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New Icons for Microsoft Office 365

It’s been five years since the Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office icons were given a new look.  Now they’ve been announced and, frankly, we could not care less.

New look icons don’t make any difference to anyone’s daily use of Office. It’s like supermarket groceries that boast ‘New Packaging’ as if any customers care?

The new icons are OK, but one annoyance of the old buttons has been retained.

Source: Microsoft, rotated and cropped.
From top left; Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel and Powerpoint.   OneNote, Sharepoint, Teams, Yammer and Skype.

Blue is the color of Word and Outlook

Most Office users have Word and Outlook open at the same time.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have very different colors for those two programs?  It would make them easier to pick out on the taskbar and menus.

For all of Microsoft’s talk about listening to customers, they continue to ignore years of requests and keep very similar blues for both the Word and Outlook icons.

Six of the ten icons are some shade of blue.  That’s OK but surely another color could be allocated to, say, Outlook?  The four major Office icons, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook should have easily distinguishable color palettes.

Most likely the Outlook blue decision, taken well over a decade ago, is now so entrenched that it’s impossible to shift.  Still, it would be interesting to know if the Office icon design team where aware of that Word/Outlook icon issue and considered a change?

Overblown Prose

Meantime, the hype about the new Office icons is accompanied by the usual overblown prose that commercial designers use to impress their clients.

“We also used gestalt principles to further emphasize key product changes.”

“…echoes the kinetic nature of productivity today”

“Gives you a visual language that reflects the powerful simplicity”

“Office is evolving, becoming simpler.”

The last quote is perhaps the most unrealistic one.  Office is definitely evolving … but simpler???

1 Billion people

The announcement continues with Microsoft’s favorite ‘zombie statistic‘ that “Over 1 billion people from vastly different industries, geographies, and generations use Office”.   A ‘fact’ that makes no sense and Microsoft refuses to justify (‘softies can get angry if someone dares to question the statistic).

No easy task

Leaving aside all the hype and florid prose, designing Office apps isn’t easy.

The icons have to look good on small devices like smartphones and big 4K screens.  They need to be easily distinguishable but also share a common look.  There are cultural / regional sensitivities to check also laws covering accessibility for disabled people.

Then they have to be approved by managers and get publicly criticized for the results, all by people with less design sense than a tree stump <sigh>.

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