Windows Phone designer is named one of country’s most creative

Windows Phone designer is named one of country’s most creative

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The June issue of Fast Company carries the magazine’s latest picks for its annual 100 Most Creative People in Business, which celebrates “innovators who dare to think differently.” This year one of our own made the coveted list: Windows Phone designer Jeff Fong. Check out his write-up.Windows Phone designer Jeff Fong was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine.

Fong, 43, joined the Windows Phone design team three years ago and has been one of the leading thinkers behind Windows Phone’s signature look and the set of underlying design principles known as “Metro."

Trained as an illustrator at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., Fong says he always had an interest in combining traditional media with technology. In 1993 he won an internship at Microsoft and was assigned to work on two of the company’s early multimedia efforts aimed at kids—Creative Writer and Fine Artist. He hasn’t looked back since. 

Over the years Fong has worked on everything from an interactive gardening guide to Windows Media Center and the Zune music player, two other Microsoft products often praised for their fresh and distinctive designs. After the company made the decision to reboot its smartphone effort, Fong was tapped to help lead a team to define the look and feel of what would become Windows Phone, turning to airport and subway signage as one source of inspiration.

I caught up with Fong last week for a quick Q&A on Windows Phone and design.

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The design of Windows Phone—and its influence on other high-profile Microsoft products like Windows 8—has been getting a lot of attention lately, including stories in Bloomberg Businessweek and the New York Times. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also recently gushed about his “beautiful” new Windows Phone. Some folks seem genuinely surprised that Microsoft could design something like this. Are you?

A lot of people come with preconceived notions about Microsoft. There’s always been good design here. But I think the stuff that we’ve done previously has been mostly expected. The thing we did with Windows Phone is we came out with a design that is unexpected. It’s not like anything else you see out there. That change in direction is the thing that’s bringing the attention I think.

What is the “Metro” design philosophy? Can you boil it down into a sentence or two?

Without going deep into the principles, we wanted to find a way to present content in the most clear, direct, and honest way possible. Really that’s the heart of it.

It’s certainly a big break from the look and design of other smartphones I see out there.

There’s a tendency to make things look kind of pretty.  And the way you make things look pretty is by adding decorative elements like drop shadows, reflections, glassy surfaces, and things like that. To me, it’s a distraction. One of my favorite examples is when you go to a museum, a lot of times the frame of the painting actually feels more important than the painting itself. It’s the same idea here: When you start adding other things on top of the content, it’s actually taking your attention away from it. Stripping away complexity is really relevant today in our very busy lives. I want information to be presented in a way that’s really easy for you to consume.

You spent a bunch of time working on Windows Media Center, a popular Windows desktop feature designed for connecting PCs to TVs. Was it difficult going from a big screen to a small one?

The thing I like about what we’re doing now is having touch surfaces for direct interaction, versus TV and a remote control. There’s a lot more nuance in that interaction, and we spend a lot of time thinking about the gestures and how the UI [user interface] responds. There’s something kind of magical when you touch something and it just responds.

Speaking of responding, people often mention how much they like the subtle animations found throughout Windows Phone. Are those just for decoration?

It’s storytelling. We’re taking you on a journey from Start. Motion brings a sense of depth and life and makes you feel like the phone is responding to you.  We also use motion to enhance your perception of speed. For example, we often start with an initial fast motion and then we slow it down, so what you notice more, mentally, is that initial burst of speed. It makes our software feel really responsive to our customers, and I think that’s delightful.

I saw a report last week arguing smartphones may be the fastest spreading technology in history. How will the Windows Phone I carry in my pocket 10 years from now be different?

I don’t know, and I think that’s what makes it so fun. [laughs] But I think the biggest shift that’s happened over the last few years is how connected everything is and I don’t think we’ve pushed the limits of that connectedness, whether it’s technology-to-technology or person-to-person. I think there’s a lot of really interesting opportunities to explore.

Where do you draw inspiration from when you get stuck on a design problem?

Right now the thing that really fascinates me is architecture.  I see a lot of parallels between what we do and how an architect thinks about a space. And the other thing that’s really an inspiration is the great designers we have in this studio. We have just awesome designers here. When all else fails, we have a brainstorming session. There’s nothing like just talking to other really smart, amazing people to get past a mental block. 

What will you be doing in 10 years?

The great thing about Microsoft is there’s always some new technology to work on. Since I’ve been here, I went from floppy disks to CD-ROMs to the web to TV to devices to phones. There’s no way 10 years ago I would’ve been able to say I’m going to be working on smartphones. To me the fun part is just combining technology with design to bring really amazing consumer experiences.

11 Comments
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  • @jiezhezhng: 谢谢你分享你的意见 !

  • 总体wp7没有很好继承WM各方面的优点,既然版本从6.5升级到7.0,那么优点也是要继承的,而不是全部的摒弃,希望能好好改进!

