25 years on, a story of redemption

The letters “A, B, and C” in Comic Sans font with puppies playing around it.
The letters “A, B, and C” in Comic Sans font with puppies playing around it.

“Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman.” With these immortal words, Microsoft font designer Vinnie Connare unleashed Comic Sans on the world. A font so revolutionary, so disruptive, that we’re still reconciling its existence 25 years later. People tend to hate Comic Sans, and no one with more wrath than designers. To a designer, Comic Sans is always a bug, never a feature. It is impossible to customize. It is irredeemably unprofessional. It has no place in modern design and should be banished from this earth.

But this opinion ignores a complex heritage. Back when font choices — and the supporting technology — were limited, Comic Sans was the first glimmer of expressive design for the masses. It called upon the natural feel of handwriting, the rounded shape of a fat marker on construction paper. It spoke to being young with a comic book under a flashlight. And more intentionally: its designers built it to be exceedingly legible on the web. Comic Sans has every right to make a comeback. …


How collaboration makes UX writers indispensable

All thanks in the world to Amy Keeney for co-authoring.

Image for post
Image for post
Image description: Four people using construction equipment to assemble various sections of a web page.

UX writing is a relatively new discipline, and it’s not always clear what the job entails. Simply put, UX writers write the words in the experiences that go in front of people. We’re language, grammar, and voice and tone experts — but UX writing is more than that.

In the early days of technology, computers and tech had an aura of specialization — it seemed like you needed difficult-to-attain skills to be a technology user. …


It’s the little things.

Image for post
Image for post
The power of checking out. Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

We are officially inundated. Notifications left and right, the pressure to be continuously connected, the feeling that you’re missing a limb if your smartphone isn’t inches away.

Personally, I don’t enjoy it. I see everyone looking down, staring at a screen, incapable of wandering aimlessly or taking time to focus on nothing. Creativity is lacking. Friendships are suffering. The youth are wary of all the tech that previous generations hath wrought. Things feel a bit surface-level, and that’s a real shame.

Outside of burning the world down and starting over, what can we do? The idea goes that once we have AI doing all of our pixel-pushing tedium, we’ll be freed up to enjoy life as we once did. We’re in the awkward middle bit. Tons of technological innovations at hand, and yet we’re more unfocused than ever. Until the magic day when we either take a huge step backward (unlikely) or welcome the singularity (we’ll see), there are things you can do to feel more mindful and present. …


How designers’ roles will change in a world gone automated

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Franck Veschi on Unsplash

Artificial Intelligence is on everyone’s mind, it seems. It’s our savior. No wait, it’s an existential threat to humanity. No wait, it’s sort of both, as long as designers take an oath and run interference. Tune your ear to the tech industry, and you’ll hear AI buzzing beneath the cacophony, threatening the fabric of creativity while moving us into a simpler, automated future.

At least that’s the narrative being spun. And while it’s [very!] …


Image for post
Image for post

Have you heard? Windows 3.0 File Manager is back! Like mine, I’m sure your heart is soaring, taking you right back to your first Windows machine: a hulking PC glowing benevolently in the family room, opening your eyes to the thrill of personal computing. Minesweeper! Microsoft Paint! Notepad! That epic Encarta 95 CD-ROM you disguised as homework! Oh, the magic. The possibilities. And at the center of it all, the faithful, humble file manager.

Technically the OS of my upbringing was Windows 95, not Windows 3.0. But the file management design didn’t change much through the PC-empowered 90’s, establishing the most ubiquitous, long-held computing metaphor across the industry. It’s called File Explorer now, a subtle distinction (why manage when you can explore?), but the formative design is solid as ever. So solid that Windows 10 is having a yearbook moment and bringing the quaint 3.0 …


A call for time well spent

Image for post
Image for post
Hello, good old days? Photo by Adria Berrocal Forcada on Unsplash

I’ve been pining for a dumb phone lately. In 2014, I was in a happy relationship with my Samsung flip phone. I called people and they called me. Sometimes texting happened. It was red. It was a beautiful thing in a beautiful time, unpunctuated by the notifications, addiction, and anxiety inherent to smartphone ownership.

Tragically, the Samsung got wet at a barbeque and couldn’t be resuscitated. I walked into AT&T and asked for a replica of my beloved. Not an option. In 2014, apparently, the smartphone had taken over. My contract supported a free iPhone, and wasn’t that great? …


Image for post
Image for post
Will Christiansen (@sky_folk on Instagram), designer at Microsoft via the splendor of the world.

Halo animator and filmmaker Will Christiansen takes you to the Arctic

The heart of a designer demands to create. An innate longing to tell stories, solve problems, and bring visual intelligence to the world. That heart and drive tends to bleed from full-time work into independent ventures — anything it takes to keep exploring, keep discovering, keep making.

Will Christiansen is one of those dynamic designers. As a Halo animator at Microsoft, his job is already demanding; delivering spot-on artistry for the Halo series on Xbox. But he’s also creator, owner, and director of SKÝ FÓLK, a conservation-minded multi-media company, because passion goes by many names. …


Image for post
Image for post
But seriously: not all who wander are lost.

It seems like the millennial generation is a little bit of a cultural punching bag.

Audie Cornish, NPR

I am a millennial and I’m tired of the flack. I’m here to represent myself and my fellow generation, because we’re not the monsters you think we are. We’re not out to destroy the world. We’re a generation that had to get creative, because promises were made and they crumbled around us. I’m proud of us, honestly. Here’s what happened.

Hi, baby boomer parents! We can’t have a conversation about millennials without talking about who parented us. Boy, were your lives laid out nicely for you. We don’t blame you for trying to lay the same path for us: go to college, get a good job, buy a house, build a family and a nice life, retire at 65. Sounds pretty nifty. We listened to you, we swear. We did the things. …


A short story about an epic trip to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab

Image for post
Image for post
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, American hero.

“I hope you’re ready. My last trip here was better than my wedding.” Sarah’s dead serious. We’re at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, and she’s got no chill. I raise an eyebrow at her, nod, give the sky a contentious look as it starts to rain.

We’re waiting for a personal tour of JPL, accompanied by Tim Allen and Albert Shum, our creative leads on the Windows Design team. I assume we’re all on the same page about how awesome this is. …


What it means to be a writer at Microsoft

Image for post
Image for post
Ah, remember reading?

Maybe my nostalgia is a little unfair. I bemoan the fact that no one reads books anymore — as I scroll through Twitter on my iPhone (or as my curmudgeonly side likes to call it, my Future Box). I collect endlessly from secondhand bookstores and could live inside Powell’s, and yet, as I write this, my Amazon account is filled with books in wait, books in transit, books sitting on my porch in unassuming bubble mailers. I feel as if I’m chasing my fourth-grade Scholastic Book Fair; a forever bookworm caught in an unrecognizable, super-connected world.

It’s in this paradoxical mindset that I find myself as a UX writer at Microsoft. I’m part of a scrappy, lovely team of journalists, screenwriters, video producers, and poets who painstakingly apply their craft to your User Experience. In fact, it’s that pervasive, tech-y, buzzy, does-this-phrase-have-meaning-anymore? term User Experience that recently turned our organization on end. A small change that reverberated through the hallways and left us writers saddled with a quasi-identity crisis. …

About

Danielle McClune

Wordsmith at Microsoft. Fickle wanderer, committed hugger. Views are my own.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store