Microsoft Silverlight Logo : A Trend or Laziness?

satya's picture

Hello Typophiles,

Now a days it has almost become a trend of having those glossy,
shiny and stylish gradient logos. The Microsoft Silverlight logo
would be a perfect example to give. I know that lots of people
didn't liked it and were screaming when it was released. But why?
Why can't we have such logos? Personally I loved it and have no
problem with having such logos even in the future also. Logo
is just an identity and anything can be logo as far as its unique
and easy to remember. Earlier, the printing was a big problem
and we use to prefer flat logos but, why now?

What you all think?


jupiterboy's picture

I've thought about this before—that the traditional sense of how a logo should function has been steamrolled by cheap 4-color printing.

So we used to have to design a simple logo so faxes and one-color business cards etc. could use the logo. Now, products like this one may never appear in one color, or need to be shown small. Maybe this mark will function in all the intended usage situations. I can see that it would completely fail used small in a K only newspaper add.

I guess my lingering problem is that at some point a company will need some of its identity to work in the classic ways a mark used to be designed to work, and photographic/photoshop marks like this can't fit into that identity.

I also think that there must be a super saturation point with all the craptastic photoshopish over illustrated detritus that floods my eyes. Let's hope this look goes out of vogue just like everything else.

^Total rant.

aluminum's picture

Microsoft = laziness

Not quite related, but another MS logo tidbit:

blank's picture

I think that for a company like Microsoft, that can afford hi-quality printing anywhere the logo is featured, it makes sense. But when I see a logo like this printed on a cheap sticker and slapped across the side of a small-business’ trucks, I tend to think that the designer was not thinking about his client’s budget.

DistantThunder's picture

Thinking in terms of rules ... like there is some great cosmic code that's in violation here ... is a setback in effective design. The main relevant questions are: Is it distinctive? Does it represent the product's character? Does it appeal to the intended audience? Can the client afford it? Will it work in the medium where it will appear? In regards to MS Silverlight, I would answer these questions as:

Distinctive: Acceptably ... I recognize it right away, but it does seem a little generic
Representative: Doubtful ... but I haven't used Silverlight web apps enough to know for sure
Appealing: Hard to say (who is the intended audience? web developers, mostly?)
Affordable: Definitely
Practical: Mostly ... it's mainly used online

I work in broadcasting, and broadcast logos, while they often have a static counterpart, can be very colorful, fluid, organic, and especially these days, animated. The animated logos can be good or bad, but as a viewer I think some of them are really cool and represent their show or channel or station very well. And there is no doubt they fit the primary medium very well. Paper is not everyone's foremost concern ... nor should it be.

satya's picture

And its not just the Microsoft, the whole corporate world is going
dimensional now a days. Weren't these logos flat before_?

jupiterboy's picture

Perfect examples, but try making a flat version of the posted Microsoft mark. The designs above were made with a simplified version at the core of the design, which covers every potential situation.

satya's picture

but try making a flat version of the posted Microsoft mark.

But whats the point of having a flat logo when everyone
is going 3d and they hardly use flat versions_? Isn't 3D more expressive_?

jupiterboy's picture

Maybe more expressive, but maybe not.

Say the Silverlight product becomes a supporter of some charity event, and the Silverlight logo, along with 5 other logos, needs to be features in reverse on the bottom corner of some small take-away collateral piece. Now you have to send them something to include or use a text-only version. Or maybe the logo need to be features on a very large banner, but the original is a photoshop file that is 11 x 11" or so.

There are going to be technical demands on the mark and the inability to deliver a simple one-color mark will come back again and again. That's not good design.

Si_Daniels's picture


Nick Shinn's picture

Is your sample showing correctly Satya?
It looks blue on my monitor, not silver.

satya's picture

Now you have to send them something to include or use a text-only version. Or maybe the logo need to be features on a very large banner, but the original is a photoshop file that is 11 x 11” or so.

Well, that wouldn't be a problem because an image can always contain its transparency values in it. And now a days its also possible to make those vector gradients. You can blow them up, you can change their color or even the background. The only problem was the printing which is no more a big headache.

satya's picture


Sorry! :|

satya's picture

James, here is the Silverlight on a reversed background. And am sure they must have thought of these issues too.

jupiterboy's picture

But what if it was a one color piece. Printing is always a potential big headache. I still hold that the unforseen will be waiting for you and if you can't adapt your mark to the lowest common application you will end up spending far too much time trying to adapt to each new situation.

Not to mention that CMYK us a but dull and lifeless, and the potential for using PMS colors in branding is much better.

russellm's picture

One of the factors in deciding on Canada's flag design back in the '60 was "Could a child draw it?"