    1. 设置项太少,特别是关键的设置项,你可以对比一下wm系统的smartphone设置项。

    1)重力感应关闭后重启失效;

    2)铃声和震动的自定义模式太少;

    3)不能自定义铃声;

    4)锁屏wifi断网;

    5)电源管理不够人性化,可对比SP,

    2. 通讯

    1)通话挂机键位置靠上,容易误触碰挂机;

    2)没有通话录音、IP拨号、通话时长等等

    3)隐私保护不到位,最近联络无法删除;

    4)联系人同windows live同步容易重复,三四个同样的联系人且很难批处理删除,一次只  

    能删除3个……

    5)短信彩信设置项少,不能插入更多内容;

    6)短信只能会话模式,没有传统模式;

    7)短信不能搜索:

    3. 应用管理

    1)屏幕空间有限,pin的太多,不容易查找;

    2)应用只有list方式,不能多列,不能归类查找,如果应用名字中英文混合,不知道应用

    的第一个字母,很难查找;

    3)只能以字母排序,且查找很局限,比如某应用叫掌中新浪,但是我搜索新浪居然搜不到

    应用;

    4. 多媒体

    1)已经播放过的内容会在zune中显示,但是不能删除;

    2)多媒体应用和zune自动关联,但是不能删除;

    3)相机设置项少,拉近推远是分级的,而不是缓慢变化的;

    5.  邮件办公

    1) office功能不够强大,word不能显示图片,设置项不够多;

    2) 邮件和office背景颜色默认白色,不能调整;

    3) 文档只能通过在线方式下载上传,依赖于网络状况及流量多少(主要针对网络不好的发

    展中国家)

    6. 文件管理

    1)功能太少,没有像wm系统的resco explorer那么强大,压缩 解压 加密 等等;

    2)没有usb模式或者微软移动设备中心这样的同步工具,通过zune同步太繁琐,且有时还不

    成功;

    3)储存空间不支持扩展,跟换内存卡或格式化内存卡,内存一旦出问题,数据将会全部丢

    失;

    7. 状态栏:

    1)连上gprs后,只显示E,但是看不出数据是否正在上传和下载;

    2)时间显示的太不显眼,不能把时间pin起来,并在瓷片上实时更新同步;

    8. 搜索物理键不太实用,不是每个人随时都要用搜索,但是位置太显眼,容易误操作;

    1. 设置项太少,特别是关键的设置项,你可以对比一下wm系统的smartphone设置项。

    1)重力感应关闭后重启失效;

    2)铃声和震动的自定义模式太少;

    3)不能自定义铃声;

    4)锁屏wifi断网;

    5)电源管理不够人性化,可对比SP,

    2. 通讯

    1)通话挂机键位置靠上,容易误触碰挂机;

    2)没有通话录音、IP拨号、通话时长等等

    3)隐私保护不到位,最近联络无法删除;

    4)联系人同windows live同步容易重复,三四个同样的联系人且很难批处理删除,一次只  

    能删除3个……

    5)短信彩信设置项少,不能插入更多内容;

    6)短信只能会话模式,没有传统模式;

    7)短信不能搜索:

    3. 应用管理

    1)屏幕空间有限,pin的太多,不容易查找;

    2)应用只有list方式,不能多列,不能归类查找,如果应用名字中英文混合,不知道应用

    的第一个字母,很难查找;

    3)只能以字母排序,且查找很局限,比如某应用叫掌中新浪,但是我搜索新浪居然搜不到

    应用;

    4. 多媒体

    1)已经播放过的内容会在zune中显示,但是不能删除;

    2)多媒体应用和zune自动关联,但是不能删除;

    3)相机设置项少,拉近推远是分级的,而不是缓慢变化的;

    5.  邮件办公

    1) office功能不够强大,word不能显示图片,设置项不够多;

    2) 邮件和office背景颜色默认白色,不能调整;

    3) 文档只能通过在线方式下载上传,依赖于网络状况及流量多少(主要针对网络不好的发

    展中国家)

    6. 文件管理

    1)功能太少,没有像wm系统的resco explorer那么强大,压缩 解压 加密 等等;

    2)没有usb模式或者微软移动设备中心这样的同步工具,通过zune同步太繁琐,且有时还不

    成功;

    3)储存空间不支持扩展,跟换内存卡或格式化内存卡,内存一旦出问题,数据将会全部丢

    失;

    7. 状态栏:

    1)连上gprs后,只显示E,但是看不出数据是否正在上传和下载;

    2)时间显示的太不显眼,不能把时间pin起来,并在瓷片上实时更新同步;

    8. 搜索物理键不太实用,不是每个人随时都要用搜索,但是位置太显眼,容易误操作;

  • Congrats Jeff!  I love hearing about the people who design the things I use everyday--their inspirations and methods for making things functional, unique and beautiful.  I can't wait to see what's up your sleeve in the future!

  • Congrats! Continue to rock Windows Phone!!

  • @Rodney & @Scuba - Check out this song made entirely with free music creation tools on the WP Marketplace!!  

    www.wpcentral.com/metro-melody-created-windows-phone-music-our-ears

  • Well I do not doubt it. He is pretty epic.

  • T Windows
    116 Posts

    @Michael

    Great post  -this is awesome insight on the Tech- artist Jeff Fong, he has truly contributed a work of art to the Windows Phone design.

    Congratulations to Jeff Fong for all your hard work and your featured coverage with Fast Company magazine.

    I really enjoyed the following paragraph quoted below – I feel that this sums up the blue print for Microsoft’s future innovations as well as new marketing efforts.

    “ A lot of people come with preconceived notions about Microsoft. There’s always been good design here. But I think the stuff that we’ve done previously has been mostly expected. The thing we did with Windows Phone is we came out with a design that is unexpected. It’s not like anything else you see out there. That change in direction is the thing that’s bringing the attention I think. ”

    That sums it up for me –thanks again Michael for the post.

    - Stay Powered by Windows

  • Question.... What, physically, about the Nokia Lumia 900 would make it unable to run WP8?

  • Jeff is my hero! I know that a design like WP's takes a lot of talent and hard work to achieve. Thanks, Jeff, for bringing us the most beautiful software, IMO, and keep it coming!

  • Congratulations---well deserved!

  • I love getting this insight into the people who built the products I love - thanks Michael, and keep 'em coming!