February 2, 2010

The life & times of an internal company logo

Online Services Division logo

Online Service Division (O.S.D.) logo
Online Service Division (O.S.D.) logo

The Setup

Microsoft reorganizes teams and divisions regularly. It’s common for groups to draw up logos to reinforce their mandate. Shortly after I joined Microsoft, my organization became a part of the Online Services Division. And they, we, needed a logo. These kinds of logos are used for T-shirts, coffee mugs, B.P.A.-free water bottles, but mostly they show up in PowerPoint presentations and email signatures. I forget all the exact details, but the brief was something like:

New boss:
Can you make a logo for us?

Me:
Yes. I can do that.

New boss:
By tomorrow? It’s for my boss’s boss’s boss! Network infrastructure, internet, online services division, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Me (Microsoft rookie):
Ok, got it. (?!)

Atlas, shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Globe icons have been clear metaphors for the internet and networking since the early days—commonplace in operating systems, which meant developers would relate to it. I thought to myself, “supporting data networks, the internet, a globe, hmm, that Greek titan who was condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for eternity—Atlas!” And by Atlas, I mean the 45-foot tall, 7-ton sculpture parked out front of Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center. I saw it at least once a year when I’d go check out the Christmas tree.

In any case, the metaphor of a person holding the weight of the world upon their shoulders was probably not the most original idea (sorry, Atlas), but time was not on my side and I went for it. After looking at globes, depictions of Atlas, and the clock, it was an easy decision to go with minimal, abstracted forms. Due to the ubiquitous nature of Symbol Signs, that’s where he came from. I did end up chopping off his hands and feet though, I wanted the circular focus to be on the globe and his head, which was a direct nod to the orange tittle of the i in the original Bing logo—though his head was an actual circle, while the tittle was a stretched distorted circle, an oval.

Symbol signs

In an effort to unify images used on signs for transportation purposes, The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) originally commissioned the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) to design a library of universal travel/transportation pictograms.

Visual study for OSD logo

Visual study

100202-bing-logo

Original Bing logo

100202-osd-logo-sm

Atlas, Helvetica-ized

Logo, complete.

By the next day, the logo was out of my head and I was working on a new project. 

A year later, I came across an article in The New York Times where they interviewed my boss’ boss’ boss. And there it was—my Helvetica-looking Atlas holding a network infrastructure globe over his orange head!

This really got me thinking about how these things we make have lives of their own. Once their out in the wild—they’re out there! But much of the time, they’re just on a coffee cup in the office kitchen. Either way, put in 100% into the work 100% of the time and you should be ok in either case.

MEETS THE PRESS

THE NEW YORK TIMES · OCTOBER 29, 2012

Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division. Credit Stuart Isett for The New York Times

Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division. 

Credit Stuart Isett for The New York Times

THE NEW YORK TIMES · JULY 30, 2011

The team behind Microsoft’s Bing search engine includes, from left, Qi Lu, Brian MacDonald, Harry Shum and Yusuf Mehdi. Credit Stuart Isett for The New York Times

The team behind Microsoft’s Bing search engine includes, from left, Qi Lu, Brian MacDonald, Harry Shum and Yusuf Mehdi.

Credit Stuart Isett for The New York Times

On a personal note, Brian MacDonald, featured closest to the penguin in the photograph above, rubber-stamped my full-time job offer despite a hiring freeze way back in 2011. Much respect Brian Mac, thank you!

Epiloque

In a strange twist of fate, a few months after making this logo, I transferred back to New York to work out of the Microsoft office on Sixth Avenue between 51st & 52nd Streets—a block away from 30 Rock and my man, Atlas.

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