Simple is good.

we all communicate unintended messages, and perhaps one thing that's being communicated with jazzed-up faux 3D logos is that they are trying to look like something they are not, or that they are plain old soggy fries spiced up with a little gravy.


canderson's picture

The Silverlight logo seems like a swirling meaningless blob. If I look away, I can't remember it. If I saw it later without the text I probably wouldn't recognize it. Ford uses a blue oval. UPS starts with a brown shield. Most famous logos start with some core shape and color that is distinct. Then people will argue around how that basic idea should manifest itself. If the goal is to create something people will recognize, I would consider the Silverlight logo a failure.

jupiterboy's picture

Well, and you never know who will be working with the mark as the situation develops. If we could retain control of the mark and its usage that would be one thing, but it is going to end up being misused and poorly handled and something about having a flat vector version that is very simple makes it much harder for other people to goof up.

Si_Daniels's picture

>One of the factors in deciding on Canada’s flag design back in the ’60 was “Could a child draw it?”

I prefer the old flag.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I'm not sure about all of those logos, but I can say that companies like Ford, GM, and Chevrolet still have "flat" or "dimension-less" versions of their logos for download to those who use their brands. I think they are taking advantage of the fact that there is so much media now that doesn't depend upon the fax machine environment. Sure, I totally agree that in an ideal world the logo should work in black ink only. But why can't they build it up from there?

eliason's picture

It looks like a screensaver to me - actually, one I see often on Macs!

satya's picture

At least it's better than "London 2012" logo. ;-)

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

It looks like a huge folded compact lens to me. I don't see how it represents silver light.


Quincunx's picture

What if you want to print an ad with such a logo in a black and white (raster) printed newspaper?

cooper design's picture

The question is a bit confused here at the outset in that Silverlight is a product and not a company. So while the art may be subjected to some of the vagaries of a logo's life, it is essentially functioning more as the packaging and advertising of a commodity than as the identity of an organization.
That said, there is no questin that we are seeing more dimensionality in logos thanks to advances in software, media and mechanical reproduction. One could argue, however, that dimensionality only changes the way the logo looks and doesn't change the thing itself. Just as adding any degree of dimensionality to a letter changes its appearance but not our understanding of what it is. Which means that the essence of logo design—the creation of a symbol—remains unchanged and as difficult an art/science as ever.

jupiterboy's picture

and ghost farts don't make good logos

Quincunx's picture


satya's picture

Beautiful ;)

dezcom's picture

The Silverlight logo looks like a prolapsed heart valve to me. I don't see it as memorable. This has nothing to do with 3d and blends, it just has no voice beyond tonal values.


blank's picture

…it just has no voice beyond tonal values.

Given the current state of Silverlight—barely more than vaporware—I think that makes it pretty appropriate.

writingdesigning's picture

"Why can't we have such logos?..."

Moving away from this particular example, this broad approach to brand identity does indeed encourage a kind of laziness. You tend to substitute rigour of exploration with the latest filter or effect.

In place of an idea you have a look. The problem, of course, is that like any other fashion, it goes out of fashion quite soon. There's an intro on Michael Johnson's website which puts it rather nicely: "...nothing dates quicker than a style and nothing dates slower than a great idea"

Which, by the way, is not be all bad. The need for organizations to redo identities every couple of years ensures that those of us in that line of work earn enough to pay our bills ;)

writingdesigning's picture

"Earlier the printing was a big problem, and we used to prefer flat logos but why now?"

Satya, I think in practise it still is quite a problem, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Even with the most exhaustive implementation guidelines, a logo of that sort is almost guaranteed to get distorted. Implementation standards, production processes, and approaches to quality vary wildly from region to region. This is particularly true in a place like India.

With even fairly straighforward identities suffering from poor or inconsistent implementation, these more complicated ones don't stand a chance.

I'd design something like this for a little web start-up or a boutique brand, but not for a major brand that has to work across applications and geographies.

Si_Daniels's picture

No offense, but the bar has not been set that high in this space...


From the Web...

writingdesigning's picture

"...the bar has not been set that high in this space"

By and large true. But Satya's UPS example is a bit of an exception. One hardly ever sees a flat 2D version of that identity. Yet it's been executed quite brilliantly.

Si_Daniels's picture

True - any of the current Flash logos would work well in 2D too.

jupiterboy's picture

By and large true. But Satya’s UPS example is a bit of an exception. One hardly ever sees a flat 2D version of that identity. Yet it’s been executed quite brilliantly.

Check the three part forms ad other preprinted labels etc. All have a flat brown logo.

writingdesigning's picture

"All have a flat brown logo"

I have seen the flat version, but it is, relatively, rarely used. At least in this region.

HaleyFiege's picture

Microsoft is one of our clients at work. Having done design work for them, I can say that the printing is not always high quality or professional. A lot of stuff goes out to be printed in-office. By people working there. In black and white. On bad paper.


