Microsoft changes the look of its apps to let people “focus on work”

The company has redesigned its app icons in a bid to put the branding of programs like Word and Excel on the back-burner and place users’ content centre-stage.

Microsoft has redesigned its app icons for its suite of programs, from Word to Excel, in a bid to “get out of users’ way” and allow them to concentrate on tasks rather than branding.

The new icons have been redesigned by Microsoft’s in-house design team, which has given app icons a more three-dimensional (3D) and colourful look and separated out the letter and the symbol within each icon.

The new icons aim to be “bolder, lighter and friendlier”, than the previous ones, says Jon Friedman, general manager of experiences and devices design at Microsoft.

The new icons see the letter, such as “W” for Word, encased within a square, which is set against another symbol that represents the program. Changing gradients of colour give a 3D feel to the whole icon.

The corners of icons are now rounded rather than straight, and the icons are now straight-facing rather than sat at an angle. “Bolder, brighter hues” of colour have now been used, and the icons are now “adaptive”, as the letter attached to each one can be added or removed depending on the context and space available.

This aims to be better suited for “cross-device” use, says Friedman, as it looks to retain recognisability of the program without necessarily using the letter. This is intended for when users transition from desktop to tablet to mobile, for instance, where there may not be enough space for the full icon.

The icons now look to focus on the contents of programs, rather than their names; for example, the symbol used in the Powerpoint icon is a pie-chart, while for Word, it is a lined document.

“We wanted to prioritise people’s content over the app or document, so we changed the design to emphasise the symbol rather than the letter,” says Friedman. “We also removed the border of the document in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and emphasised the sentences, cells and pie-graphs, a metaphor for the content, which is what matters most. These changes are metaphors for Microsoft getting out of [people’s] way and allowing them to focus on their work.”

The new icons are part of a wider redesign for Microsoft, which saw its suite of programs change their user experience (UX) and graphics earlier this year.

The main aim of the redesign is to remove barriers for users, says Friedman, by increasing cross-collaboration between programs and focusing less on the software itself and more on its capabilities.

For instance, users can now insert a slide from a PowerPoint deck into a document without leaving the Word app, while many users can now work on one document in Teams at one time and take video calls without leaving the program.

Microsoft’s new suite of app icons is currently rolling out.

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Comments
  • Graeme Stephenson December 4, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Shaded. No, flat. Shaded again. Back to flat. Shaded is back in! Flat is cool again. Back to shaded.

  • CG December 4, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    What’s with the post “Hands On Cut N’ Paste” photography nonsense?!

  • Carl St. James December 5, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    Nice article. This bodes well for the future, as it was Microsoft’s original ‘Metro’ design language (itself inspired by public signage) from the Zune, Windows Phone 7 and the ‘New Xbox Experience’ that inspired the current trend for flat design.

  • Richard Parry December 6, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    It’s all very Google Materials…… with the paper cut outs and the… etc, etc, etc…

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