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February 17, 2012

Redesigning the Windows Logo

We have said that Windows 8 is a complete reimagination of the Windows operating system. Nothing has been left unexplored, including the Windows logo, to evaluate how it held up to modern PC sensibilities. The Windows logo is a strong and widely recognized mark but when we stepped back and analyzed it, we realized an evolution of our logo would better reflect our Metro style design principles and we also felt there was an opportunity to reconnect with some of the powerful characteristics of previous incarnations.

We had a very short list of agencies that we wanted to work with on the redesign of the logo and were thrilled when Pentagram agreed to join us in the project. Pentagram’s illustrious history speaks for itself, but we were particularly attracted to their sense of classic graphic design which fit well with our Metro design principles.

Early in the development cycle for Windows 8, in a conference room on the Microsoft campus, we assembled a kick off meeting with Paula Scher, Michael Beirut and Daniel Weil from Pentagram and a few designers and marketing leaders from Windows and across the company. The team spent a full day sharing some of the Metro style design philosophy; the Windows brand history and values as well as graphic design and technology industry trends.

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”- George Orwell

That is the feeling we had when Paula Scher (from the renowned Pentagram design agency) showed us her sketches for the new Windows logo.

It’s a window… not a flag

Paula asked us a simple question, “your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?”

In some ways you can trace the evolution of the Windows logo in parallel with the advancements of the technology used to create logos. From the simple two color version in Windows 1.0 to the intricate and detailed renderings in Windows Vista and Windows 7, each change makes sense in the context in which it was created. As computing capabilities increased, so did the use of that horse power to render more colors, better fonts, and more detailed and life-like 3D visual effects like depth, shadows, and materiality. We have evolved from a world of rudimentary low resolution graphics to today’s rich high-resolution systems. And what started as a simple “window” to compliment the product name became a flying or waving flag.

But if you look back to the origins of the logo you see that it really was meant to be a window. “Windows” really is a beautiful metaphor for computing and with the new logo we wanted to celebrate the idea of a window, in perspective. Microsoft and Windows are all about putting technology in people’s hands to empower them to find their own perspectives. And that is what the new logo was meant to be. We did less of a re-design and more to return it to its original meaning and bringing Windows back to its roots – reimagining the Windows logo as just that – a window.


Let’s look back at a few of the versions along the way.

Windows 1.0

Few remember the original Windows logo, yet we found it both refreshing and inspiring in relation to the work we have been doing on the Metro style design visuals. Using simple lines and clear straight forward concept, this logo reminded us of what a great and evocative name we have with “windows”.


Windows 3.1

For many of us this was the image in our mind when we think of past Windows logos. The now classic window shape and the introduction of the four colors were hallmarks of the Windows brand for many years to come. The introduction of the “waving effect” gives the logo a sense of motion. This logo would be the basis of the Windows versions throughout the 1990s.


Windows XP

The next major incarnation of the logo came with the release of Windows XP. What has come to be known as the “Windows flag” is a cleaner more sophisticated mark than its predecessors. The version that populated the lower left hand corner of Windows PCs next to the word “Start” also gained a sense of materiality (plastic?) and a 3D effect from the rich gradients and shadows.


Windows Vista

The Windows Vista release marked the beginning of the AERO design aesthetic in Windows with a key component of the interface being the “AERO glass” effect. Replacing the green Start button was the round glass-like button with a now flattened version of the “flag” from Windows XP. Internally, this icon became known as the “pearl”. You can see the intricate lighting effects of the faux glass. In many ways signaling just how powerful of a rendering engine the PC had become. This version of the logo was largely unchanged for Windows 7.


Windows 8

With Windows 8, we approached the logo redesign with a few key goals on mind.

1. We wanted the new logo to be both modern and classic by echoing the International Typographic Style (or Swiss design) that has been a great influence on our Metro style design philosophy. Using bold flat colors and clean lines and shapes, the new logo has the characteristics of way-finding design systems seen in airports and subways.

2. It was important that the new logo carries our Metro principle of being “Authentically Digital”. By that, we mean it does not try to emulate faux-industrial design characteristics such as materiality (glass, wood, plastic, etc.). It has motion – aligning with the fast and fluid style you’ll find throughout Windows 8.

3. Our final goal was for the new logo to be humble, yet confident. Welcoming you in with a slight tilt in perspective and when you change your color, the logo changes to reflect you. It is a “Personal” Computer after all.


We hope you enjoy our new logo.

Sam Moreau
Principal Director of User Experience for Windows