Are you paying attention? This is how you build a portfolio. Did microsoft ask this person to do this?
No. But he did it, and it's brilliant, and now he can put it in his portfolio under "speculative work".
And then he gets a job doing this.
I can't tell you how many people I talk to (I live in a college town, and frequently go to bars and strike up conversations with people) who just finished, or are working on, some degree in "design", but have an empty portfolio, and are waiting for their "big shot".
Good job, Andrew.
Totally rebranding the window to the "slate" is incredibly ambitious, but it certainly looks good.
Remember when dcurtis did a unsolicited spec redesign for the American Airlines website? We here at HN tore him a new one (justifiably so, it ignored so many critical aspects of the business, and came off as entirely impractical).
When you do something like this, you better be sure you nail every single angle of it.
FWIW, I normally hate spec redesigns - they're usually positioned in a pompous, "I know better than everyone", self-aggrandizing way. But this one I really like, this one strikes a chord.
I've never heard of minimallyminimal, but I'll remember "the guy who rebranded Microsoft" for a long time.
That of course is not to say that these sorts of efforts should be avoided, but I do think you are overestimating their impact.
Nearly everybody who matters reads this site at least sometimes.
I can translate "[n]early everybody who matters" in this context, and it means a subset of Silicon Valley that thinks it is the entire universe. Hacker News these days is TMZ for Silicon Valley, with the occasional dash of Lisp thrown in. Conversations are usually way off-base and are wildly misrepresentative of reality in many cases. Half the discussions are folks opining on how poorly someone is running a business after digesting several years of Hacker News articles during their work hours at someone else's company, with no actual experience at the helm. I went after one guy for proclaiming that Tim Cook hasn't done shit for Apple in his entire career there, and I couldn't help but imagine the kind of person behind such a comment and it wasn't a pretty picture.
The other day's thread about the sale of Sortfolio is a great example of this. The entire thread was arguing with DHH and Jason Fried about their own company's transaction. No, really.
There are exceptions. There is the occasional absolutely phenomenal and industry-affecting discussion here. There are people that use their "Hacker News reputation" for good. However, standing atop a pillar of arrogance as tall as "everybody who matters is here" just screams a complete disconnect with how our industry actually works.
In the grand scheme of information technology, startups are tiny little mosquitoes that are, with few exceptions, swatted to death quickly and quietly. The occasional mosquito that kills a human, though, is the one that gets press and pays off its investors mightily. That's the golden mosquito, and a whole tribe of mosquito farmers has popped up in pursuit of their payoff. However, simply because a couple mosquitoes have succeeded at killing a human does not, I repeat does not, indicate that the entire world of disease revolves around mosquitoes, nor that a forum discussing mosquitoes is representative of epidemiology as a whole. The average startup employs what, a dozen people? IBM employs more than four hundred thousand. And before you turn around and mock IBM, they've made enough money to research and do great things while your startup is still struggling to come to terms with burn rate in search of that ever-elusive revenue.
Please dig yourself out of the hole of narcissism and reconnect with reality. Hacker News is not the entire world, and more than half of the movers and shakers in the industry have probably never even glanced at a comment thread. I will ever remain relieved if that fact does not change.
An aside which reinforces that point:
After getting hellbanned, I stopped worrying about combating stupidity in Hacker News threads. I stopped reading most of them, to be quite honest. I relaunched my blog and wrote a long essay I've been meaning to write about how Python decorators work which before, I could never seem to find the time for. I adopted an ethos of using my time for sharing knowledge instead of arguing about pointless shit, like Sortfolio's acquisition price or what the meaning of Steve Jobs parking in a handicap space is or what some UI designer named Dustin Curtis thinks about Quora's latest funding round. I'm learning to listen to what people have to say rather than waiting for my turn to speak, just to refute my conversational opponent's take on Microsoft as if it matters or has any bearing on my life whatsoever.
The effect that removing frequent Hacker News contribution has had on me as a person is nothing short of extraordinary, so if "everybody that matters" is here, God help our industry.
In my experience, just talking against the hivemind here seems to be enough. Especially if you walk on pg's toes, except your account to be of reduced value in the close future.
I've had my account slowbanned and hellbanned. For what? For arguing against people here on HN who insist that Apple is the only company in the entire world who actually innovates and that everyone else is copying Apple in everything they do. Because seemingly only inside the walls of one very special corperation in the USA can innovation happen.
So I got slowbanned for arguing against that super-rational point of view. Nice.
When I told some people how utterly pathetic they sounded when they claimed here (prior to his death) that "Steve Jobs had touched their lives in a deep and personal way", for buying Apple products, I got hellbanned. With pg himself sending me an email saying how that was not cool.
If I didn't know better, I would think the owner of this site has 99% of his pension invested in Apple shares and cannot afford anyone ruining the image of the shiny Apple-corporation.
Implying that anyone is better, original or first: Start gradual slow-ban, until they wont bother coming back ruining the nice cozy Apple-cuddle we have here.
I think your comment is spot on. HN represents a very marginal part of the world, and there are clear limits to what you are allowed to do within those margins. Deviate too much and you are not welcome.
I am unwilling to speculate or suggest that Paul and the unknown moderators act on content or people in the name of financial benefit or positive press for the benefit of the Y Combinator portfolio, because what I do think Paul acts on is his idea of what an ideal Internet community looks like. Paul has definitely been around the block and knows the Internet is chock full of stupid people. Seriously, it is absolutely mind-boggling how the Internet can be so overwhelmingly populated with outright stupidity. (He just shares that opinion with far more elegance than I do.)
Based on many of his actions and comments I have observed that Paul has a very particular idea of what shapes a "good comment", and wandering outside that grassy knoll can open you up to his action. I think jsprinkles was a little too aggressive and that might have caught his eye, but that's a complete guess, as only Paul knows what makes a comment good aside from generalities like "teaching something" and "being civil". Is hellbanning jsprinkles a little overzealous? That isn't for me to say, frankly, and Paul is certainly entitled to run his community the way that he likes. He doesn't owe me anything. Over a year ago, Paul theorized in a discussion with me (under my real name, when I was much younger and much more arrogant) that Hacker News is just reverting to the mean for Internet forums, and based upon knowing HN then and now, he's only been proven correct.
