Birthday Gift for MacBU

Yesterday, as I walked from the dark parking garage to begin my day of work, I remembered that we were celebrating MacBU's 10th anniversary! The clouds were thinning and I looked around to see if perchance, the cloudy weather would abate, even a little bit for our big party. As I looked up I saw this:

Office Icons built out of stickies from a distance

Office logs built with colored stickies close up

Thrilled, I just had to find out who had created such a master piece of pixel art. I've tried my hand at building stuff like this, but the quality of this work was simply fantastic. I soon discovered that Joe LeBlanc, the very same that helped me earlier with my pixelated Apple logo and famous for the G4 Cube aquarium, was the mastermind behind the window decorations and birthday gift to MacBU. Joe along with Jessica Lambert and Matt Elggren (aka Mel) had arrived at our building at 6 AM in order to set this up, but the project was much more work than what happened this morning, so I took my trusty MacBook Pro and donned my reporter hat to interview all three about what it was like to do this, behind the scenes. What follows is the verbatim transcript of the interview.

David Weiss: What prompted you to do this?

Joe LeBlanc: I just wanted to give all of MacBU a gift, from my heart.

David: What time did you get here?

Joe: I picked up Mel at 5:45 AM, we all got here at 6:00 AM.

David: Wow, that's devotion.

Mel: You know, you do what you got to do.

David: How did you design it?

Joe: In Excel of course. (Editorial Note: Joe is on the Excel Test team.)

David: They really look great. So how did you start?

Joe: Well, I had the idea in January. I had seen other game themed block art before, I thought we could do it. I took our icons, scaled them down in Photoshop, then reduced the colors and made them blocky. I manually adjusted the blocks for inconsistencies and then brought them over to Excel.

David: Excel? How did you use Excel?

Joe: Easy. After having measured the windows and the size of the stickies,

David: What? Those are all stickies?

Joe: Yup.

Mel inside putting up stickies

David: How many?

Joe: 1300.

David: 1300, exactly?

Joe: 1336, actually. I used the COUNTIF function in Excel.

David: The wow is now! That's amazing! So what about Excel? How did you use Excel to design the presentation?

Joe: First I used conditional formatting, 1 being black, 0 being white to match what was sketched out in the Photoshop image. Then I realized I needed to flip it horizontally so it looked right from the outside of the building, so I switched the top corners, then used auto-fill from the outsides in, then top down.

David: I'm stunned. What next?

Joe: I did this for each of the icons, then the numbers, which I used Ariel, because it looked the best as a 13pt non-antialiased font. Then I formatted to print 1 icon for each page as a guide for each person. We had 3 people, so we each did 2 icons then helped each other finish the numbers.

Office logo in ExcelWord logo in ExcelExcel logo in ExcelPowerPoint logo in ExcelEntourage logo in ExcelMessenger logo in Excel

David: Can others try this?

Joe: Sure, just use the Excel screenshots as your guide and send us a link to a picture of your icon art!

David: Using stickies for internal marketing seems remarkably fiscally responsible. Was that part of your thinking?

Joe: Naturally we try to make the best use of our resources at hand.

David: Mel, how do you feel about this experience?

Mel: I was just happy to be along for the ride. It was a thrill! I was up until 1 AM. I couldn't sleep because of the excitement! I always wanted to know what it was like to be a video card, and well, now I know.

David: Jessica, what was the hardest part of all this?

Jessica: Getting up in the morning! I was here at 6 AM. That's early! We got here and I couldn't believe there were other people awake this early! Seriously, I'm short, so I was using a chair and I fell of it. But I'm okay.

Jessica and Mel inside putting up stickies

David: No workman's comp claims in the wings?

Jessica: Oh no, I'm just fine. So beside the vertical challenges, it was hard to keep everything in a straight line. After doing a few icons, we went outside to see how it looked and we had to raise my icons a pixel, but that wasn't too hard, just took one from the bottom and moved it to the top.

David: Joe, as the master mind behind all this, were you nervous?

Joe: Actually, I had a nightmare that I showed up late and the guys that were here to help me were William H. Macy and the guy that plays Mac in the Mac vs. PC commercials. Mr. Macy was just being a jerk and messing up everything and it ended up in complete disaster. Then I woke up. I felt good knowing that the worst possible outcome had already happened in my dreams, so I knew it would go well.

David: Okay. So, what was it like working early in the morning?

Joe: It was interesting. Some folks got here while we were not yet finished and would look up at us working on the icons and just smile. Others would just look down at the ground and not even notice. When we were outside taking pictures and making sure it looked pixel perfect, some people would ask, "What's that?" and "I see a Messenger icon, but what's the other stuff?" Someone else asked "What is QWIPX?"

David: The MacBU shares the building with a bunch of Microsoft's main IT staff, what do you think they think about all this?

