Microsoft’s New Windows 8 Logo: Yawn!

Microsoft commissioned Pentagram, one of the most well-known, and largest, design agencies in the world, to redesign the logo for the upcoming release of Windows 8.

This is what they came up with:

Microsoft Windows 8 Logo

Before I dive in with my comments, ket’s go back to the basics and look at a couple of other redesign attempts.

Logos, being associated with products or brands really took shape in the late nineteenth century. The first logo, as we might recognize one today, was the bright red Bass Brewery logo. It consisted of stylized lettering and and, what might have been considered abstract at the time, a triangle poised over the company name. That triangle portion of the logo, which may have seemed odd back then, is what is called an ideogram, a sign, icon of symbol that graphically represents the brand in a way that alleviates the need of actual words or names. Think of the Apple logo. That’s an ideogram that is extremely recognizable in any language and culture. One could say the same for the current Windows logo.

Microsoft Windows 7 Logo

When Bass came out with their logo it was new and innovative, now if you don’t have a catchy and memorable logo you could truly jeopardize the potential success of your business. That being said, logo design is not easy. That’s why companies hire agencies like Pentagram to do the heavy lifting. In most cases they have people on staff whose brains are jam packed with everything that one would ever need to know about building a successful brand and designing memorable logos or brand marks. After all, the logo is the visual image that will embody everything that the organization is, stands for, wants to be and promises. And, the logo will foster immediate recognition, and hopefully build upon the feeling of loyalty, amongst customers.

Because logos are so important, especially in our modern, visual world, redesigning them frequently is not only counterproductive, but in some cases foolish.

Take into the consideration the Tropicana logo and carton redesign fiasco back in 2009.

Tropicana Carton Redesign

The people at Pepsi, who own Tropicana, wanted a fresh new look so they hired marketing genius Peter Arnell to tackle the issue. Arnell’s firm came up with the carton above on the right. It was cool and different and made the Tropicana brand look more modern on the shelves. The problem was, people hated the new look. Consumers complained in huge numbers about the redesign in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls, literally inudating the Pepsi offices. Many described the new packaging as ugly or stupid, and said it resembled a generic bargain or store brand. One email writer went so far to say, “Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice? Because I do, and the new cartons stink.”

Pepsi backpedaled quickly, as Arnell adamantly stood by the new design, and returned the old carton design to store shelves.

A similar story follows the redesign in 2010 of the Gap logo.

Gap Logo Redesign

Almost immediately after announcing the new logo consumers took to the social airwaves and revolted. More than 2,000 comments were posted on Facebook criticizing the decision to dump the old, well-known identity. On Twitter, an account was set up in protest that quickly collected 5,000 followers, and a Make your own Gap Logo website saw over 14,000 parody versions submitted.

Gap’s vice president of corporate communications, Bill Chandler, started the backpedaling within days, saying that they weren’t actually committed to the new logo, but were “open to new ideas.” He went on to explain that it was really about getting people involved in a crowdsourcing event, where the average joe might design their new logo. Of course this seemed illogical considering they’d likely spent a great deal of money having Trey Laird and his New York firm Laird and Partners design the logo with the box protruding from the p. It then proved to be untrue when Gap slipped back to the old logo.

As we see, logo redesign is tricky. And with consumers who are more aware, informed and involved than ever before it could result in a backlash or worse…brand loss.

I personally think the new Windows 8 logo is terrible and can’t even fathom in my mind what Microsoft paid Pentagram to come up with something that is so lacking in character. Microsoft says it’s a return to their roots and insists it is representative of the sleek overhaul to their operating system and new Metro user interface (which, ironically, is a departure from windows).

I think it looks dull and uninspired, much the way I think Microsoft’s OS has been headed over the last couple iterations.

Once again it’s as if Microsoft is in a fit to emulate Apple, and the ingenuity of Apple’s interfaces, and they’ve rushed along again to become something they aren’t or can never be.

The new logo is just another foray in that same vein. Yawn.

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