There's always the possibility that jsprinkles tripped something automated, and I never populated an e-mail address so I wouldn't know.
Hence why I qualified that statement with "if I didn't know better". :)
I guess the cult of Apple is just particularly strong here. Arguing against current Apple cult is sort of like arguing for Microsoft in Linux IRC-channels back in the days. You just cannot expect fair treatment of your opinions.
Having run several communities myself, I offer the counterpoint:
People arguing against the crowd, even when the crowd is wrong, usually manifests itself as what appears to moderators to be trolling. When action is taken it is far less often about whether or not the content is accurate and far more often (i.e. nearly always) about whether removing one poster will end the disturbance - even when that poster may be factually correct.
When one poster often finds themself arguing against the crowd, again regardless of whether or not they are right, that poster is nearly always going to appear identical to a garden variety troll. So they are usually going to end up banned.
There is really no other way you can do it, at least that I've found, if you value keeping things civil.
I'm not saying your counterpoint is wrong. I'm saying I want it to be wrong. Because if you're right, even LessWrong and RationalWiki are hopeless.
However, even if a forum devoid of groupthink is unavoidable, I think an open forum is possible, though difficult. The key lesson which needs to be understood is that you are whole. In other words, most communication is about relaying some sort of point, transmitting some sort of information, making some sort of argument. But points don't matter -- you and I talking is what matters: true and authentic conversation. If people feel whole, then they can stop trying to show how awesome they are to others, and then we can keep a forum open to people who wildly disagree with us. I don't have to prove anything to anyone, thus I am free to respect others as human beings.
As you probably have guessed, this begins to overlap strongly with the aforementioned religious issues and I don't want to be preachy, so I will leave it at that rather than adding more exposition.
Religion: does it have any basis in reality? That's a real question, as I know of a religion that does: copyism¹. Also Note that LessWrong did come up with a winter solstice ritual.
Post modernism: as far as I know, this is just confusion. Even if it's all in our heads, well, that's how the world works. Anyway, it empirically seems that magical thinking doesn't work, so… there is a world out there, and it seems to be ruled by relatively simple rules. It may be not so, but my estimate is so low that investigating that isn't worth my time. Now if I get the chance to probe a postmodernist's brain…
Eugenics: slow, unreliable in the short term, and have incredibly dangerous political implications. Probably not worth investigating much further. Now, if you go beyond mere selective breeding, and start to directly (and precisely) manipulate our genome, we may go somewhere. But at that point, uploading (if it can work) could be a better option.
Your second paragraph sounds correct. Now how do we make people feel whole?
If I knew a way to help people feel whole which was not religious, I would pursue that instead. The world does not need a new religion; it needs more authentic interaction, more Real People if you like. But questions of meaning and completeness and fulfilment seem to be deeply religious, which is why I sit down every night to meditate and/or write for an hour.
> Religions are about authentic living, meaningfulness, mindfulness, and reminding yourself with ritual of that which is most important.
Sounds both compatible with a correct vision of the world, and a worthy goal. So far, I'm not scared away. I will be if you suddenly require me to believe things that I deem too improbable, though (canonical example: a supernatural God).
My point is, I do not reject the idea of a true religion. It may be dangerous, but it may be worthwhile. It just have to acknowledge powerful truth-seeking processes, like Science, and update accordingly. I do think however that mos current religions are hopelessly false.
What I'm saying is that wandering into a bar frequented by Dodger fans decked out in Giants gear and getting into a heated debate with the entire bar about which team has the best pitching staff, is not going to end well for you. Even though in this instance, you'd clearly be right (Giants staff > Dodgers staff).
The same applies to the internet.
Anyone who sets the sheeple a-bleating is labeled a "troll."
The next example is dangerous to pull off as the topic is polarizing: there is another forum called Stormfront which is the site to be a part of if you are a white supremacist (don't Google if you're at work). There are millions of posts and, I'm sure, millions of eyeballs consuming that site. If I were to ask a supporting member of Stormfront how Stormfront affects the world, they'd probably spend hours telling me about the epic discussions and hundreds of people that they know worldwide, and give me a similar answer as you -- you don't understand the global impact of what we're doing nor the network of people that Stormfront has built.
However, you and I, rational people who think that sort of shit is outer space bananas, can quickly trivialize that community because we're detached from it. Does it matter to the (much larger) community of non-white-supremacists if someone has a name in that community? Not really. So it is with Hacker News; those who think the discussions here are outer space bananas don't care about Dustin Curtis, or the flavor of the week in startups. Within a community, it is easy to start thinking that community is all-consuming and, I am here to tell you, it isn't. I think being inside Hacker News distorts views on what it actually does in the world, and what its reach is.
(Stop. Before you say what you're thinking, I'm not comparing Hacker News to Stormfront beyond that they're both forums with audiences.)
Since you qualified with familiarity with Dustin Curtis:
Before some of his posts began making the front page, I had no idea who Dustin Curtis is. I still don't, really, and my gut says he's just some UI designer slash neuroscientist who got lucky with a Hacker News audience from the AA thing, and is now considered some kind of influential voice on startups and business. If I'm wrong, I'm sorry, but I dug deep in his site looking for a clue about his career or qualifications to be a pundit on modern startups and came up pretty much dry. So I hold his opinions in the same regard as most pundits, that of immediate suspicion. That isn't a reflection on him as a person, either.
That being said, the effect is not as great as some people presume that it is.
Hacker News is far too full of comments such as these, and I can loosely translate them all:
I'm completely unprepared for this conversation and have nothing to contribute (or it blew over my head), and that makes me feel inferior, so I'll make myself feel better by culling some cheap upvotes from a few people who I got a rise out of at the expense of actual, interesting conversation.
Also, no one links to postscript files. So, no original research, just a link to a blog about a guy who did a thing.
There's just not enough Lisp.
In the context of my comment, people in the orbit of world-changing startups are the ones that matter.
You make some interesting points though. Good post.
I dont want that future.
Microsoft has a very very long way to rehabilitate their image for their long history of bad behaviour.
I have more faith in Microsoft than I do in any other big tech company. It's easy to forget that any commercial organisation's mission is to make money, which makes it inherently self-serving.
