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The making of the PowerPivot icon

It was a privilege to be part of the team for Microsoft® PowerPivot, a new product that will change business intelligence by empowering information workers with the ability to conduct ad-hoc data analysis on massive amounts of data.

I’m going to tell you a tiny part of the PowerPivot story which is how the product icon came to be.

A few weeks before the deadline for CTP2 I was asked to create a product icon for PowerPivot — sooner rather than later.

Here is what we thought… in the end :-)

  • It needed to look like it could comfortably sit with the Office family of icons. (They changed them for Office 2010 but not too much.)
  • We couldn’t really abandon the legacy imagery of SQL Analysis Services, nor would we want to.
  • We wanted to portray the idea of the two windows that people would use with PowerPivot and Excel.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First we started with these sketches:

Initial sketches for the PowerPivot icon

The top ones were done by my friend/co-worker Drew and the bottom ones were mine. I was a little more conservative than Drew.

First concepts of the PowerPivot icon

From those sketches I came up with some initial concepts that we sent out to the SQL Analysis Services team to see which one they liked best. We were still trying to decide on a colour for the icon. At first people did not want to leave the familiar SQL yellow but a yellow icon is not very strong in a taskbar or grey menu, so I’m glad we could move forward with the green version.

First revision of the PowerPivot icon

This was the one that was chosen, which is good because it was the one I was hoping would be chosen. I liked this one because the two sides of the cube could represent the two screen that you would use for PowerPivot, one side would be the data and the other side is where you would do your analysis.

But we weren’t done yet; here is the final PowerPivot icon:

Final PowerPivot icon

One morning, one of the designers I worked with at SQL UX, Peilin Nee came in and said she drove by a fast food chain that shall remain nameless and suggested that we try a different perspective on the cube. We changed the angle of view on the 3D cylinder and cube and knew we had a stronger design. There were fewer surfaces to show making the design simpler and easier to shrink to a small size. The edges were stronger and the icon was bolder. The last thing we had to tweak was the Pivot table symbol, which we moved from the right pane to the left one because the sharper perspective distorted the pivot arrow.

There you have it. In about 40 hours of work we went from sketches to concept to feedback to final version.

The images and icons in this post belong to Microsoft®.

If you want to find links to great articles check out PowerPivotor my link blog about about PowerPivot

  • Drew Voegele

    That is a nice little rundown of how that was put together. If you don’t mind I’d like to link to it as well. I’m glad it ended up green (hehehe)… No really, it is my favorite color.