It’s fair to say that the world wouldn’t be what it is without Microsoft. Their revolutionary products and developments have changed the way we work, live, and play. Along with other tech giants like Apple and Samsung, Microsoft has created a huge brand with global reach. One of the facets of that brand is its logo. We all recognize it, but how did it start, and has it changed over the years?
If you’ve ever wondered how the Microsoft logo came to be, this article will break down the history of the brand and its icon symbol from its inception. You’ll discover the history behind the various Microsoft logos and how each design has changed from 1975 until today- a history of 45 years of innovation.
And we’ll also look at how the company’s message evolved with the firm’s changing status and image, how they’ve connected with customers over its four decades of existence, and how the Microsoft logo has echoed the zeitgeist of the times.
Let’s dive into the history of the Microsoft logo and the brand itself.
Microsoft spreads far and wide. You can find its ecosystem of technological advancement on Windows computers, the Xbox game console, Skype video calling, the LinkedIn business social platform, and even the cube-tastic Minecraft game.
But like pretty much every company, it has small beginnings.
Many know that Microsoft started as just a couple of nerds experimenting in their California garage. The founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen created the company that now employs roughly 170,000 people worldwide. From that garage, the two grew a business that today has a 17% market share in the SaaS segment.
In 1975, Gates and Allen found common interests at Harvard University and began the early foundations of what would grow to become Microsoft, a software company beyond their wildest imaginations.
Gates was so devoted to their idea that he dropped out of the prestigious university to pursue the venture. While it may seem unwise, they and the rest of the world are glad he did.
With his inherent love for technology and creative thinking, Gates knew he needed to hire a programmer whose skills could complement his impressive knowledge of computers. He focused on creating a DOS-based operating system that IBM computers of those days would support. The leadership of IBM at the time took notice, and through them, Gates was able to get his first financial deal for his venture.
The creation of the software interface he developed is a bit mysterious, but legend has it that the idea came to him when he took notice of Steve Jobs’ Apple 2 computer. Gates wanted to make IBM business computers that were even easier to master, so he started Microsoft with the mission of changing how people used computers for the better.
Today, Microsoft’s assets are valued at $310 billion, and the company brings in over $140 billion in yearly revenue.
In April 2019, Microsoft became the third company in the history of the world to hit a trillion dollars in market capitalization, only behind the other two giants, Apple and Amazon. What’s more, in addition to its renowned operating systems that power almost 75% of all desktop computers globally, Microsoft also owns Xbox, LinkedIn, Skype, and GitHub.
The company’s success is seen in its founder. In 1987, Bill Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire, at just 31. Since then, Gates has made several substantial contributions to charitable causes, including to the welfare of underprivileged communities and healthcare commitments.
Over the years, the company’s design team has developed a series of logos to capture the brand and communicate its values and services in just a single icon. While it’s gone through several updates, the Microsoft logo has always been a modern representation of the current times and the push toward the future.
The logo has come to encompass all its various subsidiaries and core offerings. So, let’s take a peek at everything the logo has been through and how it got to be what it is today.
Microsoft’s Logo Over Time
Today, the Microsoft logo is all about the well-known four-panel, four-color square. Between that symbol and the ubiquitous boot-up chime, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Windows. But the logo hasn’t always been so streamlined and the ideal of modern design.
It starts with the old Microsoft logo first used in the 1970s.
The Original Logo for Microsoft (1975)
The company we know began as the start-up called Micro Soft during the disco era of the 1970s. When Gates and Allen started the company in 1975, pursuing their dream of getting into the growing technology industry. The company launched on April 4, 1975, with a logo created by Simon Daniels.
Nowadays, this logo is practically unrecognizable and a complete departure from the current iteration. It was a perfect representation of the times, however.
The monochrome logo in all capital letters was made up of a set of several individual lines. Some of the lines were created to be bolder than others to encourage a feeling of motion and provide depth.
The typeface was especially era-centric, similar to the Aki Lines font, and came across as youthful and progressive. The rounded letters with their big, open O’s were in keeping with the rebellious nature of 1970s California.
Microsoft’s Logo from 1980-82
The laidback nature of the 70s changed, however, and quickly gave rise to an excited, fast-paced 1980s. The graphics of the era were bold, sharp, and much more aggressively dynamic than those of the generation’s predecessor. And the Microsoft logo continued to provide that the company was good at following current trends.
So, gone was the soft, rounded contours of the first Microsoft logo and in its place was a completely different font style.
In just five years’ time, the old Microsoft logo has undergone a radical overhaul. The letters are now formed of bold, single lines instead of the poufy series of fat circles and concentric lines in the original Microsoft logo.
This second design by Simon was not subtle in the slightest, and the new Microsoft logo was based on the New Zelek font, which embraced piercing diagonals.
In many ways, it evokes the same edgy vibe of the hair metal bands of the time. In fact, the way the M, R, and F extend past other letters’ outlines is similar to the Metallica logo.
With this iteration, they also made the important choice to put the company’s name on a single line as opposed to breaking the Micro and Soft into two different words as they did before. This change would last until the current day.
This logo came across much more confidently than the previous logo, perhaps as a result of the confident style of the 80s, but it was clear the brand was beginning to find its feet.
Of course, this Microsoft logo change wouldn’t last. While some fans of the logo were sad that the “rock star logo” only lasted two years, modern logo aficionados understand why it went the way of the dodo.
