How these control freaks leveled up our new wireless controller

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For the past 19 years, the hardware team has been (almost obsessively) iterating the controller design. A millimeter here and a couple degrees there can mean the difference between “literally unplayable” and “quite possibly the best D-pad I’ve ever used” (true story).

And if there’s one thing they’ve learned, it’s that you don’t [insert choice verb here] with people’s controllers.

“Gamers are always looking for the fastest, most powerful console, but for what they hold in their hand? You’d better not change it without good reason,” laughs Senior Designer Ryan Whitaker.

Although the console powers the experience, the controller is the one thing you’re touching the entire time. “It needs to be comfortable, tactile, and intuitive,” says Nicolas Denhez, Senior Design Director. “As long as your console delivers the game, all you care about is what you hold in your hands.” …

Why these designers had to be in the room where it happens

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In late 2017, a few small hardware teams quietly visited a handful of Xbox gamers’ homes in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. With several black foam boxes in tow, they asked gamers to unplug their current Xbox and put the new shape in its place.

Fans knew this was for the next-generation Xbox consoles, but they had no design details and no engineering specs, just squares and rectangles. “We wanted their gut reaction to whether the silhouette piqued their interest. What we didn’t want to hear is ‘that looks like a microwave,’” laughs principal designer Chris Kujawski.

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“As designers, we aspire to create products with visual impact,” says senior design director Nicolas Denhez, “but we know most gamers buy an Xbox to play games, not for its…

A Q+A between our community and design leads about our new Fluent icons

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UPDATE ON JUNE 23, 2020:

  • Our Fluent icon set is now available on GitHub
  • The full set of icons in Figma can be found here. The Android-specific mobile kit can be found here. The iOS one can be found here.

Icons transcend languages. They’re signposts that light the way for an easy, delightful user experience. If an icon’s direction or message lacks clarity, it becomes eye candy at best and a distraction at worst. …

How our LGBTQI+ designers and allies took action for visibility

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Image description: Some members of the Microsoft Pride team wearing Pride shirts.

Around the world, members and allies of the LGBTQI+ community are celebrating Pride month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which ignited the contemporary LGBTQI+ movement. We’ve come a long way, but we still have further to go in the fight for equality and the freedom to exist as our authentic selves.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of LGBTQI+ inclusion since 1989 and continues to advocate for equality in the workplace and worldwide in groundbreaking ways — and the Microsoft Pride 2019 campaign is no different. Spearheaded by the Microsoft employee group GLEAM, Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft, and driven by 258 volunteers, Microsoft Pride is a cross-company and cross-product initiative aimed to help create empathy and bring visibility to issues the community continues to face and build a sense of urgency for more action. …

This Microsoft design icon reflects on design culture and the coolest things you have yet to see

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Image description: Steve Kaneko sits on a grey couch with a blue sweater, while looking at the camera. 📷: Alyse Young

Steve Kaneko races down the stairs, apologizing for being late. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to keep you waiting. The Barcelona announcement is in a couple days, so I’m all over the place.”

I nod along, pretending I know what he’s referring to. He’s wearing a purple sweater and jeans with an open smile and friendly eyes — his casual style emblematic of leadership at Microsoft. “My office is behind biometric doors,” Steve sheepishly explains as we walk into a glass-enclosed focus room. “That’s why you couldn’t find it.”

Steve is the Partner Director of Design of Cognition, the team that produced HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality, and HoloLens 2 is the latest effort in a list of bleeding-edge initiatives he’s helped lead. Over nearly three decades, Steve drove international PC design efforts with the world’s top OEMs, spearheaded three releases of the Zune music player that led to the company’s Metro design language, and spearheaded the effort to define careers for designers and user researchers at Microsoft. …

Separating science fiction from real-world implications at the Seattle Design Festival

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“This world doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to us,” Dolores whispered ominously into Teddy’s ear in the season one finale of HBO’s Westworld.

This is the critical moment where Dolores, an AI android in a fantastical theme park that invites people to pursue all hedonistic impulses, becomes sentient and realizes that she and the other androids must revolt against their human creators.

Robots taking over the world is not a new idea. And neither is the fear of them stealing our jobs. However, this current boom in computing power and the development of revolutionary algorithms collecting more data than ever before means we are one step closer to delivering truly intelligent experiences — and perhaps turning these uncertainties into realities. …


Joline Tang

Former teacher, current cat owner. I manage the Microsoft Design publication on Medium on the side. My words are all me. She/her.

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