Microsoft is modernizing its Office icons as part of a broader focus on design for its various Office apps. It’s the first time the Office icons have changed in five years, and they’re designed to be more simple and modern to span across multiple devices and platforms. Office now exists on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, and Microsoft has been building a single core codebase to make rapid monthly improvements to the apps. These icons are designed to reflect how Office has changed recently, with new AI features, more collaborative features, and its platform independence for key apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
The new icons deemphasize the letter for each Office app, but still manage to look familiar. “Our design solution was to de-couple the letter and the symbol from the icons, essentially creating two panels (one for the letter and one for the symbol) that we can pair or separate,” explains Jon Friedman, partner director of design at Microsoft. “This allows us to maintain familiarity while still emphasizing simplicity when inside the app.”
Microsoft has swapped the document outlines in previous icons for lines of text for Word and individual cells for Excel. Surprisingly, the icons still look instantly recognizable, which is important for the millions of users that launch these apps every day. Elsewhere, the OneDrive and Skype icons maintain their unique look in a more modern way. OneDrive is still a cloud, whereas Skype has dropped most of its bubbles into what looks like a call button with a simple S logo.
Icons are only one part of design, and Microsoft is making some subtle changes to Office elsewhere. The software giant is simplifying its ribbon interface and bringing its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 to Office apps. The subtle color changes to modernize the look and feel of Office are coming to Windows, Mac, mobile, and the web. One of Microsoft’s most popular mobile apps, Outlook Mobile, is also getting a major design overhaul soon with shared mailbox support and new gestures for accounts and folders.