This logo actually perfectly illustrates a philosophy of modern logo design- timeless over trendy. While the 80s logo did encapsulate the style of the time, it didn’t stand up to the following eras’ many style trends and changes. It was trendy, but it wasn’t timeless, so it had to go.
The 1982-87 Microsoft Logo
Simon Daniels and his team decided it was time for a change. Learning from their previous trendy take, they redesigned the Microsoft logo in 1982 to tone down the rock star logo for something more subtle.
This version that Daniels created echoed the original Microsoft logo from the 70s, using a similar font but in a cleaner, simpler format. It created a softer, rounder logo with an ultra-simple sans-serif font.
The “O” at the center was the main focal point and provided the most significant stylized feature, which showcased stacked lines to emulate those on a CD- a large part of computer functioning at the time.
This era in Microsoft logo history stretched longer, and the design was nicknamed the “Blibbet” – referencing that stylized, latticed “O.” Many appreciated the design, Microsoft employees in particular. In fact, they loved it so much that they created petitions asking corporate to keep the design instead of changing it for 1987.
This version of the Microsoft logo also fully separated the company from its disco origins and the two-year stint with the rock-and-roll, rebellious imagining. It illustrated how the brand was steering toward a greater focus on the technology itself.
Microsoft, and by extension, its logo, wanted to portray itself as a grown-up version of the startup company. This brand face was more adult, more put together, and more authoritative as it came to face the computer and business landscape of the late 1980s and 1990s.
The Microsoft Logo from 1987-2011
The Microsoft logo changed again in 1987, and this design would be the longest-lasting of all the logos thus far, staying active for two decades.
Affectionately called the “Pac-Man logo” for its open slash “O,” this logo design saw a new artist take charge- Scott Baker.
Baker would say when asked about his design that the slash or Pac-Man mouth created between the “O” and the “S” in the word Microsoft was designed to deliver a sense of motion and speed, emphasizing the “Soft” half of the word.
The angled lettering pushed the eye forward, and the bold Helvetica Italic Black font created a stylish compromise between the old Microsoft logos. It was more assertive than the Blibbet but not quite as aggressive as the 80s rocker logo.
This confident, fearless logo matched the brand’s persistent growth and dominance of the software landscape during the 90s and early 2000s.
The Current Logo for Microsoft
Lastly, the final iteration of the Microsoft logo came during the second decade of the 21st century and showcases the now very familiar four-color window next to the word Microsoft, which used the Segoe UI font.
This latest Microsoft logo is a fantastic demonstration of all the various products Microsoft offers in one simple but powerful logo created by Jason Wells.
While this Microsoft corporation logo is what most people probably think of when they imagine the brand, it was actually a huge change from every iteration of the previous logo, as you can likely now see.
The bright, colored windowpane was completely different from the old Microsoft logos. The font became the rounded Segoe UI, dropping the sharp elements of previous designs. And what’s more, the window icon showed the change to include a separate design element that wasn’t just a part of the name itself.
The four-color panes harkened back to the company’s flagship software product, Windows, and the window symbol itself symbolizes looking out to innovation and into the future.
There are several rumors about what the four colors represent, and many believe them to be the specific software products the brand is most known for- blue is for the Windows OS, green is potentially for Xbox, red is for Office, and yellow is for Bing.
Regardless of whether that’s true, this logo seems to have true staying power.
Microsoft Logo Key Elements
With just its name and four simple panes of color, the Microsoft logo demonstrates the brand’s mission, product suite, and corporate identity.
The name itself has been a staple of the logo since its inception, and the current logo didn’t drop the presence of the company’s moniker.
2. Window Pane
The new window pane is now the icon used across nearly every product and service the brand offers. But there’s more to the design than just an aesthetically pleasing image. Let’s break it down.
Breaking Down the Window
Let’s tackle each of the four color panes and determine what each one represents about this impressive software company.
1. Microsoft Office
The red square, believed to tie into Microsoft Office, showcases how the program is one of the most widely used digital office applications. The color evokes the high energy and passion behind the work created in the suite. It inspires viewers to get fired up and work hard to achieve their goals.
2. Microsoft Windows
The blue ties into the Windows OS, the most essential and well-known part of the brand. Blue evokes stability, calm, and a peaceful sky that reassures you that Windows can handle all your needs easily and conveniently.
The green ties into the gamer, lighter, and more playful side and is used across Xbox branding. The company’s gaming segment has grown from PC games to a full-blown console, and the green evokes movement, excitement, and trendy, technologically advanced fun.
The yellow is believed to tie into Bing, but some believe it represents Outlook Messenger. Regardless, yellow evokes optimism and creativity. While Bing saw a logo redesign in 2016, Microsoft chose to keep the famous yellow color in their window panes to continue representing a message of happiness and connection.
However, there’s more to be said about the new Bing logo.
About the Bing logo 2016 to today
Microsoft decided to rebuild the Bing logo with a more modern design. It moved toward simplicity and speed as the search engine worked to provide people with a better search experience no matter which device they used. While it’s no match for Google, the Bing logo update did help push the platform into today’s modern style sensibilities.
The 2021 logo has been around for more than a decade now, showing its staying power. While the logo has changed quite a bit over the years, it has always been a strong face of the brand and reminds us of the two young people with big dreams who decided to change the world. If the logo does get another facelift, you can be sure that it’ll continue to evoke the modern, technologically advanced industry it’s a part of.