Microsoft, Red Hat, Google, Apple, Oracle, Facebook and so on all exist to make their shareholders rich. And yet we seem to think that they exist to make cool products, or to offer services we might find useful. Or to support us in any way. Not so.
Zuck specifically said this isn't true in his letter to shareholders. They make money so they can build, they don't build to make money.
If you simply observe his own lifestyle and the choices he's made with Facebook, it is pretty clear money means very little to him and that he absolutely loves running Facebook.
Given that he can veto anything anybody else ever says about the company for the rest of his life, I am inclined to believe him.
Wall Street seems to believe him too, thats why FB's stock is not doing so hot. They know FB's dictator despises them and doesn't care about making them money.
On the other hand since Zuckerberg's being an arrogant asshole preceded his wealth, one can argue that this sing and dance number that fools you is actually just history repeating itself.
I think I'll base my opinion on him from actions rather than what I read in a multi-billion dollar letter... as if he would realistically say anything else...
One thing is for certain though: his stock has underperformed because his company was considerably overvalued, not because he wasn't a kiss-ass to the street.
There are so many examples to the contrary of this that it'd be exhausting to list them all. IBM had lived many lives of men and was long past being a startup when it helped create the PC industry; seriously, that company was pivoting before "pivoting" was even a term in usage. Apple was a long-toothed public company when it reinvented portable music and, later, smartphones. We're still observing the fallout from the iPad, but it's safe to say that was a game-changer in tablet computing, too.
I'm not saying that to kiss these companies' asses, either; these products genuinely redefined the marketplace. And both companies were public and had a checkered history already when they reshaped these markets. I remember cellular phones before the introduction of the iPhone. So do you.
Saying that the only innovation happens over lattes in SoMa is just so blatantly wrong that I wish I could persuade you otherwise for your own well-being. (Before I forget, thank you for the compliment regarding my comment; though I still disagree with you, I do appreciate the nod.)
I'm reading these comments because occasionaly I find something interesting. I would never conclude that something either has or lacks value based on the sentiments expressed by HN commenters, which was the point of my response.
You seem to have derived a lot from a 9-word comment. You also have an awful lot of confidence you've got my personality pegged, despite having never met me.
Let's address the original point, which is "nobody cares what HN thinks" - tossed off-handedly into the thread as a retort. This is a community of people involved in technology startups, ranging from engineers to designers to business folk - it is the precise demographic that has need a designer's skillset, and the precise demographic who collectively sets the design tone for the consumer web.
Which isn't to say that HN's word is gospel - far from it - but to reject all criticism under the guise of "nobody cares what [insert lame stereotype about nerds] people think" seems about as presumptuous as assuming HN's collective taste is authoritative.
In any case, the purpose here is not to drag Mr. Curtis through the mud, it's to point out that spec redesigns, when not fully thought-through, have historically been roundly attacked in the tech community, by engineers and designers alike, and on HN and abroad. If one is to make a very public display of it, one should be aware of the potential negative press.
For the most part, generative people give constructive and positive feedback anyway. Unless you are doing somethig horrible, those people are supportive. That's been my experience at least.
I did not go to school for design, so I really have no idea if this is allowed, but what would happen if you told the students that their assignment was to create an ad for Nike?
I'd jump at something like that.
Refresh a couple times to see more. Many are commercial, and some of those are for established brands.
Chinese whispers is a sad thing when it turns a potential insight into an anecdote.
Microsoft already has huge creative endeavours, trying to compete with that is a folly (Christmas example above.) Instead the designer can shine by showing how they can invigorate 'boring' brands, how they can elevate the mundane to fantastic.
This on the other hand doesn't look any better than what MS already does. Where do you want to go today?
Microsoft is about as close as you can get to the very definition of a "boring" brand, and has been for some time. They're a well-known brand, absolutely, but it's hard to find anyone that's excited about them as a company.
They should take a brand that has always been boring and make it shine.
When? I'm asking that seriously. They've always been pervasive, but I can remember at least as far back as the late DOS/Win 3.11 era, and I can't recall any point in that span where they've been a "cool" brand. The Xbox is about the closest thing I can think of, but that's always felt like some weird thing Microsoft did that happened to work out cool than anything that defined Microsoft as a brand.
They're nowhere near as bad today as the mid-late 90s when every story about Microsoft on Slashdot was accompanied by a photoshopped borgified Bill Gates, but they really could use a shot in the arm branding wise. The Metro stuff they're doing now is distinctive, but there isn't really any driving philosophy to the marketing at this point. I think the linked article does a great job of providing it that.
That said, many of Microsoft's problems have as much to do with management as anything. I'm pretty much convinced they're going to continue to flounder as long as Ballmer remains CEO. You could have the best branding campaign ever devised and it's going to be worthless if there's nothing worthwhile driving the company behind that brand.
Seriously! They did! http://www.businessinsider.com/15-years-ago-today-windows-95...
Replies have no effect on rank so there is really no reason to reply unless you have something to add.
Welcome to Hacker News. If you get a chance, check out the welcome letter (http://ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html) which explicitly states that empty comments are okay as long as they're positive.
* Feb 1983 First "Me too" post (http://www.google.com/googlegroups/archive_announce_20.html)
The way people interact with HN has a way of influencing the comment stream in nuanced ways. Not releasing all of the information about scoring publicly (or even the score) is an experiment about how such things affect the conversation.
One may not like it, but the general consensus is that "me too" comments just clutter the conversation and don't add anything. If you agree (or disagree, but appreciate the argument) then up vote.
That is my point. I understand that this site is an experiment, my point is that it doesn't suit every use case. Not everyone agrees with the general consensus all the time.
Steve Jobs has often quoted Apple as "advancing the human race." I feel like this takes it to the next level. I felt myself wanting this company to exist just on pure principle. Whenever I read older science fiction, occasionally I'll recognize the story is supposedly set somewhere between 2000-2100 A.D., and yet we wear spandex and zoom around with FTL travel and fight aliens with lasers and make food with replicators, etc. And I'll smirk and think, "heh, he was way off," but beneath that cynicism, there's just a bit of regret that we just didn't actually evolve in that way. And I guess this is why the branding here resonated with me so much -- it touched that part of me and convinced me that this company could make all that reality after all.
