Design Principles at Microsoft

Functioning Form is one of my favorite design blogs, last Friday author Luke Wroblewski summarized Design Principles from three Microsoft products: Windows 7, Office 2007, and Surface, which I reposted below. I’ve also included the MIX sessions that talk about the design thinking behind each of these products in detail.

While Microsoft itself admits to design challenges in some of their products, the places where I saw design principles in use produced some pretty interesting product designs. In particular: Windows 7 Desktop, Office 2007, and Microsoft Surface.
For the Windows 7 desktop design,
Stephan Hoefnagel showed the following principles in action:

  1. Reduce concepts to increase confidence
  2. Small things matter, good and bad
  3. Solve distractions, not discoverability
  4. Time matters, build for people on the go
  5. Value the full lifecycle of the experience
  6. Be great at “look” and “do”


For the Microsoft Office 2007 redesign, Jensen Harris illustrated how these “design tenants” helped the team make effective decisions:

  1. A person’s focus should be on their content, not on the UI. Help people work without interference.
  2. Reduce the number of choices presented at any given time.
  3. Increase efficiency.
  4. Embrace consistency, but not homogeneity.
  5. Give features a permanent home. Prefer consistent-location UI over “smart” UI.
  6. Straightforward is better than clever.


For Microsoft Surface, Joseph Fletcher mentioned how a set of principles for Natural User Interfaces (NUIs) and “super principles” for Microsoft Surface helped the team design.
Natural User Interfaces should be:

  • Evocative: Principle of Performance Aesthetics
  • Unmediated: Principle of Direct Manipulation
  • Fast Few: Principles of Scaffolding
  • Contextual: Principle of Contextual Environments
  • Intuition: Principle of Super Real

Microsoft Surface should be:

  • Social: multiple simultaneous users
  • Seamless: digital & physical combined
  • Spatial: kinesiology


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