20 February 2012

[logo] Four Blue Screens: The Windows 8 Logo

2782Software brand identities, they be funny things, yarr.

Software enthusiasts tend to fly these things like flags and they begin to feel as though, merely by looking at a symbol and identifying it it becomes, in a certain real way, theirs. I remember the minor uproar when the icon for the Mac Finder got changed just a little; the big collective point-and-laugh when Quark debuted a logo that was all but exactly identical to that of the Scottish Arts Council; and the wistful sigh of regret when Apple shifted from a rainbow to a cold, glossy sheen.

Didn't know so many people felt that way about Alar. So 1980s.

Anywhoozle, it struck me as odd that Microsoft should even want to update the Windows logo. I thought it rather keen. The original logo, back along about Windows 1, was very straightforward and functional. Showed what it did. Didn't mess around.

Yup. Pretty nifty. But it went from that, evolving, to this:

The accent for me isn't so much on the type (though I enjoy it muchly) but the evolution of the graphical representation of the idea of windows. It was obvious up top, and here in the middle it has the flag-like wave the world has come to know and love in the design. 

There is a thing in design called dynamic tension. Anything squared off and balanced or aligned or symmetrical expresses a sort of 'locked down' feeling … all energy balanced, all bases covered. Giving something a slant visually suggests unbalance, and we all understand potential energy on a primordial level, so we imbue the unbalanced logo with a sort of energy. Dynamism. Tension. Dynamic tension. And despite it sounding like a damnation, in Logoville, dynamic tension, artfully managed, can visually energize a logo.

But MSFT has a habit of not leaving well enough alone. And thus, and so, and here, courtesy of the design giant Pentagram is the new look of Windows 8:

The four blue screens. 

I don't place a whole lot of emotional value into the Windows logo, actually; there are other logos I care much more about. But I thought, in its 7 incarnation, with the warm color and the reduction of the wavy-flag look, it had arrived at a certain good place. And then MSFT took it elsewhere.

I don't think it's a failure, per se; Windows 8 is going to live and die on whether or not it's a great OS. I can't believe that MSFT doesn't have a few more tricks up its sleeve; with the formerly-beleaguered Apple now well resurgent and on its way to the top of the IT heap, MSFT isn't the computer-gawd it once was, but is still a Titan, with human experience worth, as the MCP might have said, worth 'millions of man-years'. The personal computer of today isn't the same as the personal computer of 2003 (or even 1993) and that's where the battle is to be waged.

But in the side-skirmish that is graphic design, the Windows 8 logo is kind of blah. Nothing to get too excited about. Flat. A bit uninteresting. But it does synch-up nicely with MSFT's Swiss-influenced "Metro" design language, emphasizing simple, clean typography, simple shapes for thumbnails and straightforward design. 

In that way, it is a success.

But the logo? I think they should have left well-enough alone. The flag? It was kinda cool.

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