As an engineer I feel like I have a hyper-literal mindset where most branding and advertising just washes over me. I live in a world where it matters what things "do," not how they "feel," so some guys playing volleyball with girls in bikinis while drinking Coors Light just washes over me as a bizarre way to stay hydrated while at the beach. But as I said earlier, I wanted this company to exist. I wanted to feel the things that this branding made me feel. I wanted to strap myself into this spaceship that this company was building and fly wherever it would take me. Practically speaking, that company probably won't be the one we all know as the bloated monopolistic entity that makes most of its profits from boring office productivity software.
But this made me wish it was.
I don't know what they're working on internally, but if I were in his shoes, I'd go for it. Bundle the phone with the laptop and do whatever it takes to allow tethering at no extra fee. That's not going far enough. Create an ecosystem with clear direction that upsets the market, under the banner of delivering the future of science fiction.
I'm a mac, and I want to be excited to buy microsoft.
Apple has been behaving well enough not to be on anti-trust watch, and that gives the company so much more freedom to innovate.
And I say that as a penguin.
Also consider the default apple desktop backgrounds/screensavers have been space imagery for a while with even the time machine interface presenting a flying through space appearance.
Space inspires wonder and technology, but as a brand it doesn't speak microsoft, nor apple... it speaks NASA and sci/fi.
It will never work.
A brand has to reflect the culture of how a product is made, sold, experienced, etc...
Microsoft is not about simplicity, it's about feature creep. Microsoft sells software and licenses to big companies. Big companies don't want simple, they want value for their money - features!
A better brand promise would be Microsoft - It Does Everything!
Look at Windows 8. Is it going metro only? No, Metro is a feature on top of the existing mountain of features. Instead of one UI, it's now TWO UI's!!!
Putting this kind of branding on Microsoft is like putting the geeky kid with oversized glasses and suspenders a new wardrobe. Sure, the kid will look cooler, but it won't stop him from playing Magic: The Gathering in their basement.
Microsoft has built their company on saying "yes" to just about everything. The simplest Windows ever sounds like they are saying "no" to things and that's not what Microsoft does.
I love the design, but it's not Microsoft
Look at the upgrade to 64 bit. In Windows 16 bit days you had the C:\Windows\System directory. In Windows 32 bit, you gained C:\Windows\System32 for your system libraries. In Windows 64 bit you would assume C:\Windows\System64 right? Nope. 64 bit dlls go in to System32 and 32bit dlls go into SysWOW64. WTF?
Same goes with Program Files (32 bit) etc. They are pretty much screwed by legacy.
The windows mobile, XBox, and WinRT guys must feel so much better than having to work on Windows core because they don't have to deal with supporting 17+ years of software still running on their platform.
Have any companies of this size done this successfully? It would require a lot of work but could help them greatly in the consumer space.
Xbox is a good example of this working in a new cooler market , it has so few ties with microsoft that some of my 10 - 15 year old cousins who dislike microsoft don't even realize the xbox is a microsoft product.
They took a risk in killing the OEMs and building Surface in house. They now need to take a bigger one.
They'll still make boatloads of money on the enterprise side and that'll be enough to keep them floating for decades to come, so I continue to wonder if there truly is a problem with their business strategy or if it's just misaligned expectations.
And if they were just shooting for Enterprise++, keeping Windows Phone and Surface to keep enterprise device sales under their umbrella, they'd be spinning off the XBox and consumer media properties.
But they're not spinning anything off. They're still expanding into new spaces. And they're fighting for consumer money harder than ever.
I'd say the evidence suggests that, even though it could be wildly profitable if it went the IBM way, Ballmer still wants Microsoft to be all things to all people.
Microsoft nowadays Does Everything because it is evolved from a corporate strategy of dominating the OS space by providing users The Way to realizing the potential of computing technology. They wanted to provide CIOs and developers with the basic foundation, so they had to offer tools for all sorts of stuff.
Its future position is eroded as browsers "embrace and extend" to swallow up much of the daily activity on the desktop, leaving those users free to look at devices on dimensions other than satisfying an OS utility requirement, and as the iPad carves out a consumption-dedicated computing space.
Surviving into that space will be a very different challenge than Apple had. They have to move from successful businesses into new computing usage paradigms. Those involve a kind of user-experience focus that Microsoft hasn't previously needed, and couldn't match with its strategic utility role in the first place. It will take a very different vision and focus than what brought them here.
I agree that slapping a new logo on the current structure won't do much. But if that new branding is aspirational, its most important audience might be Microsoft's own employees, telling them that their past successes don't matter so much and that they have to get into a different frame. And quickly.
It may look like Ballmer hasn't done much since Gates left, but it's not surprising that it would take this many years to shift a company the size of Microsoft to the common platform/vision that is Windows 8.
Engineering brands is reprogramming everyone's gut reaction. Our "gut" reaction feels right by definition (a tautology) and everything else feels wrong. It is only with conscious thought can we fight it.
We as web developers know the power of the "default". Imagine that! Being able to set everyone's default setting to a selection of your choosing is like a superpower.
Changing brand is always an ugly business. For example, think back in high school about the personal brand you exuded on campus.
One day, you decided to start dressing in jeans and wearing a motorcyclist black leather jacket everyday. You get comments like "But that's not you! Why are you trying to be someone else? Stop being a phony." It feels impossible that you'll ever be accepted as a badass motorcycle jockey. The next day, you drive an actual motorcycle to campus. People see you driving a motorcycle. In the coming weeks, you offer rides to select people. Those people now start raving about your motorcycle and how "cool" you are.
We revisit the same campus 3 years later and people can't imagine you not as a badass motorcycle guy. You might ask, "Did you know that I use to be a nerd?" They reply, "But that's impossible! There is NO way that's true."
Ask a teenager: "Did you know that Apple use to be a terrible company with mediocre computers, losing money and weeks from going out of business?"
Answer: "What? But that's impossible! I don't believe you."
For Microsoft to make a big change, it should be that big, sudden announcement of that branding change. It will appear unfamiliar, it will appear strange, they might even appear phony. That's when the process begins. In the coming weeks, Microsoft publicizes new products that incorporate their new paradigm. Sleek, minimal, digital, modern. They even snag a few early adopters that try out the new products. You start getting friends that rave about the new products.
