Microsoft 're-imagining' video reveals secrets of rebranding, hints of what's to come

Over the last couple of years, Microsoft has been working to transform its corporate image, with a comprehensive overhaul of its brand identity system. The new angular Windows logo - which, unlike the previous 'flag', now looks more like an actual window - is perhaps the most obvious example, but the transformation has been almost universal across Microsoft's product range. From Office to Visual Studio, from Hotmail (now Outlook.com) to SkyDrive, the company's brands have been updated to establish a cleaner and more unified look for the Microsoft family. 

Perhaps the most significant update of all was the announcement in August last year of a new logo for the company itself, its first refresh in a quarter of a century, and at the time, we took the opportunity to explore how all of the various brands had come together under the new look. Earlier this week, a video was published on Vimeo featuring Albert Shum, General Manager of the Windows Phone Design Studio, and Todd Simmons, Executive Creative Director of Wolff Olins, the creative agency responsible for Microsoft's dramatic new brand identity system. 

In the video, Shum and Simmons discuss "the re-imagining of Microsoft", including some of the thoughts and concepts that influenced the design process. The challenge of addressing the perceptions of Microsoft's corporate image are discussed extensively; as Simmons says in the opening minutes of the video, "there's nothing 'micro' or 'soft' about Microsoft", as he stands in front of a large slide reading "Big" and "Hard".

He goes on to acknowledge how difficult it is to effect change in an organisation as large and monolithic as Microsoft - he refers to it many times as a "behemoth" - and even points out that "Microsoft has been a little bit of a whipping boy over the last few years in the tech industry". These issues formed the foundations of the challenges that Wolff Olins had to overcome in its approach to the 're-imagining' of the company. 

During the 45-minute presentation, many videos and concept slides are shown, which not only reveal elements of the design process, but also give hints of what's to come. During one video, which we're told was "created a couple of years ago" - and which features the now-defunct Microsoft logo - a new look Bing logo is shown which, when animated, looks a like an abstract representation of a boomerang: 

In the latter minutes of the video, Simmons reveals that "other brands are coming along too... Bing, Skype, Yammer, Xbox, everything is under development as well." At the same time, these two logos are visible on screen. The yellow logo appears to be a refinement of the Bing logo shown above; it's not exactly clear what the blue logo is for, but an educated guess suggests that it could be an abstracted form alluding to a lower case 'y', associating it with the Yammer brand. 

   

This is entirely guesswork on our part, but updated Bing and Yammer logos could look something like this: 

One part of the presentation features a look at Office branding ideas, which included this image; at the top-left, you may be able to see a URL pointing to office.com/moorea, a reference to the Moorea application which was widely leaked back in 2011, but which ultimately didn't form part of the Office 2013 release. 

The video is a fascinating overview of the work that went into creating Microsoft's new brand identity system - but the really exciting news to take away is the prospect of new branding on the way for Skype, Yammer, Bing, and perhaps most intriguingly, Xbox. 

Source: Vimeo (removed since article was originally published) | via @mdtauk

Editors note: This article was updated after publishing to correct an inaccuracy regarding features on Bing for Windows Phone.

 

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Rebranding? I think that "desperation" might be an acceptable alternative. With the mess Microsoft has created with its family of Windows-8 based products and the OS itself; it doesn't seem wise to branch out into other areas. Shaky foundations are never a good place from which to start. A serious rethinking of Microsoft's core values and strengths is needed. Maybe they bit off much more than they chew? Maybe they mis-read the marketplace? Maybe they didn't realize the folly of p*ssing off the enterprise and business side of the marketplace? Who knows?

You do realize that although i usually agree with you we won't probably agree on what you said here today.. Microsoft has no choice but to plow forward with all the recent crap you and i dislike. It would be retarded for them not too !
Like or not a certain amount of pandering to what is popular has to take place and its a given, it goes with out saying that they provide what people want, apps, social media bs and so on.. if people are going to eat it up then they are going to serve it lol
Would you be content having the desktop OS market dominated but have no foot in the door when it comes to Tablets and Phones ? They see what Apple is doing and wanna compete and that make a lot of sense and i don't blame them in the slightest. Microsoft's often criticized desire to unify it all seems to me to be the factor that separates them and make them unique. Not a bad idea but i think they are going about it all wrong. You can't just flip the game chess board over and say i win because you wanna make changes to what everyone on earth has been doing for 20 years.. Its their prerogative to do what they want of course and when people say don't use it, it's actually a valid argument.. I'm tired of the windows 8 arguments and will now advise people to stop and re-assess if they want to continue buying Microsoft products in the future, so instead of having to hear well if you don't like it then use windows 7. So now i will say if you don't like it maybe try out Linux or buy a Mac, There has never been a better opportunity to dump Microsoft products and services ! If people don't like what they are doing then take your money else where ?
There is problems that have been triggered by windows 8 and unless they deal with it things are only gonna get worse and worse.. Stardock made a 3rd party start menu for a reason for example and they didn't just a add a button to the Modern Menu and say there ya go quit cryin stupid babies. In other words in the short term and long term other people could provide what Microsoft's refuses to provide and hence lose business.
So yeah i agree they need to move forward but when you have a user base that has been around this long you need to be careful walking into the room and shooting half your customers in the face and so saying, oh well, so what your nobody and you don't matter. I think they underestimated how good a job they were doing before Windows 8 and all i can say to Windows 8 fans is if these recent changes were so great why are we just seeing them now ? Am i suppose to believe we have been doing things so badly before ? Kinda funny i don't recall hearing any complaining before.

