Microsoft is modernizing its Office icons as part of a more holistic approach to the design of its different Office applications. This is the first time Office icons have changed in five years. They are designed to be simpler and more modern and apply to multiple devices and platforms. Office now exists on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, and Microsoft has implemented a single code base to provide fast monthly improvements to applications. These icons are designed to reflect the recent evolution of Office, with new artificial intelligence features, more collaborative features and platform independence for key applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
The new icons lessen the importance of the letter for each Office application, but still manage to look familiar. "Our design solution was to separate the letter and symbol from the icons, basically creating two panels (one for the letter and one for the symbol) that we can pair or separate," says Jon Friedman, associate design director at Microsoft. "This allows us to maintain familiarity while emphasizing simplicity when you are in the app."
Microsoft has swapped the outlines of the documents in the previous icons against lines of text for Word and individual cells for Excel. Surprisingly, the icons are always instantly recognizable, which is important for the millions of users who launch these apps every day. Elsewhere, OneDrive and Skype icons retain their unique appearance in a more modern way. OneDrive is still a cloud, while Skype has thrown most of its bubbles into what looks like a call button with a simple S logo.
Icons are only part of the design and Microsoft makes subtle changes to Office elsewhere. The software giant simplifies its ribbon interface and upgrades its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 to Office applications. Subtle color changes designed to modernize the appearance of Office are emerging on Windows, Mac, mobile devices and the Web. One of Microsoft's most popular mobile applications, Outlook Mobile, is also undergoing a major design overhaul with support for shared messaging and new gestures for accounts and folders.