It is during this process that you go from feeling that its impossible that Microsoft is cool, to feeling that it's inevitable that it's cool. That is the magic of branding: the ability to reprogram the gut to have one thing be absolutely right and have everything else feel wrong, unnatural or impossible.
That might be true for companies that are completely unimportant, but many of us have seen whole careers, companies, and industries rise and fall on the movements of Microsoft.
As a relatively small example, when Microsoft tried to lock my family out of our home PC using and accused us of being software pirates that brought up some emotions that were certainly not arbitrary.
At a company scale such as Microsoft's, true rebranding will take significant time and resources, or they will have to take hard hits first before they realize they have to change something.
As you mentioned in your example, you can rebrand yourself from one day to another and pretend it's the new "you", but you can't move that fast when you have 100 000 employees who have to pull that act at the same time.
Maybe an expensive "true rebrand" is a way to make a promise to your people and help build trust in your new direction. Also making it so visible and present can help remind people of this direction when they make every day decisions.
Plus, in a 100k company, I don't think 100% of employees are blindly following what the CEO wants them to do.
As an example, take a look at any car magazine (e.g. Sports Compact Car) and read any of the articles. Or read a Cosmo or GQ article. The one thing they all have in common is they push a product through a story that doesn't even seem like advertising. It's both brilliant and slimy at the same time, and is the ultimate goal of any advertising campaign -- to assimilate itself into the culture without appearing that it is even trying. Like Apple.
Like it or not, we are all influenced by ads on some level, and if nothing else, the reason any one of us "hackers" should care about advertising campaigns is at least to appreciate, analyze and improve upon them for our own products.
Yes, ads do influence people somewhat, but the influence is not that big , unless it's supported by a product that can support the imaginary world of the ad.
So brand design is much more than ad design, you have to design every part of your offer to support this illusion.
There has never been any connection between the actual products and MS branding. In fact for most brands those two are only connected via post rationalisation.
Of course it can work.
Metro is all about simple. It's fast, it's fluid, it's simple, it's "alive with activity". But it's not complex, packed with features. This is the image Microsoft wants to present to consumers.
On the other hand, Microsoft's Business division is all about things packed with features. Huge, bulky, expensive, extremely powerful but bloated products. Products licensed with 3 to 6 zeros on the price.
Perhaps they need two brands. The consumer brand, and the business brand, because otherwise you have constant conflict.
Keep in mind that Metro is exactly what enterprise wants. Just listen to the good people at 37signals.
I suppose the different versions of Vista and 7 speak to them re-exploring this business-consumer partitioning. I don't have the information to comment on how effective this split was for Microsoft.
The freeness of Linux reminds me of sci-fi settings where humanity has moved beyond money, a lot of Linux enthusiasts have this kind of starry eyed idea of building the future and having complete control over your device is very empowering. You can really feel the super-computer attached to your keyboard.
In the current age of global wars, international terrorism, financial turmoil, outsourced labor, awakening behemoths (China), increasing corruption, people fear the future.
Look at Apple, classic 1960's space age retro.
Look at Instagram. Cozy and nostalgic polaroid filters.
If I designed for the future, I'd take hints from the past.
A key difference is that in the past, different social groups had something to look forward to (emancipation and liberation), despite the looming threat of thermonuclear warfare. Nowadays? In the western hemisphere? It's all gloom and doom.
In western markets - Your brand should function as an opiate, it should reassure and placate people.
In emerging markets - Sell the American dream of old.
Of course there's a third way, show us a way out of here. But for that advertisement alone is not enough. You'd have to change how your business runs and make a lasting impact on society. Forget shareholder value and start thinking about society.
It was so awesome to be disempowered and enslaved. That's why gay people are so much happier than straight people today.
More seriously, though, there's as much optimism in activist circles today in America as there has been in the past. Especially if you hang out with the FOSS crowd, or in hacker spaces. 3D printing offers at least as many possibilities for liberation as any prior innovations.
As for your rosy view of the past, I recommend reading about the split between feminists and abolitionists over the 14th amendment. Or the British suffragette movement. Certainly no advertising appealed to such groups until they were already successful: for the most part they didn't have purchasing power, and those members that did had derived it from buying into their own oppression (by, for example, being housewives).
Advertisers have almost always, with few niche exceptions, sold a safe view of an ever-so-slightly better world.
> "Look at Instagram. Cozy and nostalgic polaroid filters."
Microsoft is an enterprise and productivity tools company, first and foremost. They build platforms, and their chief value proposition is still "getting shit done for people and businesses", which is a far cry from the "share personal moments" of Instagram or "stylish, sexy" of Apple.
Whatever brand they take needs to reflect this. Right now their brand reflects "corporate, staid, boring, completely uninnovative", but perhaps that uber-sleek, coldly professional look is exactly what they need.
After all, we know Microsoft doesn't stand a chance going toe to toe with Apple, playing by Apple's rules (cute, emotional, nostalgic, soft). Changing the rules is pretty much all they've got going for them.
I think I can relate to you when you way the design is Orwellian in one aspect. The slate design is so stripped down from its original logo that it doesn't really convey Microsoft anymore. It is so simple that the feeling that conveys what Microsoft really is, isn't found in the logo.
But perhaps, that is how Andrew hopes Microsoft would be seen to the public. Sure Microsoft has a huge division doing enterprise stuff, but to consumers, that isn't always the ideal way to present your company. Maybe this is a step in the right direction.
The "slate", the brand's corner stone, is inspired by the emptiness you feel when you stare into the abyss of the myriad of windows that tower above you from faceless, anonymous skyscrapers. Welcome to the future, where you are one of many.
The issues you mentioned about the current age are primarily focused on society/civilization, and I'd say people certainly fear the depersonalization of society and the break down of current civilization.
The branding on the other hand isn't really focused on the human aspect of the future, its an idealized vision of new possibilities that future scientific progress holds. IMO, Scientific progress as a whole has positive connotations with the public and is still seen as the "way out of here" that you mentioned.
I like your idea about selling the American dream though. That seems like an easier strategy for Microsoft to transition to compared to this futuristic idea, and I think it would capture the non tech-savvy consumer market (which is the huge majority) more effectively than current marketing techniques.
