What is Microsoft design style? - Microsoft Design Style Series Part 1

Brent Schooley / Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One of the hottest topics in the software design world right now is something that used to be known as "Metro style design".  Microsoft had some legal concerns over that name so they have changed this term to: "Microsoft design style".  The concepts are still the same, but the name has changed.  You can't go too far in the Microsoft blogosphere without running into a post talking about the concepts of Microsoft design style. Given that the Microsoft design language is used in Windows Phone, Windows 8, on the Xbox and Zune, and on Microsoft's websites, you're going to be hearing a lot about it.  I've even spoken about it at a few conferences (sessions: TECHbash, Philly Code Camp, and soon at ThatConference)  Unfortunately, there's a lot of confusion as to what Microsoft design style is and isn't. There are also a lot of misconceptions about where the Microsoft design style came from and where it is going in the future. Over the next few blog posts, I hope to alleviate some of these issues and introduce the core concepts that will help you use Microsoft design effectively. So, what exactly is "Microsoft design style"?


What is Microsoft design style?

Microsoft design style is at the heart of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Store apps. Taking inspirational cues from Bauhaus design, International Typographic Style, and cinematography, Microsoft design brings an application to life while presenting content clearly and beautifully.

Ok, I know what you're thinking: "that sounds like great marketing material". I understand where you're coming from in thinking that. Let me try again in a more straightforward fashion.  Many of these points will be expanded upon in upcoming posts.  


Microsoft design style was inspired by some very well respected design movements, many of which are still in use today.  For instance, International Typographic Style (also knows as Swiss Design) is all around us on road signs and in subways stations and airports.  You see it everyday, you just may not have known it.  I'll elaborate more on the inspirations in Part 2.


A set of principles help define what makes for good Microsoft style design.  These principles are:

  1. Pride in craftsmanship
  2. Be fast and fluid
  3. Authentically digital
  4. Do more with less
  5. Win as one

I know, again, these sound like marketing speak but I assure you they are not.  They are the foundation upon which you will have success with Microsoft design style.  Each of these will easily require their own post so I'll come back to them later.

Applied Microsoft Design

Once we understand what Microsoft design style is and how to use it, it will be helpful to see where to use it and how Microsoft design style fits into those areas of the software landscape.  Microsoft design style is similar on all platforms where it is used, but there are different mechanisms available to accomplish some of the ideals.  I'll take a look at Windows Store apps and Windows Phone apps in the posts in this section.

Wrap-up and a look ahead

So, given that intro, it looks like the schedule for this series is as follows:

  1. What is Microsoft design style?
  2. Microsoft Design Style Inspirations
  3. Principles: Pride in craftsmanship
  4. Principles: Be fast and fluid
  5. Principles: Authentically digital
  6. Principles: Do more with less
  7. Principles: Win as one

I look forward to bringing you the rest of this series.  In the meantime, if you have any questions please feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @brentschooley.  You can also reach me via email at bschooley@infragistics.com.