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Originally published August 23, 2012 at 7:27 PM | Page modified August 23, 2012 at 10:34 PM

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New Microsoft logo gets mixed reviews

The first new logo in 25 years draws comments from experts and users alike.

Seattle Times business reporter

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I sure hope some graphic artist wasn't paid anything more than $50 for this. I could... MORE
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Microsoft's new logo isn't sparking anyone's imagination, but it received some positive reviews on Thursday.

The new design consists of the basic construct of the word "Microsoft" next to four colored blocks that are a simplified version of the old Microsoft Windows flag.

"It's fine. There's nothing offensive about it; there's nothing exciting about it," said Armin Vit, a designer and editor of the popular branding blog Brand New from Austin, Texas.

The logo, the first new one in 25 years, was introduced Thursday at the opening of a new Microsoft Store in Boston, as well as at Microsoft Stores in University Village and Bellevue and on Microsoft's website.

The change comes as the company prepares to launch new versions of its major products, including Windows, Windows Phone and Office.

Jeff Hansen, Microsoft's general manager of brand strategy, said the new logo attempts to signal the company's heritage and future -- "a newness and freshness."

Vit sees the new logo's simplicity as an attempt at corporate friendliness.

"If you look at the old logo, it's italic and bold with spiky things coming in and out -- a 1980s world-domination logo that was like, 'Fear Microsoft, we're going to take over your computers,' " Vit said.

It is a message that does not play well in today's market, where transparency and approachability are valued, he said. "It's a little bit like removing the barrier of, 'We're the corporation, and you're the guy whose money we want.'"

Unlike Walmart's abrupt logo shift several years ago, when it went from big blocky capital letters to a lighter font with an asterisk, "Microsoft has been preparing its audience for a simple look," Vit said.

It is an evolution of the Microsoft Store logo, which was inspired by the Windows flag.

Vit figures the new logo, which was developed largely by Microsoft employees over the past six months, would have cost $250,000 to $500,000 if it had been created by an outside branding firm. "At most a million dollars, assuming implementation would be done by the design firm," he said.

Terry Heckler, founder of the branding firm Heckler Associates in Seattle and the creator of the original Starbucks logo and the current New Balance logo, is less impressed.

"It's awfully bland, particularly if you saw it in one color," Heckler said.

It makes sense to create a logo that reminds people of Windows, because that flag is well known, he said, "but from a graphic point of view, gosh, I'd think there was an opportunity to do something much more spirited and innovative than to fall back on that."

From a business perspective, it makes sense to update a logo after 25 years, "especially if a company is trying to signal a new beginning," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with research firm IDC. "With a new product lineup, it seems justified."

He questioned whether a bolder move is needed, like a new name for the flagship operating system. "Perhaps the name Surface [the name of a tablet Microsoft is developing] will be field tested with the new hardware," Hilwa said."I mean what's a new operating system but a new surface for users and developers to interact with?"

So far the public, as measured by a Seattle Times online poll and comments on the social-media site Twitter, appears to like the change.

"I like the new Microsoft logo. It's rather jaunty," wrote someone with the Twitter handle "Mr. Wowser."

It's also reminiscent of other logos, pointed out Robert Padbury, who describes himself as an Australian user interface designer for Apple. Tweeted Padbury, "If you rotate the new Microsoft logo 45 [degrees], it becomes the symbol for hazardous materials. And [Apple's] boot-camp logo."

Seattle Times technology reporter Janet Tu contributed to this article.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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