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Originally published Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 6:30 AM

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Corrected version

Microsoft gets a new logo for the first time since 1987

A lot is at stake when a company changes its logo, and Microsoft changed it a number of times in its early years.

Seattle Times technology reporter

Logos over the years

1975-1979

1980-1981

1982-1986

1987-2012

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For the first time in 25 years, Microsoft is changing its corporate logo.

Microsoft, which has used its solid, boldfaced, italicized logo since 1987, is expected to unveil its new, more colorful logo Thursday at the Boston opening of the 23rd Microsoft store. It will also appear Thursday at the Seattle and Bellevue Microsoft stores, as well as on the microsoft.com home page.

The new logo, which incorporates a multicolored Windows symbol in addition to the "Microsoft" name in straightforward, lighter type, is intended to "signal the heritage but also signal the future — a newness and freshness," said Jeff Hansen, Microsoft's general manager of brand strategy.

It's coming at a time when the company is preparing to launch new or significantly updated versions of nearly every one of its products, from Windows to Windows Phone to Office.

Many of those products will feature a new look and feel — cleaner, with fewer borders and less clutter, and more colorful tile-based designs.

Given all that, "we felt it was a good time to express the newness in the Microsoft logo as well," Hansen said.

The new logo features the name "Microsoft" in the Segoe font — a font Microsoft owns and has used in its products and marketing for several years. The font also figures prominently in the new Windows 8 user interface.

The "f" and "t" in the name "Microsoft" are connected in the new logo, just as they were in the old. "It was one of the subtleties we thought we could bring forward," Hansen said.

For the first time, the company's logo will also include a symbol: In this case, a square formed by four multicolored square tiles — reminiscent of the company's multihued Windows logo in years past. (Ironically, Windows 8's new logo is now single-colored.)

The colors in the squares — blue, orange, green and yellow — are those long associated with Microsoft and from which the company's product brands draw.

The colors are also meant to convey "the diversity of our products and the diversity of people that we serve," Hansen said.

The new logo also bears great resemblance to, and is an evolution of, the Microsoft Store logo, which was inspired by the Windows flag.

A lot is at stake when a company changes its logo.

A logo is the instant communication of a brand, said Barbara Kahn, professor of marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "It's what is seen time and time again," she said.

A strong logo, she said, needs to be "distinctive, clearly identified with the brand and consistently used over time."

The new logo marks the fourth time Redmond-based Microsoft has changed it since the company was founded in 1975 and only the second time since Microsoft went public in 1986.

Microsoft's first logo, used from 1975 to 1979, evokes its era, with its disco-y typeface. The multilined logo, with "Micro" on the first line and "Soft" on the second, reflects how co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen supposedly came up with the original company name "Micro-Soft" — something that reflected both "microcomputers" and "software."

The second logo, with some jagged edges and strong diagonals, was used from 1980 to 1981 and reflected the computer and video-game culture of the time, Hansen said.

The third logo, used from 1982 to 1986, introduced a stylized letter "o" with lines through it — meant to symbolize the hyphen between "Micro" and "Soft," Hansen said. The stylized "o" was referred to fondly on campus as the "blibbet" and, at one time, the cafeteria on campus served a "Blibbet Burger."

The Microsoft logo most people are familiar with today was the one the company started using in 1987. It featured a slice in the "o," a connection between the letters "f" and "t." Compared with the earlier logos, it looks more solid, stable — corporate.

The newest logo starts its rollout Thursday, making its appearance on several well-trafficked areas of Microsoft.com, as well as the company's official Microsoft pages for Twitter and Facebook.

The new logo will also be used on a new wave of TV commercials in the next few weeks and on the new products being released this fall and into the holiday season.

"The majority of the items that people see from the company — websites, marketing, communications — people will be seeing the new logo pretty quickly," Hansen said.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @janettu.

Information in this article, originally published Aug. 23, 2012, was corrected August 24, 2012. A previous version of this story said the new Microsoft logo marked the fifth time the company has changed it. In fact, it is the fourth time.

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