A long overdue brand design update.
The last time Microsoft updated the Office icons was in 2013, when selfies were new enough to become Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. In the half a decade since then the Microsoft product has undergone regular updates as has the way we interact with the world through our desktop and other digital devices.
Announcing the update to their Office icons, Microsoft described their revolutionary vision; “Today more than one billion people from vastly different industries, geographies, and generations use Office. They work on different platforms and devices and in environments that are faster, more distracting, and more connected than ever before.
To support this changing world of work, Office is transforming into a collaborative suite that lets you work together in real-time from almost any device. We’ve infused our tools with powerful AI: you can get insights from data with less effort, write a paper using your voice, or make your resume using LinkedIn insights. We’ve also added totally new apps to the suite like our AI-powered meetings and chat service, Microsoft Teams. In the end, it’s great design that makes these experiences fluid and seamless.”
As a way of signalling these significant changes to the market, Microsoft has redesigned their suite of Office icons which effectively operate as shorthand brand marks for the range of software.
By way of design rationale, Microsoft explain; “From the get-go, we embraced Office’s rich history and used it to inform design decisions. Strong colors have always been at the core of the Office brand, and new icons are a chance to evolve our palette. Color differentiates apps and creates personality, and for the new icons we chose hues that are bolder, lighter and friendlier — a nod to how Office has evolved.
We also used gestalt principles to further emphasize key product changes. Simplicity and harmony are key visual elements that reflect the seamless connectivity and intuitiveness of Office apps. While each icon has a unique and identifiable symbol, there are connections within each app’s symbol and the collective suite.”
Most interestingly from my perspective is the overt recognition of Design as part of Microsofts philosophy. For decades the brand positioning territory of Design has been owned by Apple and it’s operating system. Adobe which began it’s life with product made for designers working on Macs also flew the design flag, but they were left mostly unchallenged to own that valuable brand attribute. The press release from Microsoft regarding the new Office icons suggests that as a business they have finally decided to compete in the design stakes.
They talk about ‘being part of the design community’ and state; “Our new icons will begin rolling out across platforms in the coming months, starting with mobile and web. They are the result of many iterations, a lot of research and testing, and plenty of late nights and weekends. They’re also part of an ongoing journey. As designers, we love the creative community’s ability to inspire each other and create momentum, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.”
Integrating Design into your brand proposition is a much bigger task than developing a new suite of icons and telling the world you’re now into design. As Apple have demonstrated so powerfully over the last three decades, design is an all-encompassing mindset that pervades everything a brand does. Design sits at the heart of that business making it far more complex to run, but ultimately also far more profitable. To truly own design as part of your brand positioning you need to demonstrate brilliant design across everything you create for years on end. Time will tell if Microsoft are genuinely committed to Design or trying to leverage it for a fast brand win.
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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Pics courtesy Microsoft.