Anyway i think the re-branding stuff goes hand in hand with all the other recent pandering styled crap. The lets make stuff for Facebook'ers mentality. Like it or not they are the majority and the focus.. And i don't !
Microsoft is turning their back on many of us that are a major contributor to making them what they are today and my loyalty lies with who ever has the best products now and NOT Microsoft, my loyalty would be with Microsoft if they had made some effort to transition people to new looks and ways of doing things with Win8 (like they have in the past) but since they don't care about me then i don;t care about them.. Looking for a new computer or phone and/or Tablet ? my advice is look at other brand names / providers also and don't expect any loyalty from Microsoft and don't be surprised if they flip flop on things either (needless changes or services discontinued etc)

Thank you for your insightful reply. My company will be staying with Windows-7 for several more years. However, when Windows-7 gets to the point of XP; we'll have to move to another OS. Whether it is Microsoft or another company will be determined by which vendor will make our conversion and future lives easier. By then, there should be several viable alternatives to Microsoft. When a company deliberately chooses to ignore a large portion of their customer base, they can hardly be surprised when a lot customers go elsewhere.

Did they forget they have to improve products too to get users to upgrade? Not just change things around, and do some feature exchange?

SpyderCanopus said,
Typical Illuminati triangles and vectors.

Do you think of the Illuminati every time you see a triangle? I sincerely hope not.

Matthew_Thepc said,
Wondering, though, why does he say Office is running on Android and iOS around 41:00?

Because OneNote and Lync apps already exist on Android and iOS and they already announced Office 365 apps are coming too, with various rumours of release dates.

In fact, through Office Web Apps you can already access Office 365 apps and files:
http://office.microsoft.com/en...de4d&respos=3&CTT=1

"there's nothing 'micro' or 'soft' about Microsoft", as he stands in front of a large slide reading "Big" and "Hard".

What the actual #@*%

XD

MS is going to have to work on making their products better, not just focus on fancy fonts and cool looking graphics. Good products are going to make their image better.

While the content in the presentation was good and certainly interesting, these two guys were far from good presenters - and I speak from experience here since part of my job entails speaking in a number of conferences each year. Not only did they seem unorganized/unprepared, they didn't do a very professional job at driving the talk... I know this doesn't change the message one can extract between the lines from the contents provided, but still, you'd be surprised how a good presentation can be absolutely marred - and hence its effectiveness neutralized - by bad presenters. That is exactly why Apple presentations were amazing every year, because Jobs - as much as I disliked him as a person - was a fantastic presenter.

While I do agree they were horrible presenters (especially Todd from Wolf Olins with all his pauses and "umm"s), it wouldn't have made any sense to get someone else to present this. This is to a designer community at a closed event, and rather than get some unrelated presenters, they got the 2 most key people involved to do this, which I think is brave and great for them to do.

The presentation key messaging and visuals were great though and I'm excited to see the brands come together like that beautiful animated video of all the logos working together. Can't wait to see the Skype/Bing/Yammer final brands too

While they seem unprepared and somewhat improvised, the presentation also had a feeling of authenticity to it, as the guys presenting where the ones directly involved in the branding process. It's like watching a presentation by an engineer from Microsoft Research; it can seem akward at times, but people adjust their expectations accordingly and don't judge as harsh, as if it was presented by a professional presenter.

Jobs was very good at selling stories and emotionally manipulating his audience. It never worked on me, but my view may be reflecting that I'm perhaps a cynic. Don't underestimate your (professional) audience though; I think they're perfectly able to look beyond the form, and get what's in the substance of the presentation.

This video was truly inspiring! I loved it! I especially loved the analogy of Apple being an apple, and Microsoft being a bowl and all it's brands and users being the fruit within. Love it. Also, the teaser with the new Bing and Yammer logos and new Microsoft identity look really exciting. I can't wait!

j2006 said,
This video was truly inspiring! I loved it!

Yeah - very inspiring. Loved it too. Also, there was one slide from the presentation I liked in particular, that explains in a fundamental way the shifts in values, that the "new Microsoft" rests on. The slide uses a few examples to show the old vs. new Microsoft way of thinking and branding itself. I really love how the different aspects of Microsoft and all the fruits in that bowl are comming together - how it's all coming in to focus.

The slide I'm refering to is this:

Strategic Shifts

Product led --> People-centric
Users --> Advocates
Messages --> Stories
Selling --> Seducing
Releases --> Relationships
Intangible --> Tangible
Fragmented --> Coordinated
Incremental Innovation --> Influential Innovation
Ubiquitous --> Universal
Default --> Desired
Corporate-feeling --> Consumer-friendly

Bing on Windows Phone 8 absolutely allows panorama pan left to right, that is not a design mock-up. That's the absolute real deal.

