only time mono-color works is if the area in which it is being displayed is in contrast with what your logo is. Also to go with a baby blue against a white? I would have picked either a dark green or a bright red. Something that stands out against a white background.

wuboyblue
wuboyblue

Once again, nothing new from the company that has for so long failed to produce nothing new.

john.stewart
john.stewart

The logo is spot on, it symbolizes Windows in a very simplistic way. What would happen if Apple changed it's logo to something "more stylish" - Apples logo is well, an apple - just that nothing more. Windows logo is a window - it doesn't need to be anything BUT a window. Change the colors though - given their history they should definately stay away from blue windows, just keep with the old red/green/yellow/blue that everyone recognizes.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

If the logo is going to be this plain and common, why bother to print it in color? and another interesting question - what will be done with the "Printer Test Page"? It used to print the logo in color, which verified the color drivers. Now what?

ITGrouch
ITGrouch

Not too many years ago, Cisco Systems changed their logo. There was the same controversy regarding the new look logo. One comment I remember is that it looks like a child with crayons created it. I disliked the new logo at that time, but today, I do not have a problem with it. I just have to stand back and laugh that we are actually commenting on how good or how bad the Windows 8 logo is. I think we should be more concerned about the OS itself.

davcostello
davcostello

It's served its purpose - keeping everyone talking about Micro$hit. It's just a LOGO people. Who cares.

dlecke
dlecke

I am not a fan of the color, but the simplistic logo is good for marketing products (i.e. cell phones, tables, etc.).

keh1044
keh1044

Bland, one-size-fits-all Matrix stamp. I hope nobody got a raise or a bonus for designing this! Windows should be (should be) about choices, variety, exploration, discovery... What prompted this regression to a pale ghost? Even kids are smart enough to know that when you have a full box of crayons, you don't draw a picture with one color, especially pale blue. Somebody isn't paying attention.

GMBaal
GMBaal

From what I've seen and read about windows 8, they are building it around tablet infrastructure. I think it's going to be more annoying on the desktop, and I'm sceptical about the performance that one will see with this. They are trying to force their way into the tablet market, which I get. By them making this move, we are going to have a larger push for tablet infrastructure. Right now tablets are tech toys, not so much productivity apps. They are showing their worth in the presentation side of things, but still at the end of the day they are great toys. So building your user OS around that... makes sense it does not. Even apple's not doing that. "We need a presence in the tablet world... I know" Pulls out the sledgehammer, "MAKE EVERYTHING ON TABLETS" "What about all those desktops, sir?" "Well just make sure that we can run this on those too... and get rid of dual booting systems while your at it."

talddren
talddren

So which part of the logo is going to make me think "Windows 8"? The bland blue panes or the part that says Windows 8? And Win8 is hardly in a position yet to conjure up good associations. Now I'm kinda sorry that something close to that shade of blue is my favorite color. On the other hand, look at all the great discussions it's created around which nation's flag it's similar to: so far we've got claims on Finland, Norway, and Greece.

T_Mac
T_Mac

I actually like this logo. Takes the logo forward from the waves of the previous logo to the tiled look of Windows Phone - haven't seen the GUI of Windows 8 yet but if it's tiled also then this makes sense - tiles and Windows 8 are the future. It's simple, neat and clean and says what it needs to with a prominent Windows 8 text. Clean blue colour that's appealing to the eyes. I like it.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

how much they paid for that fancy piece of work. And even more, how the designing company pitched it as a viable solution! Now that would be a story worth reading about.

Mike Lonewolf
Mike Lonewolf

Do you just use a computer for the logo? Or the ability to get your graphic work done?? You loving the new breed of Video cards? I remember when Mac was the only Graphic machine in town...NOW Windows taken that too. Soon, and you can see for yourself Microsoft is sneaking under Linux's radar, and allowing Linux apps run natively within Windows...GOT some cool Linux apps I ported over from Linux.org. WELCOME TO THE MACHINE! ?? Pink Floyd.

