Since its founding in 1975, Microsoft has grown dramatically. As new products and eras came along, the firm changed its branding image over the years to match. Here’s a look at all of its major logos from the past 47 years.
Groovy Lines: 1975-1980
Back when Microsoft was “Micro-Soft,” graphic artist Simon Daniels created the firm’s first corporate logo using the Aki Lines typeface in 1975. The typeface, created by Akihiko Seki in 1970, utilizes sets of seven sweeping lines to form the shapes of the letters.
At the time, Microsoft’s major product was Altair BASIC for the Altair 8800 microcomputer, which ignited the personal computer revolution in a big way. Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in Albuquerque, NM in 1975 to be close to the creators of the Altair, but moved the firm to Bellvue, WA in 1979 as their product line expanded to serve other microcomputers as well.
Microsoft Goes Metal: 1980-1982
By 1980, Micro-Soft had become “Microsoft,” and the firm found itself at the dawn of a new era in Microsoft history: its first hardware product. This coincided with a major logo rebranding. In retrospect, the result recalls classic logos from heavy metal rock bands such as Metallica (whose logo actually debuted three years after this one).
Simon Daniels created the “metal” Microsoft logo using the New Zelek typeface (with some modifications, such as the extended “M” and “R”), and it can be seen in early ads for the Microsoft SoftCard (which added a Z80 CPU to the Apple II computer so it could run CP/M) and the Microsoft RAMCard, which added RAM to the Apple II.
The Blibbet: 1982-1987
After only two years with the “heavy metal” logo, Simon Daniels went back to the drawing board and returned with a more conservative design based on the ITC Avant Garde Gothic Demi Bold typeface. The stylized “O” in the logo, which is somewhat evocative of the hole in a 5.25″ floppy disk, came to be called “the Blibbet.” Others nicknamed it “the Death Star” after computerized graphic designs featured in Star Wars (1977). Microsoft used the Blibbet prominently in corporate signage and watermarks on its stationary.
After news came that Microsoft had paid big bucks for a new logo design in 1987 (see below), pranksters Hans Spiller and Dave Norris at Microsoft distributed a memo and a pin-on button reading “Save the Blibbet.” But love for the Blibbet apparently ran deeper than just pranks in the company. “A lot of people collected Blibbet things and had collections in their offices,” says Microsoft veteran Steven Sinofsky, who went on to become President of the Windows division. “Even when I started, people still talked about the Blibbet, as it always had a bit of that ATT/Death Star feel. There was a lot of attachment to it.”
The “Pac-Man” Logo: 1987-2012
While Windows premiered in the Blibbet era (see above), the OS grew into a worldwide cultural and business force under the reign of a new logo introduced on February 26, 1987. The logo featured the use of lowercase lettering for the first time, and it also relied on an italic typeface (Helvetica Italic Black) and a special notch in the “O”. In 1987, logo designer Scott Baker remarked, “The new logo, in Helvetica italic typeface, has a slash between the o and s to emphasize the ‘soft’ part of the name and convey motion and speed.”
The notch in the “O” reminded some people of Pac-Man’s mouth, so it became informally known as the “Pac-Man” logo. This logo, which featured some minor redesigns over the years, not only witnessed the success of Windows, but also saw the rise of Xbox and dozens of other product lines throughout its 25-year history, making it the longest-lasting Microsoft logo so far.
The Grid: 2012-2022
On August 23, 2012, Microsoft unveiled its first new logo in 25 years, designed by Jason Wells. It incorporates the Segoe Semibold font that the firm uses in its software interfaces. For the first time, the Microsoft logo features a symbol that stands alone from the logotype: four squares, colored the four traditional Windows colors (red, green, blue, yellow) as found in its famous “flag” logo.
The grid is also possibly a nod to the Metro design language found in Windows 8—an OS that debuted just before the logo unveiling. Metro featured featured rectangular panels instead of icons. While Microsoft no longer uses Metro in Windows 11, it borrowed from this Microsoft logo when unveiling its new Windows logo in 2021—taking the four squares and turning them blue.
With some minor modifications, this “grid” logo is still in use 10 years later. As long as there’s a Microsoft, the company will always need a logo. It will be fun to see what the future of Microsoft’s logo design has in store as the company continues to evolve.