Microsoft's core branding strength in the consumer market is its "genericness". Look at the new homepage - very standard US families using MS products. While Apple's aesthetic appeals to millions and millions, to some it comes off as elitist and/or flashy. As unusual as it seems to say this, MS may be doing well by pushing their bland mostly-business-but-you-can-go-on-facebook-on-it-too branding - many americans could assimilate the mockup's intended message and react negatively. People want cheap crap that doesn't make them think too hard.
Microsoft's current branding is unexciting (read: safe, reassuring) for very specific reasons.
I think the following phrases things far better than I did:
>The answer, for people who don't like Damoclean questions, is that since Microsoft has won the hearts and minds of the silent majority--the bourgeoisie--they don't give a damn about having a slick image, any more then Dick Nixon did.
-- The typographic mark is less substantial, and the typeface is just poor. The existing logo isn't pretty, but it works just fine, and the arrow device connecting the O and S is cute.
-- The use of a lower case "m" is just a slave to a trend that died years ago. And some idiot in marketing will decide that it has to be written as 'microsoft', even at the beginning of a sentence.
-- The new design language with the "Deutsche Bank" logo competes and clashes with all the work Microsoft have put into their Metro design language. As much as I despise the new Windows logo, the Metro theme has been well implemented in stores and marketing.
And really this seems to me pretty much par for the course for design work here on HN. Every single time someone posts an attempt at some design work that they have taken very seriously, it quickly degrades into a contest to see whom can say "meh" the most dramatically.
A great brand design is like a great API -- it's easy to build something that can pass casual scrutiny, but it's damn hard to make something that can survive decades in the field, appeal to many different type of customer, withstand changes in technology/aesthetic, and grow elegantly.
It's ridiculous. So "Windows" is a registered trademark of Microsoft. Big deal, but why put it after every single mentioning of the name?! Doesn't it bother you ( = MS marketing guys) to see little dots (they're so little that you can't even say if they're (tm) or (r)'s!) after product names? Isn't it ugly in your opinions?
Apple doesn't do it. Google doesn't either. Oracle does it too, however. Congrats, MS; you're as uncool as a database company.
Would people really associate this shape (which isn't particularly unique and probably not even trademark-able) with microsoft when they see it? I have my doubts
Also unrelatedly, the missing i-dot is really throwing me off (probably just because I am used to it)
Are there any successful logos that really are this simple?
this is even better:
this is probably the winner though:
Target has almost the same logo just with circles and would be a better example.
- As others have noted, the "moonshot" imagery is a good idea and manages to seem classic and futuristic at the same time.
- The wordmark is a little cliche (lowercase sans wooo), but it looks okay. I like the beveled foot of the t, which provides echoes of the slanted logo, but feel like it's just an afterthought right now. I wonder what it might have looked like with a few more bevels.
- The slate shape is nice, but it's not an uncommon shape. In order to avoid confusion you're going to need something to make it extremely recognizable. A strong color identity will help a lot here. Your system of positioning the log above the top-left corner of text also helps, but only if there's text around. You know you will have succeeded when the demo image of the woman in the orange jacket is unquestionably your logo and not a random part of the jacket design (which it could be mistaken for at the moment).
- The derived logos (Windows, Office) are a little confusing. Why is windows two slates? Why are the slates fighting in Office? Why doesn't metro have any slates / why is it even up there with Windows and Office? To create a family of logos you actually need a sense of "family" -- this just feels like the first two things that popped into your head.
- It's still a little unclear whether the slate logo is also Microsoft's logo, or whether the corporation itself will just use the new wordmark. Why is the slate logo used on the Windows Phone? Shouldn't it be double-slates?
- Maybe it's just my screen, but your color palletes for metro don't look that great. Dark blue on black is hard to overcome; the teal is too light compared to the white text; the black theme is hard to distinguish from the black background.
- I really, really like the combination of screen reflection and slate logo that you see in the ad for the Nokia phone. You see those fake reflections on any ad for a device with a glass screen. I think you could turn that into an enduring visual language for ads.
This is why in this concept, Windows Phone is "surface phone", and it uses a simple slate icon rather than a double slate that would refer to the Windows brand. At least that's what I got out of it. Still a little confused.
EDIT: I think this image might clear it up: http://www.minimallyminimal.com/storage/post-images/microsof...
It appears that the single slate logo is Surface, the double slate logo is Windows, and the intersecting slates are Office.
Apparently you missed what I thought were some pretty awesome visual metaphors:
* "Why is windows two slates?" there are two of them, hence Windows plural
* "Why are the slates fighting in Office?" They look like the walls of an office (the transparency helps with the 3D illusion)
As an experiment this is interesting, as a proposition it's very poor, it's design-poor.
This is subjective, but in my view it's both too abstract and unruly for microsoft and fails the continuity test. Unstructured logos need careful examination, this is more experimental than logical. Also Deutsche bank has a very similar logo which is ill-advised in general.
With regard to the new microsoft logo type this is visually imbalanced, particularly with the use of various clashing typographic styles. For example the x-height limited 'i' is at odds with the "ft" ligature which ascends above the x-height. Letter terminals are square, then the 't' on the end suddenly has two angled terminals which directly contradict the 'f' it's attached to. It doesn't come across as flair, it comes across as trying to add interest where there is none.
Also the type in general is poor, it's variously weighted strokes present a mottled "grey area" and the surrounding "white space" is unnatural to read.
Every point you've made here is right. The harsh angles and general feeling of a "sharp razor" are just not right for Microsoft, or many other companies actually. It's experimental which is cool, but just far too strong to be adopted.
Personal issues with the design aside, I also don't think the overall idea is any good. Microsoft as a whole doesn't need to be futuristic or hip or apple-ish. For its corporate customers especially, I think this would be counter-productive. Instead, they should take Microsoft Research and really DO SOMETHING with it. Such as attaching an accelerator of sorts, where small groups of entrepreneurs/innovators can take something MS Research has developed and see if they can make a marketable product out of it.
Surface really feels like the case in point here - they're how many years behind in finally releasing something to the consumer market? I remember reading that the cool desk in the The Island (2005, two years prior to the iPhone) was a MS research surface prototype or something; and yet it took them another four years to get a product out, and they priced it at 10k and sold it to phone retailers. Phone retailers! What the actual fuck?! Today, all of that seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of tablets. It feels like MS is following the TSA model - wait until something big happens, then do something about it, instead of the other way around.
