Microsoft’s new “open design” philosophy is all about democratizing design

Image: TheVerge

One of the things that put Microsoft at the center of criticism is the design inconsistency. The company is also famous for working on things only to kill them in the next day. That’s what’s happening 10 years ago(roughly). The company is now looking to correct all its mistakes by adopting what it says “open design” philosophy.

The Verge’s Tom Warren recently paid a visit to the Microsoft headquarters and it let him have a chat with some important personalities at Microsoft. Tom’s interview with various personalities at Microsoft revealed that the company has adopted the “open design” philosophy and that it also helps in bringing Microsoft’s Surface, Windows, and app teams together and also allow them to discuss things they’re working on.

“I think what we learned, at least on phone, is that to have a great design system, it cannot just be for one product,” says Albert Shum, head of design for Windows. “It’s how do you actually scale it out to hundreds of products serving millions of customers, in some ways, billions of customers?”

Microsoft is giving equal emphasis on the hardware. Ralf Groene, hardware design chief said, “We’re a software company, and being able to design better software through hardware is always the stuff that inspires us.” He continued saying, “We always think of hardware as a stage for software.”

“Sometimes the stage can also influence the performance of the software, so there’s the back and forth of both of these elements.”

According to a Microsoft industrial designer Kait Schoeck, this new culture allows designers to learn from each other.

Microsoft also talked about how it’s heavily invested in open source tools. While talking about the benefits of using open source platforms, Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research said, “There’s all this great open-source stuff that other companies build and that we build that we’re starting to share with each other more openly,” Jon Friedman says. He went on saying, “For us, it’s just about embracing open source in design and engineering.”

In the interest of having a faster development, Microsoft is now using a prototype tool which let designers collaborate and improve things really quickly. “It’s enabling us to envision new hardware, hardware without screens, hardware with screens, all sorts of different stuff to find out if there’s actual human value there before we go invest in making an actual product,” explains Friedman.

The new culture, according to Friedman, will help the company to attain cultural growth. “I think our new cultural philosophy is around actually trying things… and if they fail, and we cut them, then that’s awesome learning that we then apply to the next thing,” says Friedman. “More and more people at Microsoft are being rewarded for trying things, learning and then applying learnings forward…”

The idea here is to take inputs from many people as possible and then building a complete Microsoft experience “I would hope that everyone can build parts of the Microsoft experience 10 years from now. I would hope that product names go away entirely in the future,” explains Friedman.

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