Microsoft Reboots Its Look to Better Connect With Consumers

Aiming to create trust and empathy through design

The rebrand started with an overhaul of the entire suite of Office icons. Microsoft
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In November, Microsoft began unveiling the first phases of a major rebrand, starting with an overhaul of its entire suite of Office icons, followed soon after by a redesign of its Outlook email app.

“It’s the beginning of a larger set of guidelines,” says Becky Brown, creative director at Microsoft.

Designers and engineers from various departments tried to balance the company’s “heritage” with an aesthetic that felt “new and innovative.” Designers wanted to start with Office for a unified look that could be carried across products and services. That meant creating—and then eliminating—hundreds of iterations of icons.

For example, for Outlook’s redesign, the company used several guiding principles: Create fast experiences, provide key context, and add detail that fits with user design for both iOS and Android devices.

“One thing research has shown is if you try to build completely new experiences on different operating systems,” says Miles Fitzgerald, principal product design manager at Microsoft, “you start to add connective load to the users.”

The multiyear, cross-company initiative is part of an enhanced focus on design at Microsoft that will impact both software and hardware, says Jon Friedman, general manager of experiences and device design. He says creating trust and empathy through design is also meant to be “a metaphor for everything we’re trying to accomplish and create for people.”

Check out the full Microsoft feature here.


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This story first appeared in the Jan. 7, 2019, issue of Brandweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.
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