Is it a surprise? Or is it not a surprise? Is it too late? Or is it never too late? In the view of one esteemed designer, it’s just dull.
You’re always supposed to notice when your lover has had her hair done.
You’re not supposed to merely notice, however. You’re supposed to comment. At the very minimum, with: “You’ve done something different with your hair, haven’t you?”
It’s supposed to be the same when a company changes its logo. “Ooh,” you should coo. “You’re looking younger, fitter, more startling.”
And yet as Microsoft unveiled its new logo today, one had the feeling that the company had been to the hairdresser, and then merely asked for a trim.
Yes, it’s a welcome change from the blocky italic that leaned into you like a henchman and gruffed: “You’ll buy my product, whether you like it or not.”
Yes, it suggests that the company wants you to see it as more human, more modern and more willing to be welcoming.
And yet my own impression was that there is still something a little too cold, a little too calculated about this new design — the first in 25 years.
However, I don’t trust myself too much, so I contacted one of the world’s most prominent designers. We’ve worked together before and — on condition that I could use her words, but not her name — she bared her feelings.
She has no affiliation with Apple or Microsoft. But designers tend to have strong feelings. These were some of hers.
“Unfortunately, it does come across as dull,” she said. “But that’s partly because the brand has allowed itself to become dull for so long.”
“I think they’re trying their hands at slick. Maybe they’re trying to look as if they’re not trying too hard for once. I know it’s a look they’ve been using for other things, but, come on, it isn’t Apple, is it?”
“It isn’t?” I wondered naively.
“Apple at the moment could get away with murder, because it is still a cool, revolutionary brand,” she said. “For the iPad and the iPhone they could use the worst typeface in the world and they’d still manage to make it look cool, because they are inherently cool.”
Rising to her theme, she added: “Look closely at the sans serif that Apple uses for iPhone and iPad. It’s got a little twist to it. It’s not the same, characterless, straight, boring sans serif that Microsoft is using.”
“What’s the difference?” I asked.
“Apple’s sans serif isn’t as serious. Microsoft doesn’t know how to not look serious,” she explained.
So Microsoft went to the hairdressers. Microsoft got a haircut. It’s different, but it’s still Microsoft. You decide whether that’s a good thing or not.