Anyway, if MS Research got a new logo that could be attached to semi-independent MS-funded experimental projects aimed at getting something to market, I could see a futuristic/high-tech branding being a useful thing to have. For MS in general, I don't.
- Apple - Skeuomorphic
- Google - Hybrid
- Microsoft - Purely digital
In the case of Apple, I think this may be intentional. Apple is also about the personal. Skeuomorphic interfaces can be used to evoke memories associated with physical objects and past technology.
This proposed rebranding veers a bit too cold (or Orwellian, as someone else said) for me, despite its futuristic appearance. I'd be afraid that MS would turn out to be an amoral megacorp that was trying to develop weaponize alien lifeforms. The style is cool; a bit too cool. Still, a lot of respect to the designer for putting this great piece of work together.
Too late. Hopefully, they won't go down any pathways involving weaponizing alien lifeforms. (1 - become amoral, 2 - weaponize alien, 3 - ????, 4- PROFIT!!)
Really all three are amoral megacorps. Apple has been good at putting personable faces on its brand. Google still has some "Don't be Evil" cred, and is still held in good regard for open standards.
Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do in the PR department.
Then again, maybe Microsoft should apply the principles of Judo, and just go with it. Instead of fighting the public perception currents, they could gain incredible momentum by going with them. Forget the progressive and clinical Sci-fi future -- embrace dystopian darkness and evil! That stuff is geek-cool! For me, Steve Ballmer publicly and wholeheartedly embracing evil would result in an 800% increase in credibility. Add an evil scientist laugh, and he'd get an equal boost in nerd-cred.
Also, they could dispense with their long struggle to be cool. Just embrace basement-dweller IT-worker RPG-playing nerdyness.
Microsoft: Just Be Evil!
Microsoft: Inflict your users, for the Lulz!
Microsoft: Help us destroy society and make your Sci-Fi dreams come true!
I am always amazed at the creativity displayed by those who so obviously have talent. It makes it all the more impressive given that Microsoft would likely benefit by taking this exact marketing route.
What they're doing right now certainly isn't working...
Microsoft's problem is not their lack of spending on advertising, branding, marketing, PR, etc. They spend colossal amounts of money in these departments.
Their problem is that they no longer know who they are. Worse, they no longer know who they want to be.
In that respect, they are very close to Sony.
The only thing I would change is the black and white space photography. While it's very cool, the grayscale lunar landscape photography doesn't quite convey the feeling of future to me... it feels a bit too bleak and desolate to me and maybe even depressing. I would consider adding a splash of color somehow (they are the designer, not me!). It would take a little of the edge off of something that is mass-consumer-oriented, in my opinion.
But regardless, the concept and the work is fantastic!
I personally thought it was beautiful, really breathtaking.
Left top one on http://www.minimallyminimal.com/storage/post-images/microsof...
This portfolio to me just fucking gets it. The design thinking going on here is incredible, in that it frames the challenge correctly and immediately, and then fills that gap really well. MS has for a long time had the vision, but the brand and feel of that vision has never matched. It results in the feeling that some boring and risk-averse engineers are running the marketing department. MS has no clear sense of self.
Web 2.0 and startups today focus and thrive on that sense of self, because it's the only way to stand out in a sea of Microsoft's, Oracle, Cisco, etc. Because of this, I feel like this new branding attempt resonates with a very specific crowd - young 20-something's like me. It's very clear to me the ones who are talking about lipstick and pigs in this thread are completely missing the point of this experiment. That's what design thinking and branding is all about.
Congratulations man, I can bet you a team full of marketing guys (whoever's left that is) are shaking in their boots right now. Not for the branding or design, but for what their branding is failing to do.
*edit - just food for thought for the forward thinking nature of this design, the FB thread I found this on is blowing up at a rate of a shit ton of likes and comments, all young 20 somethings who are really impressed.
I really like the "slate" concept, I'm just not sure it works as a button. Buttons should have roughly equal height and width. The slate looks very out of place on the physical devices themselves. Otherwise, it's great.
- Lukas Mathis: http://ignorethecode.net/blog/2011/05/15/unsolicited_redesig...
- Khoi Vinh: http://www.subtraction.com/2011/07/28/unsolicited-redesigns
- Andy Rutledge: http://andyrutledge.com/journalism.php
I see the Sony and Toshiba labels and they still throw me. I'd really like to see Microsoft step up their game in hardware. I know they all come from the same factories, but there's something about the simplicity of and the lack of another brand on Apple's products that make them so gorgeous to me.
I also don't understand in a branding exercise why you pick some photos of planets (when Apple is known for its use space imagery on the desktop) and start from there. There needs to be a reason to result path, not a pre-determined result and then ignore of fit some reason to it.
Windows being a window into the future, seeing space through the slate projects the image this artist had in mind.
Now if only he could start working for an innovative company, I feel great designs on the way.
Check out his HTC 1 concept.. a bit dated but still interesting
It's obviously started to dominate their product line and is slowly permeating their flagship UI. The dubsteppiness of the Surface commercial wasn't an accident. It will take a long while before the company has earned itself a rebrand, because a rebrand without actual, significant and, here's the kicker, successful change to its entire product line (including Windows, that poor magnificent demented bastard of an OS) is an empty gesture and deserving of contempt and mockery.
Microsoft is fighting an uphill battle with itself, but it has one advantage on its side: technology rapidly changes and improves, and it's only accelerating. As long as the company doesn't fall too far behind, the shifting landscape of mobile platforms, touch surfaces and desktop v. small screen conventions will be a perfect excuse to retire its failed products entirely, rather than endlessly iterating and mutating them beyond reason.
If they can scrape by long enough to let the features rot fully and throw the garbage out the window, and finally shine some sunlight on their promising new seeds, they will be able to justify a new brand.
Til then, moar dubstep.
Other than that, this is some fine work. Microsoft should hire this guy to replace the person currently in charge of branding, marketing and packaging design (or invent that position and make all those people report to him).
I really don't understand what makes you say that, many of the people have given out points like:
* typefaces suck
* 'moonshot' ain't nice
* the slate doesn't mean much
To be frank I am quite amazed by the point I put above. I have been following minimallyminimal's blog for quite some time now and his work is really amazing. And specifically this rebranding effort carries a lot of meaning and shows the dedication he put in. He has taken so many cases to showcase the usage of the 'slate' logo.
