Microsoft Office: Redesigning an Icon

What can we say about Microsoft’s Office that hasn’t been said before? Most computers, in every corner of the globe, have Office installed. From book reports to earnings reports, pitches to presentations, novellas to grocery lists, billions of people are using Office to take care of the business of their lives. It’s a big story.

When we partnered with Microsoft to create a brand story for the launch of Office for Mac 2011 we quickly realized the product went way beyond productivity for the 75 percent of Mac owners that use the product. These students, entrepreneurs, and families use Office for Mac to create, mold, and share their ideas with each other and millions of Windows Office users. The brand we wanted to create needed to reflect how users turn to Office for Mac to bring their ideas into reality—how they connect their work to the world.

Equipped with a deep knowledge of the core values of the product and its users, we defined Office for Mac’s brand principles and story around this idea of entrepreneurial Mac users. Our next step was to translate this story into an identity for the product and its individual software components, namely Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. We enlisted designers from frog studios around the world in a two-week design shootout to create a huge variety of concepts. Three finalist concepts were chosen for further development, and all three leveraged the brand equity of the iconic letterforms, “W, P, X and O” that have defined the Office for Mac since 2001.

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Two concepts that were considered before deciding on the final «ribbon» look, seen in the lead image above.

The final identity design (which was originally conceptualized by a frog in Shanghai) was chosen because the letter forms felt very realistic, bold, and dynamic. The “W, P, X and O” appear to be made by someone bending a raw material into the forms. It’s yet another nod to the hard work of our inspirational entrepreneurs. This concept was redrawn to exacting standards and proportions and refined over the course of several months.

Office for Mac has always had its own distinct identity, but as the product has grown closer to the Windows version with features like Web apps, the ribbon user interface, and co-authoring, we knew the brand needed to relate in some way to the Windows Office 2010 icons. In the final stages of the identity design process we looked to the colors and surface textures to enhance that relationship, and we eventually gave a slight shift in perspective to soften the icon’s appearance in the Mac OS dock.

In the next phase of the project, frog took a fresh look at the Office for Mac 2011’s packaging. Working with Microsoft’s package engineers we finalized a box that took up less space, was more recyclable, and used less materials than the previous version. At the same time, it could be reproduced by printing partners around the world to exacting standards. Visually we adapted our iconography into an effervescent pattern that floated freely from the edge of the package, adding an element of whimsy to the otherwise simple package without interfering with the consumer’s ability to digest the information required to make an educated purchase.

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Office for Mac 2011 launches on October 26th thirteen months after the start of our program. We’re thrilled to partner with Microsoft on brand that we use everyday.