Joe: Well, I think they're used to it. I mean, they've had to see all our Think Different posters when they walk in each day. We get along just fine.

David: What was the biggest technical challenge?

Joe: Color was hard. We could find blue, yellow, green and pink stickies in the storage room, but we needed purple and orange for Entourage and PowerPoint. Jessica bought a couple of packages of purple and orange, but to get the right effect we had to dither the different colors in those logos. So color was a challenge, but I’d say keeping things straight was harder.

Picture of the artists

David: So what does the future hold?

Joe: I don't know. We are going to have to come up with something even cooler when we ship Office 2008.

David: I can't wait.

Joe: Neither can I.

Comments (85)
  1. Andy says:

    It turned out great, Joe!  Nice job πŸ™‚

  2. nadyne says:

    What an awesome birthday gift, Joe! πŸ˜€

  3. ArsTechnica reader says:

    Congratulations, guys! Really nice looking – m4D 3xc3l p1x3l sk1llz !!1one!11!!

  4. Paul Berkowitz says:

    Very nice, Joe.

    So I notice nobody tried coordinating with the SVC team down in Mountain View, CA (the pictures are of the MacBU building up in  Redmond, WA). I’d guess that your split personality (MacBU’s) might sometimes leave one side or the other "out of the picture". Maybe someone down there will take up the challenge, and come up with their own 10-year memorial? (Nadyne, have a go!)

    Wouldn’t it be impressive to have something appear in both locales? Or is that something best left to software builds?

  5. Devon Shaw says:

    HA! Nicely done. Extra props on the dithering… that was a nice touch.

  6. Robert King says:

    That was cool! Looked like some fun.

    Good Job!

  7. ATMB says:

    That’s great, guys…

    but I still don’t understand what excel was needed for…wasn’t it all feasible within photoshop?


  8. Jon T says:

    I’m normally bashing Microsoft over the agonies imposed on Windows users but you guys make up for it!

    Happy Anniversary. And STAY DIFFERENT TOO!

  9. nadyne says:

    Paul – Some of us down here in SVC are already in talks about what we can do around launch that might top this …  

  10. joeleblanc says:

    "That’s great, guys…

    but I still don’t understand what excel was needed for…wasn’t it all feasible within photoshop?"

    Couple reasons:

    1) Easier to print things out with a grid. Knowing how many pixels are in a column of row is handy when you’re putting them up. I could have done a grid by hand in PS, but it wouldn’t have been as flexible.

    2) Counting. I could quickly get a count of how many notes we needed, even when the design changed.

    3) Managing a larger document. Since there were a total of 10 pages, working with excel was easier to get nice printouts for everyone to reference.

    I did all of the design in Photoshop ahead of time pixel-by-pixel zoomed in to 1000% with the pencil tool and eyedropped in B/W, the final step was just transfering it to Excel.

    It appears that Nadyne is upping the ante for launch time, we’re going to have to get creative up here.

  11. Ed Palma says:

    Now if only they had more shades of stickies so you could do antialiasing…or better yet- transparent stickies!


  12. Ondra Soukup says:

    Trully thinking different. "Wow" that’s all I can say :)))

    Great work, it looks really cool, maybe the icons could stay in place for longer time πŸ˜‰

  13. Daniel says:

    Nice work…. coming from Redmond. hehe

    Congrats on 10 years!

  14. Des says:

    Congratulations. Long live the Macintosh Business Unit!

  15. karl says:

    wow. that interview reads *exactly* like something out of douglas coupland. props to him, and to you alpha-nerds at the mac bu

  16. Liz says:

    Wonderful.  Were I not already a married woman, I’d propose to all three of you.

  17. stu says:

    that is seriously cool

  18. gugugu says:

    To those few good men and weman in Microsoft:

    Great job!!

  19. MacSurfer Reader says:

    One more sticky and it would’ve been truly 1337!

  20. Aaron Priven says:

    Maybe you can top this for Office 2008 by doing the same things with icons that are, you know, actually attractive. No offense, honestly, and I admire your work on the stickynote project, but I’ve never liked these icons. The Office icons from the earlier Mac versions, and most of the Windows versions, have all looked better to me.

  21. RM says:

    The Sistine Chapel ceiling has nothing on Microsoft’s (Mac BU’s) windows πŸ™‚ nicely done! Apple should have done something like this for the 10th anniversary of the return of Steve…

  22. Tomate says:

    RESPECT! Congrats!

  23. Peter Berglund says:

    Happy birthday, guys! You make great software and you must promise to spin off Mac BU as an independent company the day Microsoft decides to make your lives hard, you are too good for them. The icons are way cool. Keep up the good work, we are all looking forward to Office 2008.

  24. fall-line says:

    Nice work!


