Crit* Windows 8

by Richard Baird on 11/08/2012 | 5 Minute Read

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Continuing their support for off-the-shelf software, Microsoft commissioned international design agency Wolff Olins, to develop the packaging for its 8th, touch-optimised version of its Windows operating system. Launched last month the design solution utlises the simplicity of Microsoft’s new identity system, also created by Wolff Olins, to frame the detailed, bright and abstract illustrative work of Berlin-based studio Colors And The Kids.

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"Microsoft and Wolff Olins commissioned us [Colors And The Kids] to develop a set of artworks for the packaging of Windows 8. The new Microsoft flagship product is a huge paradigm shift for computer operating systems: groundbreaking, intuitive, vibrant and lively. To capture this spirit, and to give an outlook onto Windows 8’s world of endless possibilities, we provided a large number of different and unique images which encase the new product."

- Taken from the Colours and the Kids website.

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At the heart of this packaging solution lies a sense of energetic creativity distilled into five proprietary illustrations. Each has been really well illustrated, utilising crisps vector line work, subtle gradients and a smart contrast of large fills and fine detail. There is a broad and distinctive variation in content and colour but each is appropriately bound by a sense of three dimensional depth and chaotic geometry. They appear bright and playful, soft and accessible, contemporary and retrospective with generative undertones that seem to reference early three dimensional modeling, psychedelic artwork and airbrush space paintings of the 70’s, 80’s and 90‘s. A smart crossover of free thinking, artistic and cultural change alongside the emergence of home computing, technological liberation and accessibility. It respects and appreciates the cyclical nature of design and the ability to draw further communicative value from past aesthetics through new contexts and changing experiences, an idea ideally reflective of the continually evolving software and hardware industry. They offer a visceral rather than a conventional copy based communicative experience that could be considered a little niche/experimental certainly likely to illicit a response other than indifference.

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The signature Microsoft logo-type and ample space of the external sleeve create a striking formatted contrast to the chaos and creative detail of the box. Structurally the packaging makes the most of the new Windows logo-mark and its angles through a literal die-cut window and edge detail that while not massively original suggests creative empowerment and discovery through technological systems.

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A simple monochromatic colour palette (appropriately dividing pro and home), like the geometric framing of the rich illustrative detail, offers further contrast, taking the complete abstraction of colour - perhaps a reference to the 0’s and 1’s of the digital world - and juxtaposing it alongside the very bright illustrative colours, capturing the spontaneity, energy and emotion of the arts and the practicalities of business. 

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It is a significant departure and one that is, through layers of contrast, pretty straightforward in its resolution of creative opportunity and everyday business functionality, a decision that balances the needs of industry buyers and homes looking for accessible computing solutions across multiple interfaces. It suggests an eagerness to claim a more empowering rather than facilitative role within the creative sector. A theme that also resonates through the engagement and collaborative nature of this packaging project and the engagement of a high profile design agency and on-trend illustrators.

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Richard Baird

Richard is a British freelance design consultant and writer who specialises in logos, branding and packaging. He has written for Brand New and Design Week, featured in Computer Arts magazine, Logology, Los Logos, Logolounge, The Big Book of Packaging and runs the blogs BP&O and Design Survival.


Blog: BP&O

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