Microsoft modernises Office icons hinting at streamlined design for Redmond's productivity suite

Microsoft has unveiled a redesigned collection of its Office icons, keeping the bold colour palette, but switching to a "two-panel" design and breaking up the letter and icon to make them better resemble simplicity, the company explained.

Although the letter and the symbol are both still used, the way they are represented has changed.

For Word, for example, the symbol represents lines of text rather a Word page outline and similarly, the Excel icon now shows blocks, rather than an Excel spreadsheet outline. The company said this better demonstrates the collaborative nature of its applications.

Microsoft explained the reasoning of splitting the icon and the letter was to offer a better representation of the 3D context of Office. The brand guidelines state that the letter and icon can be used together or separately, depending on how they're being used.

"Traditionally, the letter occupied two-thirds of the icon, and the symbol took up one-third," Jon Friedman, Microsoft's general manager of design, research and product incubation said.

"We've changed this ratio to now emphasize the symbol because while the letter represents the tool itself, the symbol speaks more to people's creations."

These changes will roll out over the next few months. However, Microsoft announcement of the new icons also hinted at a redesigned user interface for its productivity suite to match this new brand identity.

"Today's workforce includes five generations using Office on multiple platforms and devices and in environments spanning work, home, and on the go," Friedman said. "We wanted a visual language that emotionally resonates across generations, works across platforms and devices, and echoes the kinetic nature of productivity today."