  25. John Baxter says:


  26. tom says:

    You guys are totally cool,and HAppy Birthday…


  27. Rochvoisine says:

    Happy Birthday MBU! Best of wishes for the next ten years!

  28. iKImba says:


  29. eric.paquin says:

    Happy Birthday MacBU! Well done! That’s fantastic! Now I need to think of something as awesome for 10 years of MacBU in Ireland (after all, we’ve worked with you since the very beginning!) Or wait, for 2008 launch, let’s all get together: Redmond, SVC, Japan, China and Ireland and do something truly different! With lasers! Seen from space! (Ok… come back eric, you’re dreaming again! need more sleep! zzzzzz!) πŸ˜‰

  30. Man Ng says:


  31. Man Ng says:


  32. My compliments and appreciation. It has been a good partnership for all and I hope it continues. We are all headed in the same direction and come from the same terrain. As a long time Mac user, i appreciate the efforts of the MBU and Microsoft.

  33. Bryan says:

    Happy birthday y’all!  The design looks great and well executed.  Now get to work on VBS in the new Office. πŸ™‚

  34. fabio says:

    auguries at only microsoft division that works well!

    think differents!


  35. John says:

    Two questions that show my out-of-touch-ness:

    1) What’s SVC?

    2) Any chance you could give me a tiny bit more detail as to how to turn a lo-res pixel drawing from Photoshop into an Excel spreadsheet? I’m afraid I’m not enough of a power-user of Excel to know where to even start!

    Very cool. Happy Birthday!

  36. kit says:

    heh heh.

    if any of you had invested your time in the ansi scene instead of squandering it in warez during your youth, you could’ve just done that by eye.

  37. Teco says:

    Y que cumpláis muchos mas! Many more years to come people!

  38. iLori says:

    Congrats! Very cool work!

  39. Keep up the great work and blow us all away with the next Mac version of Office.

  40. Stussy says:

    Good Job! and Happy Birthday~ ^_^

  41. Massimo Brini (Italy) says:

    This is one of the most brilliant ideas I ever seen in marketing.

    Little budget, big ideas.

    Stay thinking different !!!

    M.B., Italy

  42. rob says:

    so close! it really should have taken 1337 stickies, not 1336.

  43. Keithpeter says:

    Thanks for the lesson idea (how to sell Excel to design students….)

  44. Lorin Rivers says:

    That’s so cool!

    Everyone I’ve ever met with the Mac BU has been a real pleasure to work with and a powerful counter-example to the "MS is evil" meme.

    Rock On.

  45. Glenn says:

    Brilliantly creative!

    And colour dithering as well?! THAT"s the Mac-style attention to detail.

    I’ll have to have hot cocoa and pizza in your honour! πŸ™‚

  46. nadyne says:

    John – SVC is our Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, CA.  Roughly half of us are here.

  47. denis says:

    Joyeux anniversaire !!!!!!!!

  48. Anthony says:

    Wasn’t the SVC office originally known as "MS Bay"? I remember a Microsoft Internet Explorer ad in Macworld. It was placed sometime around the launch of Mac IE 2.0. The ad was more or less seeking Mac software developers to join MS. It was cool to see MS tout their use of (at that time) Codewarrior and other Mac technologies. I was in high school at the time (1995 or so), but I reality liked MacIE 2.1. It felt like this team was really trying to put out best-of-breed apps with corporate support. Damn, the web was so fun back then, and MacBU (or predecessor) made it even better for me. Thanks and congrats!

  49. Engywuck says:

    Windows sucks, but you guys did a good job with Office for Mac! Keep on coding and stay different!

  50. Big Dan says:

    Thanks for helping the Mac on the business side to perform as well as it does.

  51. Birthday Gift for MacBU [Mac Mojo] Celebrating 10 years of the only light spot in a dark place (tags: funny microsoft apple osx) PLANET M&M’S Create your own M&M image (tags: m&m funny flash)…

  52. DAG says:

    Congrats Guys

    Looking forward to trying out the UB version of Office (fingers crossed) later this year.

  53. Robert D. says:

    As always, Microsoft’s icons are heavily pixelated, compared to Apple’s smooth ones. πŸ˜‰

    But seriously, guys; thanks for ten years of great Mac software. Here’s to another ten!

  54. Steve says:

    Thanks guys, happy anniversary.

  55. Times Square at Night. I’m a sucker for city photography. And cities at night with lots of neon… even better.

    UUUHHHGGG-rrrr! It helps if you’re familiar with Star Wars, but even if not, it’s worth a chuckle.

    Birthday Gift for MacBU. How the Mac guys

  56. Lovee says:

    Thank u guys for ur greeeeeeat softwears on mac and also those niiiiiiiiice icons πŸ™‚

  57. Bram Pitoyo says:

    Have you guys took it down?