Mike Lonewolf
Mike Lonewolf

So you're a Mac user huh?? Enjoying Mac's last O/S...That was 9 wasn't it? The Mac O/S 10 went Linux, Debian to be accurate. And NOW in the news Mac is going PC, RUNNING MS Windows and all! Don't believe it? Well check right here, just search Mac! The new Windows Computer...LMAO. Gotta LOVE it! And IF you don't believe it from this source just call APPLE! LOL!!

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

No doubt they intend to capitalize in major fashion on the new buzz word. i.e. "Cloud". That way they can charge by the hour as opposed to the user seats. They want the same OS or at least the same function of the OS as is on the phone, tablet or whatever else they intend to get into in the future. Just think of the control forthcoming. They get everyone to accept this "cloud" concept and that in order to use your PC at all -or at least the better portion of your apps- it must be attached to the internet and it opens up all sorts of revenue streams. Irrespective of what one believes the ultimate purpose for this radical departure in concept, few could argue that MS isn't following a fad. Whether or not the fad becomes the norm remains yet to be seen. I imagine it infuriates the MS execs to no end to realize at this late stage of the game that another tech company has matched, even exceeded their total worth. Personally, I don't think it a wise move. I simply do not see the greater portion of computer users abandoning their desktops for mobile devices. Have never seen a poll to prove such, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the total numbers of cell phone users who first experienced the internet at all -on a device they owned- was way up there. I certainly do not believe that Apples' and Androids' rise to dominance in the cell phone industry has cut into the piece of market share MS enjoys with their PC dominance in any significant manner, if at all. Looks as though MS may be forcing the issue though. Tact is telling someone to go to hell, and observing that they can't wait to get there! Interesting how MS has chosen almost without fail to follow Apples designs on things. Even long before i-Tunes garnered their deal with Hollywood on music sales, MS had begun mimicking i-Tunes with their Windows Media Player. As a result virtually every other media player front end followed suit in due time, such that there is now only bloated p.o.s. applications in that vein. All of which force the same manner of browsing songs as i-Tunes initiated from the start. Idiot proof does NOT mean easy to use. Well there's my rant for the day as well.

onamish4life
onamish4life

I'm on fire.... The New Windows 8 is faster than any previous version of Windows. With the upgrade to W8 : PC users, will Wait No More!

xangpow
xangpow

That Television would stop broadcasting at midnight. That right before cable or satelite if you where up at 2am dont bother turning on the TV because all you would get is either a test pattern or snow.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Because if it was monochrome black, you couldn't tell when the system was hung up while booting!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If the idea is to evoke the tiles of the Metro GUI, at least color the freakin' tiles. Maybe put a couple of rows of full-sized and half-sized tiles in the background with 'Windows' in front of them. I realize color preferences are matters of personal taste, but I dislike that color (and most shades of blue). It's flat and boring.

mikeholli
mikeholli

They didn't pay for that logo, Microsoft held a competition of ALL grammar schools in the Redmond area, and a 4th grader came up with that winner.

Fletchguy
Fletchguy

I can't tell if your being sarcastic or really believe that? lol Anyways Windows 8 and the metro UI will be one of Microsofts biggest fails in the os market making Vista seem genius. People simple hate windows 8 and metro plain and dismple . Reading peoiple who have had a chance to use it Id say maybe 1in 5 like something about it with the other 4 hating it with a passion due to its non user friendly layout and the slowness it creates when using it to navigate around. Windows phone 7 showed very clearly the metro ui is hated on a smartphone so i dont think it will do much better on tablets. Then figure in windows 8 is not keyboard mouse friendly at all Microsoft kind of boxed out its customer base for some reason wantin g to shed decades of long loyal users.. I am leaning towards Steve Balmmer maybe smoking crack or had a stroke or maybe is a double agent for Apple to destroy Microsoft the once might company Bill Gates lead.