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

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.

Comments  (9 )

Steve Graddy
on Wed, Aug 1 2012 12:14 PM

So when is Infragistics going to have a Metro controls suite for C# and Xaml that can be used in the Windows 8 Metro applications?

Brent Schooley
on Wed, Aug 1 2012 2:37 PM

Hi Steve,

We are currently working on a Metro controls suite for both C# and WinJS that will be available later this year.  What controls are you interested in?



Steve Graddy
on Thu, Aug 2 2012 9:01 AM

Hi Brent,

Thanks for your quick response. I am glad to hear you have these new Metro controls coming this year. This was more a question of interest than I had something in particular in mind. I am a NetAdvantage Ultimate owner and am interested in doing something with the new Windows 8 Metro application style. I hope these new controls will be part of my NetAdvantage Ultimate Suite and was hoping you guys would have them by the time Visual Studio 2012 released ( MSDN - August 15 ).

Again thanks and keep up the great work, as Infragistics always does...


Brent Schooley
on Thu, Aug 2 2012 10:30 AM

Hi Steve,

If you contact me directly at bschooley [at] infragistics [dot] com, I can probably get you an early preview of our map and chart controls if you are interested.



Brent's Bytes
on Fri, Aug 3 2012 10:45 AM

I recently kicked off a post series entitled "Metro Design Series" which is going to cover

Brent's Bytes
on Thu, Oct 18 2012 2:30 PM

Modern UI Style Update: We were all wrong. It's "Microsoft design style". Recently it was

Brent's Bytes
on Tue, Oct 30 2012 2:18 PM

First off let me just say that I'm very jealous of those of you that got a Surface RT 32GB with Touch

Brent's Bytes
on Mon, Mar 11 2013 10:12 AM

The first stop on my Brent Goes South For the Winter Tour was Roanoke Code Camp 2013 . This event, hosted

Brent's Bytes
on Mon, Mar 18 2013 10:19 AM

The third stop on the Brent Goes South For the Winter Tour took me to the Orlando Code Camp 2013 . This