    The beak of ‘1’ could use one more sticky notes. That’s number 1337 for ya!

  58. Trickler says:


    With Excel as their favourite graphics app after 10 years of Mac development, you might hope what the coming 10 years will bring us in Office 2008.

  59. Wildcat says:

    I don’t know what’s more impressive — the planning and execution of this, or the wonderful documentation you’ve provided for the rest of us curious onlookers and/or future post-it note artists.

    Do I see a new fad emerging?  This "inphonic post-it note jaguar" was in my inbox as the Yahoo pick of the day just a couple of weeks ago:

  60. Carrie Ann says:

    I think the use of 1336 stickies is wonderfully understated. 1337 would’ve been far too predictable and obvious. This says, "We could’ve gone there… but we don’t need to."

    Well played, team MacBU. Well played.

    Total rock stars.

  61. Scott Rose says:

    I truly fail to see why we should be getting so excited over Microsoft, a company that has dropped every single Macintosh product they have **EVER** made for the Mac except for Microsoft Office — and they are withdrawing Microsoft Office support rapidly on a daily basis. For example, VBA was the first thing to go in the upcoming Microsoft Office 2008.  The next thing to go will be the Office suite altogether. Folks, let us not forget that Microsoft always has been and always will be the enemy. They are not our friends!

  62. Yannick says:

    Hi !

    How can I be on the beta list of Office 2008 ?

    Txs a lot and best regards

  63. Ghislain (France) says:

    I thank you for your good job. Long life to MacBU.

    Ghislain, switched to Mac at 4 years ago.

  64. Keith Martin says:

    Top marks to you all for this inspired bit of low-tech creativity!

    Oh, and for all your hard work with that software stuff as well. πŸ˜‰

    MacUser Magazine’s Technical Editor salutes you.


  65. Tom Coombs says:

    Good Effort Guys!

    Always glad to see a fun prank like that to keep the environment cool!

    Keep it up, I cant wait for 2008.


  66. David Emery says:

    The only time I’ve been to Microsoft in Redmond was for a Distance Learning standards meeting.  I fully expected to see evidence of the Evil Empire, and suffered cognitive dissonance when the hallways were full of ‘think different’ and Macs.  Our meeting was in the MacBU building – not what I expected on my visit to Microsoft.


  67. Richard says:

    Happy Anniversary.

    Can’t wait for Office ’08!!!!!

  68. Aleksandar says:

    …You guys are truly ‘insanely great’!

    I really can’t wait for Office ’08… well, especially Excel – I’m sure it will be one of the finest Mac apps EVER! (sorry, but I’m just addicted to Excel… on a Mac – more than ever)


  69. Dan says:

    Agreed a nice gift, but if you’d spent all that time making sure that Office 2008 had VBA included you might not all be out of a job in a year or so…

  70. Billy F says:

    You guys are the best.  Congrats on 10 years, and for all our sakes, keep up the great work!

  71. Joe says:

    Doens’t anyone else notice that the X for Excel is a pixel off?

  72. Professor Disaster says:

    I have used and loved Word on the Mac since 1985.  I even loved version 6.  I got my first Mac in August 1984, when all there was for the Mac was the first, RAM-based version of MacWrite, which allowed you to write a document that was all of three pages long.  Then came Word 1.0, which was disc-based, and the doc-size limit was a megabyte.

    I’ll keep buying Office for the Mac as long as they keep putting it out.

    And the icon thing was brilliant.  Which guy is Joe and which one is Mel?  Jessica, I figured out on my own.

  73. Happy Birthday MacBU…I (we) are with you every step of the way..


  74. Carrie Ann says:

    PD: Jessica, Mel, Joe

    (The tag on the second to last photo sorta gives it away)

  75. trucker743 says:

    It was really a great challenge, and you stepped up to the plate and smacked it out of the park. The Mariners need folks like you!

  76. joeleblanc says:

    "Doens’t anyone else notice that the X for Excel is a pixel off?’

    Yes, we noticed that right away and fixed it. Moving them up one pixel is surprisingly easy, I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why and how. πŸ™‚

  77. Jeremy Combs says:

    I’m dieing to see more posts.  I click on your Blog daily and cry myself to sleep on those lone nights with no updated Mac Mojo entries πŸ™

  78. In my own personal protest of today’s major story , this entry was created on my Windows Mobile phone

  79. vilms says:

    Hey Joe… I was at a UK Microsoft Mac love-in, yesterday. First slide up was the one at the top of the page. Nice work!

  80. Mac Mojo says:

    As previously announced, and as indicated by the lower frequency in blogcasting here, everyone at MacBU

  81. Mac Mojo says:

    The MacBU is excited to announce a new user-generated community site, Art of Office . Art of Office is

  82. Mac Mojo says:

    We love bringing you the official blog of the Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) so you can read and discuss

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content