For the past 37 years, Microsoft has used a variety of logo designs to represent its flagship product, Microsoft Windows. We’ll take a look at each major version as the design has evolved over the years.
Before we begin our journey back in time, it’s important to note that as we researched, we uncovered dozens of minor variations on the Windows logo used in printing, advertising, software, retail box art, and more. too many to cover in detail here. . We’re going to group together some of the main shapes and themes that Microsoft has used for Windows logo branding over time.
The Tiled Window: 1985-1989
At first, Windows didn’t have much of a logo. Windows 1.0 (1985) and 2.0 (1987) covers, splash screens, and advertisements typically used a “Microsoft Windows” wordmark in a special font with no special icon next to it. But in recent years, Microsoft has unveiled a seldom-used Windows 1.x and 2.x-era logo with a non-symmetrical four-panel design (seen top, above) that evokes various window sizes. tiled in Windows 1.0, which filled the screen but did not overlap.
In a 2012 blog post, Microsoft’s Sam Moreau cited this design as “the original Windows logo”, but in practice it was rarely used at the time. After searching, we only found that it was used in conjunction with a Microsoft Windows Development Seminar event hosted in 1986 and 1987, and a rare boxed copy of Windows distributed at the event. But it still set the stage for things to come.
The Rigid Window: 1990-1991
Like Windows 1.x and 2.x, Windows 3.0 (1990) primarily used a word-based logo, as seen above on the Windows 3.0 Start Screen to the right. “With Windows 3.0, there was no standard Windows logo,” says Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft vice president in charge of Windows at the time. “Each marketing group, sales group, or sales event did their thing. Sometimes one would be reused, but there was no standard.”
Some Windows application retail boxes also used an early illustration of a window with strong gradients on some products to indicate compatibility with Windows 3.0 (seen above left). This is the first appearance of what is clearly a metaphor for a house window, with four panes set in a thick border. It’s a design motif that has stuck with Windows in various forms to this day.
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The Windows Flag: 1990-1993
Windows 3.1 freshened things up for Microsoft in 1992 by introducing a vibrant new logo that borrowed the window pane motif but turned it into a waving flag with a trail behind it. Four colors (red, green, blue, and yellow) fill the panes of this flag window, while the wavy trail is divided into discrete blocks, possibly suggesting discrete digital units of information.
Former Microsoft Vice President Brad Silverberg recounted the origins of the famous flag logo to How-To Geek: “I felt [the lack of a standard Windows logo in the 3.0 era] it was a huge missed opportunity, and that we needed to create a new logo and demand that it be used everywhere. Led the systems marketing group to develop a new one. They used some outside designers, introduced me to the finalists, and I chose the now-iconic Windows flag. It’s still my favourite. It set the colors, the overall design, it has movement/dynamism and it lasted for decades. I wanted to generate some equity in the logo and it worked!”
Microsoft also used this flag logo with Windows NT 3.1 (the first version of NT) the following year.
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The Flying Flag: 1994-2000
In 1994, Microsoft designers put a new spin on the Windows 3.1-era waving flag logo by tilting it clockwise at a slight angle, suggesting movement and action. This new logo first appeared with Windows NT 3.5 in 1994, but soon made its way to Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 (1996), Windows CE (1996), Windows 98, Windows Me (2000), and Windows 2000 in various guises.
In particular, with the Me and 2000 logos, Microsoft added some extra square window elements around the waving flag for a fresher look.
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The simple flag: 2001-2011
With Windows XP in 2001, Microsoft reduced the flying flag idea to four simple colored panels flapping in the wind. Similar colors remained on the panels, but the black border disappeared. With Windows Vista (2006), Microsoft gave the simple flag a new bloom gradient in the center and often placed it in a shaded bubble.
Windows 7 (2009) continued the Vista tradition with variations, and Windows Phone 7 (2010) used a pure white version of the simple banner in the form of bubbles or squares.
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The Angled Window: 2012-2020
With Windows 8 (2012), Microsoft went back to the drawing board with the Windows logo, ditching the waving-flag-like design used in the past and making the four panes look more like a house window, but set at an angle. The new logo’s austere design also deliberately mirrored the “Metro” interface of Windows 8, which featured application panels (tiles) instead of icons.
The new angled window logo also appeared on Windows RT (2012), Windows Phone 8 (2012), some versions of Windows Embedded Compact, Windows 8.1 (2013), and Windows 10 (2015). However, there are some variations in the precise angles and sizes of the panels between the various versions.
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The Grid Window: 2021-Present
Now we come to today with Windows 11, which Microsoft released in 2021. For the Windows 11 logo, Microsoft ditched the angle and opted for a simple grid of four squares rendered in blue. In fact, it was inspired by the Microsoft logo (first introduced in 2012), which currently has the same shape but in the four traditional Windows colors (red, green, blue, yellow).
In a promotional video for Microsoft, Windows brand manager Vincent Joris said, “We looked at the Microsoft logo and made it blue, which is the color that people most associate with Windows.”
The new logo reflects the clean new design of Windows 11 and retains the famous four-pane house window motif that was used for at least 22 years. We assume that as long as there is a Windows operating system, there will probably be a window somewhere in the logo.
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