As for me, I love the slate logo a lot. He is able to make different combinations by transforming the original base unit and created logos for other products. I feel that it adds more value to the logo because of it's flexibility and fluidity. The old logo couldn't be transformed in any manner to generate logos of their other products.
And the worst part of all this discussion here is that it went astray at so many places.
But, if Microsoft had this logo in the Windows 7 products, no one would have said a thing then. We just accept what the company is offering. When someone put in his time in doing a rebranding, I guess we better appreciate it and put in relevant points. Pouring in crap like 'the design is poor' doesn't do any good to anyone.
However, the 2012 Windows logo kerns with text (Metro is text centered) in a way that is simply not possible with the proposed slash...which reminds me of a Kubric's obelisk. With the downside of suggesting "2001."
And the translation of the slash to Office looks like cubicle partitions rather than the shared workspace of the current logo (e.g. office doors all facing each other). Though that's not to say that the current Office logo couldn't use a makeover.
The "Mankind's most advanced phone" image was what really did it for me. Here is an extremely talented person who really has vision, with a subtlety to match.
What I wish for the most, is that more people will show their vision in this way. We need to re-imagine like this all the time, otherwise ideas and vision become stale.
And when vision becomes stale, the future becomes mediocre.
I'm old and can remember the moon landings. I loved the images as well. I'm sitting in an open plan staffroom with hundreds of Windows 7 PCs with bright high colour screensavers. The room has primary colour (slightly pastel) desks and white walls with displays of student work. The building we work in is new, with curves and a 4 story atrium. Not sure how many will recognise the images here and what the younger people will think about it.
The moon shot images on my monitor just disappear into sludge from more than 10ft.
Not sure about the moon shot images or the modernist skyscrapers.... nostalgia?
If you see the ads for ipad or iphone (siri) on mute, you could mistake them for a Johnson & Johnson ad. Ie bright colors, people in the spaces they normally inhabit - running in the park, cooking at home etc.
Microsoft needs to lose the corporate image and become what apple brands itself - part of your life.
Step one to a good rebranding effort. Change what it is your selling. You can rebrand a turd as a chocolate lollipop and expect me to drop what I'm doing to rush to the candy store.
I also wonder if this logo follows on certain points the golden ratio, but than again it's soo simple it shouldn't.
Lastly, if you'd place this logo on varia devices they would even kind of look "unbranded" which some people, including myself, really like. I can't really explain what I mean, but compare a logitech keyboard to an Apple one, the Apple-keyboard doesn't has a logo to advertise their brand, yet it's "one of a kind".
A phone without any brands explicitly written or displayed on it looks more sleek and modern to me.
But don't take my opinion to serious, I'm just a developer.
Also I didn't realize Deutsche Bank has such an appealing domain name!
The space motif screams of a PBS or Discovery Channel special. Also, isn't the "Slate" already the name of an actual tablet?
When the Playstation 3 was running commercials they used weird sci-fi shorts that were confusing and didn't show off the product. Also ps3 did not perform (sales) as well as the wii or xbox 360.
more examples: 5gum tv marketing, Hulu's alien marketing
I would be curious to see if this sort of marketing actually hurts sales.
Ah, I know - http://www.logodesignlove.com/images/classic/next-logo-paul-...
The reason Apple's products are so inspirational, so meaningful, and so timeless is because from the moment you see the computer, before it even turns on, you're entranced.
Apple knows that the experience of using a product starts right from the moment a person sees it, and they've made that part of their mission. Yes, ownership of everything from the hardware to the software is inevitably part of that, but in my mind, it's what makes Apple work from boot-up to shutdown.
I can look at new symbols all day, and it's not going to change my opinion of Microsoft or their products. Not one whit.
And not that it matters, but I think the slash is too stark, and, frankly, ugly. It might be liked in some boardroom, but it's not consumer friendly, and it's nothing like the touch-feely trend that is the metro interface.
If they went this route and did something like this, there would be serious impact to core Microsoft itself. But, it's definitely time for them to come into the new era, so to speak.
Have you pitched to Coca Cola and Microsoft? And why isn't someone already making the divine Powder watches or the Pal? I haven't had the chance to read through the text and comments on those pages. Maybe they are already in production which they should be~
That said, nobody put a Microsoft sticker on their car. Maybe Microsoft should think about that a little. The designs proposed by the article would most-definitely not have me even consider a sticker on my car (which has zero stickers, but that's another topic).
I really liked the metaphor of seeing different things through the windows (slates). This could be leveraged by Microsoft as a play on "this is your Windows" or "what do you see through your Windows".
"If you don't buy our products, someone from Microsoft will cut you."
The new Windows interface is a good start. But with Balmer at the top, I don't have much hope.
Oh, so this not official MS rebranding, well it should be, and kudos to that guy who made it, great work. Love it.
Or better yet, Microsoft should create a new position called President of Simplification and Branding, then have all employees, including Steve Balmer, report to him.
The first thing he should do in his new role is fire Balmer.
The second thing he should do, which is alluded to in his presentation, is roll up all subsets of a given product into a single SKU. For example Windows 7 has the following versons: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. This does not include sub-editions, upgrade editions, and family pack editions. All of this should simply roll into a single version that includes all features. Let it be named Windows 7. Do the same thing for the upcoming Windows 8. Drop 32 bit support outright.
For windows set the price for this single version to $50.00.
After making this change alone, you could probably eliminate 500 FTE head count. Do this across all product lines and you could eliminate thousands of jobs, and numerous levels of management, a move that would reduce costs, but far more importantly interject some much needed nimbleness into the organization.
Next combine all like products that compete with each other. For example, consolidate Windows Media Player, Zune, and XBox Music product groups into a single product group.
Kill notepad. Acquire Light Table or Sublime Text editor and include it with every copy of the OS.
Fire 1 and 3 program managers. Fire 2 in 3 product managers.
Increase the base salary of every engineer by $30,000.00 or rebase their salary to $200,000, whichever is more.
I'm just getting started but you get the point ...
Pretty Apple inspired though; as someone said in the comments above maybe Microsoft does need to have separate public entities much like the way telecomms up here in Canada are doing (Koodo/Wind etc.)