I personally hate the gradient filled shiny style that seems to be popular right now and I try to not do it as much as brand guide lines allow me.

What's the worst is when someone just makes a shiny logo in lieu of an actual concept. My concept is "web 2.0"

HaleyFiege's picture

By the way, why did you screen shot your post instead of just posting it....?

satya's picture

Few more faces of Silverlight.

writingdesigning's picture

And they actually got each of those things trademarked!!!

Hiroshige's picture

As much as I hate to do this I'm going to lean towards this logo as being very much a part of our time and a harbinger of things to come. I'm not surprized to see this form of graphic from Microsoft, and perhaps its a little late in coming. Architects like Hadid have been constructing these forms for a while now, so this can hardly be called a passing trend. And with the advance of computer driven design, on all levels of society, it seems that Microsoft is placing itself as a relevant part of our 'modern' society.

The other crap that looks like it was puked from a photoshop filter/layer stlye, is very much a narrow representation of society which barely has any relevance on any level of society at all.

canderson, that design is just great.

Nick Shinn's picture

It's very clever.
If the Nike swoosh was emblematic in a flat, still way, this takes all the smoke, frills, swirls, swashes and general embellishment of contemorary design illustration, and encapsulates it in a polymorphous dimensional icon. Surely the mother of all these marks is a randomly generating animation?

DavM's picture

Printing is not a problem?
Lets say, have this logo printed three times on three different print houses and you'll get 3 different colors. That doesnt help brand experience & recognition at all. Thats the main difference between these random generated million color logos and the 2d ones as you call it.

ragnarfreyr's picture

The important question to ask is where is the tutorial? ;)

Ragnar Freyr

twardoch's picture

I wish the logo was the problem. The logo is fine. But Microsoft's corporate communication that talks about Silverlight is just BEYOND SCARY. Take a look at the PDF examples one, two, three, four, five or six.

It's just a random sample of what Google gave me. I just clicked on the first few links and could not find anything that looked remotely reasonable, maybe except this but even that is completely derivative. Sad and scary.


John Hudson's picture

the traditional sense of how a logo should function has been steamrolled by cheap 4-color printing.

That and the Internet. Traditional flat logos can seem dull in a colourful, interactive environment. Companies don't want their logo to be the most boring thing on a web page, so they tart it up, make it look three dimensional, make it rotate, throb, etc.

dezcom's picture

I guess if looking like a hooker is what you are after...


sihep's picture

I think that visual identities for software are slightly different to corporate identities proper. The ID for a program only really has to exist on a CD cover/packaging and on screen when you start the thing up. The 'ghost fart' would obviously look lousy on a business card at 133lpi in 2 colours but it isn't ever going to end up there - the Microsoft logo is still just 1 colour and Adobe 2. At the same time there does seem to be a trend towards 3D in visual identities for corporations, the first ones I remember being Silicon Graphics and Astra Zeneca (which sort of looks like strings of melted cheese).

Mason Flint's picture

I enjoyed reading this discussion on the Silverlight logo and thought I'd add my perspective. I managed the development of the Silverlight brand name and identity at Microsoft. To be clear - I am not a designer nor an expert in production. I’m a brand strategy guy. We worked with an outside partner on the logo design and rely on in-house and external partners to design and produce content that incorporate the logo.

What I can comment on is what our thinking was as we developed this logo. Silverlight is a tool for designers and software developers who are creating something of their own. Ultimately they control the design of the experiences they create with Silverlight. We explored a wide range of options for the logo including more traditional approaches like those designed around real objects (e.g. the shield shape of the UPS logo or the Apple of the Apple logo) that some on this forum noted. We ultimately decided that a design that was more open and without boundaries was more fitting with the Silverlight concept. I’m going out a bit on a limb here but in some respects Silverlight is somewhat amorphous, only taking shape after a designer creates something using it. We didn’t want to box it in by creating an overly literal logo.

We entered into the design process thinking animation first, static online second and print a very distant third. The static logo you see above was taken from a frame of an animation that we created. While technology and bandwidth doesn’t always make it possible to display the logo in high quality animated form, that’s our goal when possible. We knew that we would need to create static versions, print was not a priority. Silverlight was designed to be native to the Web. The idea of printing it black and white in newsprint is totally counter to what Silverlight is about.

There are certainly downsides to this approach but overall we’re pretty happy with the results and the response we’ve seen/heard to the design. We’re aware of the challenges in using this logo effectively and I’ve already seen some scary examples of “design” that are off-brand. We work hard to limit this by creating guidance that we provide to our design/agency partners and in most cases they do great work.

I hope this gives you a glimpse into how we approached this project. Feedback on the forum or via mail is welcome.

Mason Flint
Microsoft Corp.

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