Indeed, although it seems that that feature is only available in certain regions. I erroneously based my observation on my use of my Windows Phone 8 handsets in the UK, where the panorama isn't available. That section has since been removed from the article, and an editor's note appended.

Thanks for pointing this out, and my apologies to readers for getting it wrong in the original draft.

gcaw said,
Indeed, although it seems that that feature is only available in certain regions.

Actually, even in the UK if you set your "search region" to US, it enables it in Bing and works perfectly fine for local UK results (same with any other country such as Canada).

Bing is a mess at the moment, as the distracting images and dark greys are completely out of character with the rest of Microsoft's branding. Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to clutter things up, when Google is deliberately minimalist.

As for Skype, Microsoft really needs to make it its own. It will be interesting to see what comes of it.

coderchi said,

Apparently you don't have a life that all you do is troll MS. I don't see how Google is more minimalist than google. Bing gives the same result as google and has a minimalist look. I don't see how it's cluttered.

But we know it's expected for the trolls like you to bash anything MS.

Actually I think you are trolling. The guy gave an opinion and an explanation for it and you just assumed he was bashing MS for the sake of it.

djpailo said,

Actually I think you are trolling. The guy gave an opinion and an explanation for it and you just assumed he was bashing MS for the sake of it.

You obviously haven't read some of the other material...

coderchi said,
Apparently you don't have a life that all you do is troll MS. I don't see how Google is more minimalist than google. Bing gives the same result as google and has a minimalist look. I don't see how it's cluttered.

But we know it's expected for the trolls like you to bash anything MS.

If you're talking about search results then I really have to ask whether you've actually compared the two because there are so many occasions that I've really given Bing a fair shot only to find I'm running back to Google because Bing fails to find what I want. End of the day Microsoft can rebrand until the cows come home but it won't change the fact that Bing is a service with a multitude of flaws with the most obvious being its horrible search accuracy and relevancy of the results given back to the end user.

djpailo said,

Actually I think you are trolling. The guy gave an opinion and an explanation for it and you just assumed he was bashing MS for the sake of it.

Let me guest, you are the same guy with another user account trying to defend him?

Let's see what he stated...

"Bing is a mess at the moment, as the distracting images and dark greys are completely out of character with the rest of Microsoft's branding. Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to clutter things up, when Google is deliberately minimalist."

Now where is Bing a Mess? I don't see it. Looks very simple to me.

proof? here you go.

http://i.imgur.com/OnHC6LM.png

now stop trolling!!!

No wonder Microsoft is in such trouble. 2 guys who have no idea what they are doing, just that "its going to take a long time". Sounds like they are paid by the hour, not for what they achieve. Great for a checkout chick, not good for someone "supposedly" "rebranding" a company.

The new logo's look like the designer guys young kids made them. "Fischer & Price" all over again.

coderchi said,

Let me guest, you are the same guy with another user account trying to defend him?

Let's see what he stated...

"Bing is a mess at the moment, as the distracting images and dark greys are completely out of character with the rest of Microsoft's branding. Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to clutter things up, when Google is deliberately minimalist."

Now where is Bing a Mess? I don't see it. Looks very simple to me.

proof? here you go.

http://i.imgur.com/OnHC6LM.png

now stop trolling!!!

Firstly, I am a random guy on neowin who joined in 2006 or something so no, I don't have two accounts and secondly, the original person was referring t the background image on the bing.com homepage. Do you even know what the definition of a troll is? Just because someone disagrees with your opinion does not make them a troll.

Another discussion rail roaded by a Troll spotter.
Someone get this kid a cookie.. congrats you found one lol
Disagree fine then say so but your attacking this guy for no reason.
Read what he said, he posted his opinion and why and you disagree then post your own and why.
Attacking this guy personally shows your own maturity level and intellect.
And why in gods name is it some kind of crime to criticize Microsoft ?
What the hell is wrong with that ? Is it because the guy praised google at the same time ?
I like and hate both but does that make me a Troll ? No i don't think so, rather it make me like the rest of you reading this.. another person with an opinion.
So just because you think your opinion is better than mine that makes someone a Troll ?
Talk about mental disorders wow !

coderchi said,
Let me guest, you are the same guy with another user account trying to defend him?

No. Duplicate accounts are against the rules and easily detected by moderators.

djpailo said,
the original person was referring t the background image on the bing.com homepage.

Exactly. Obviously the search results themselves look very similar to Google but the homepage is very much out of place.

coderchi said,

Let me guest, you are the same guy with another user account trying to defend him? [,,,]


He wasn't trolling. He stated his opinions of two Microsoft products and he gave reasons for those opinions.

I'm a huge fan of Microsoft, yet I agree with him about both Bing and Skype. Bing is massively inconsistent with most of Microsoft's other products and it doesn't feel as minimalist to me as Google does. Skype doesn't yet feel like "one of Microsoft's own" to me, and I would like to see a complete rebrand of Skype (as much as I understand that might be a problem due to its established logo and branding).