Microsoft Design
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Microsoft Design

Pride should be open source

Bringing LGBTQIA+ history to life in the metaverse and through open source design.

By Aleksey Fedorov

It feels like it’s about to rain. Dark silhouettes of skyscrapers shape the horizon. I can hear the chants and feel the energy of a nearby crowd. As I walk toward Stonewall Inn, I’m repeating the steps millions have taken before me and though I’ve been here countless times before, this time is different. I’m here in my VR headset, virtually experiencing Christopher Street Park in the metaverse.

Many of our community’s memories are tied to places and events — like that fateful night of June 28, 1969, at Stonewall Inn — and to honor LGBTQIA+ History Month, we wanted to bring history to life in an accessible way. We’re excited to invite everyone into this living museum, which is filled with rich stories, collective memories, and poignant interviews.

Christopher Street Park is a strip of green grass with pink walkways, sandwiched between streets and giant screens showing LGBTQIA+ history.
Christopher Street Park has been re-created in AltSpace VR for everyone to experience and discover.

Creating the future we want to see can only happen if we decide to make history together, which is why we’re also open sourcing the Pride flag we released this past June! We’ve long been believers in the power of democratic design — in people coming together to define their own narratives and futures — and we were so inspired and humbled by the global response to the flag design that we want to share it beyond our own borders. By open sourcing it, we’re eager to see how you remix it as a way of continuing to create and define the future of our movement.

Here is the story of these two new experiences.

The new Pride flag, converging beams of color representing 40 LGBTQIA+ communities.
Pride flag now represents 40 LGBTQIA+ communities and is open source, available for everyone to build on.

A Banner of Pride
The Pride flag is one of the most visible symbols of the LGBTQIA+ community. Originally created by Gilbert Baker in 1978, it has gone through many updates and changes over the years to reflect the ever-growing and expanding movement.

“We wanted to show how large our community is. Intersectionality. Solidarity. Unity. They are important, we need them more than ever,” said Andre Bazire, one of the people behind the new Pride flag that Microsoft introduced this year.

Those themes resonated deeply with our global community, and your reactions defied our wildest imagination.

“Flag discourse is over, this is the new flag now,” said dieDoktor in response to the flag design. “It’s a vibe.” “It’s so chaotic, I love it.” The first comments came in quickly and within hours, there were thousands of likes, retweets, replies, and new comments that gave us all the feels. “Into the queerverse,” “Bi not afraid,” “Biblically accurate Pride flag.”

Twitter user dieDoktor retweets an Xbox post of the new Pride flag.
Tweeter user Still_A_Commie puts Star Wars characters in a spaceship zooming straight into the Pride flag.
Twitter user Iffy has telephone both floating into the Pride flag as a reference to the movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
A few of our favorite reactions and tweets to the Pride flag we shared earlier this year.

In this avalanche of emotions one thing was clear: people loved the representation the flag brought to light — and the daring, unapologetic way we celebrated LGBTQIA+ unity and impact.

We believe in the collective power to make change. Pride for us is not a private project. Inspired by your response, we’re making our 2022 Pride flag design available to every person on the planet — to use, build on, and share. Together.

We’re releasing source files and ready-made assets on GitHub and Figma under Creative Commons licenses, from wallpapers for laptops, tablets and phones, to assets that you can make wholly yours.

We’re also making updates to the original flag design to further advance LGBTQIA+ visibility and representation. With the addition of Aroace, Ambiamorous, Aroflux, Aceflux, Demiromantic, and Unlabeled flags, this Pride flag now represents 40 LGBTQIA+ communities in all — and our passion for expanding LGBTQIA+ visibility and representation doesn’t stop here. We hope you’ll continue building and evolving this flag yourself, as a symbol of Pride that unites and grows beyond borders.

The new Pride flag, converging beams of color representing 40 LGBTQIA+ communities.
The old Pride flag with converging beams of color, but not all LGBTQIA+ communities are represented.
From left to right, the new Pride flag and the original version with Ally flags. The new flag features updated flag colors and six more LGBTQIA+ flags.

Living history
What happened at Stonewall Inn changed our history. At a time when some are trying to reverse the progress of the past decades, Microsoft designer iAsia Brown felt compelled to act. “It’s so important for us to know our history. Where we came from, what we fought for, and use that as a starting point for action today,” she said.

We know that proximity drives empathy, so Brown, together with a few Microsoft designers and industry experts, set about re-creating Christopher Street Park in VR. “We didn’t just want to build another street. We wanted to create a living museum. A place you can keep coming back for more and keep learning.”

The street is walled with video screens showing footage from the riots. Interviews with activists intersperse with stories and audio snippets, and there’s a timeline of key milestones of LGBTQIA+ history. And, like in a real museum, there are real visitors — just like you, too.

Microsoft designer iAsia Brown narrates a short, guided tour of Christopher Street Park.

And because history should be shared, we are making this experience available for everyone on the planet. You can join on Windows, Mac, or in a VR headset and experience it with others. We are also excited to release a short, guided tour narrated by iAsia herself.

Honoring LGBTQIA+ people every day of the year
The power of human history lies in the visceral ties between the past, present, and future. The past remains alive in the present and it’s from the present that we imagine the future we want to build together.

Pride history is alive every single day and as we strive to uplift LGBTQIA+ people worldwide, we’re leaning into the power of the metaverse and open source design. We hope these new experiences inspire you to continue creating and defining our shared history and we’d love for you to join us on this journey here and on Microsoft Unlocked.

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