Since our very beginning, Surface has set out to inspire a generation of creators to do more, create more, be more productive, and have more fun. This is the heart of our mission in Surface; it started five years ago to create the most productive devices on the planet, to empower people to create. And now we believe nothing should stand in the way of bringing your ideas to life.
Surface has continued to evolve to bring customers even more of what they love in their next laptop. Beyond new magical experiences from Windows, Office, and other app partners that help people create in new ways with our innovative hardware, we want to celebrate the intersection of technology and design. You should feel proud to pull a Surface—the ultimate laptop—from your bag, wherever you are. And the influence of fashion, aesthetics, texture, and color make the technology more personal, an extension of your style and personality, like your favorite sweater, handbag, fragrance, and home accessory.
How did our design team set the strategy for the new intersection of technology and style? And how do global design companies think about the aesthetics and color in ways that can influence Surface? We’ll explore that today with one of our lead Surface designers, Quan Jasinski, and Sami Ruotsalainen, Senior Designer from our newest Surface accessory partner, Marimekko.
I first sat down with Quan who works nearby in our Surface design lab.
Eric: Hello, Quan and thanks for taking the time to speak with us. We all want to know how you decide on the next color or design for an accessory or device?
Quan: Color has many filters and it allows us the opportunity to share the emotional connection and offers a personal experience. Colors and materials are critical to craft this moment.
As designers at Microsoft, we love to use our hands and hearts when creating new products and experiences. We are consistently inspired by everything around us varying from consumer behavior, cultures merging, nature, architecture, art, science, fashion, sports, and the list goes on. Absorbing these experiences, we begin to understand how to create a holistic experience that merges technology into lifestyle.
Aqua is a soft and approachable color. When creating Aqua we drew inspiration from our natural surroundings which helped develop its friendly attributes. This color works beautifully with our materials, from the richness of Alcantara through to the depth and sheen of anodization on our pen. It complements the rest of the existing palette while adding a hint of lightness.
Eric: It really is a stunning tone. How do you come of this this? Where do you seek inspiration?
Quan: Typically, I check my list of various websites, blogs, and feeds to get my “inspirational breakfast”; I need to constantly keep my eye on what’s happening and what’s developing. Travel and new experiences are always inspirational, even something as minor as taking a different road to work can change the way you view the world. And in general, the creative environment at Microsoft allows the designers to share and inspire each other through conversation.
Eric: Can you describe your process from ideation to creation?
Quan: Being inspired by our surroundings is what generates creative thinking. I start with a good understanding of what the essence of the product experience is through research and a collection of inspiring products, images, and materials. From there I translate these collages into a defined color story that envelopes all parts and accessories of a specific product.
I then use the established story and color direction to begin developing the color in physicality, mostly through iterative sampling and prototyping with materials in our model shop. There is a lot of fine-tuning in this process to create the perfect color and finish. Often the biggest challenge is making sure the color is cohesive and crafted to compliment material palette. We work relentlessly with our partners from engineering to manufacturing to master our intent into the materials with a high level of quality and refinement
Eric: Sounds very intensive. Why does hardware aesthetic matter in technology, and how has it evolved?
Quan: Technology is no longer seen as a tool just for data, function, and business use. It has evolved into a much more personal and intimate experience that we integrate into several elements of our lifestyle. We live with our technology, it’s often the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see before going to sleep. If we are living with something this much, then we want it to look beautiful, feel inviting, and evoke confidence. Consumers understand that design is now a choice when purchasing products, and they have become savvy to what is considered good design.
Eric: It does seem like customization is so important to people. I’ve personally experienced the desire to make tech personal and unique, which is one of the reasons I love what I do. What excites you most about designing for Surface?
Quan: Surface offers meaningful and powerful devices across their portfolio. It is exciting for me to work through a lens of materials and colors as we build our new products and experiences
I learn so much each day by being part of a team that creates a hybrid of technology, design, materials, art, science, engineering, and information.
Making a fashion statement with tech accessories:
Finnish design house, Marimekko is renowned for its original prints and colors. You’ve probably seen their high-quality clothing, bags, and accessories on fashion runways and in stores. The company has been doing this since 1951, so we were thrilled to partner with their experts on a collection of accessories for Surface. I had a chance to speak with Senior Designer Sami Ruotsalainen to understand how they approached applying their legacy and style to Surface.
Eric: Hello, Sami and thanks for taking the time to speak with us. We’re so excited about this collaboration. Can you tell us a bit about the design process at Marimekko?
Sami: We always start the process with a creative brief that sets the tone for each collection. We have an archive of over 3,500 patterns, sometimes we select a pattern from there and often we also create new ones. Marimekko is a lifestyle brand, and our product portfolio includes home décor items, ready-to-wear, and bags and accessories.
The heart of Marimekko is our in-house printing factory in Helsinki, Finland, where we cherish our art of print making and craftsmanship in design. In fact, the printing mill where over a million meters of fabric is printed annually is located right next to our offices and design studio. We partner very closely with the craftsmen of the printing factory to develop new prints and colorways for our collections. As you can imagine, color is incredibly important to us and we are able to mix new colors together in our color kitchen also located in our printing mill.
Eric: Tell us a bit about the Marimekko for Microsoft Surface collaboration
Sami: Microsoft Surface and Marimekko both present a bold, positive and inclusive approach to design. This collaboration felt like a natural fit and we are so excited about the entire line of accessories.
For the Marimekko for Microsoft Surface products, we chose some of Marimekko’s most iconic prints to bring personality and customization to the Surface family. Some, like Unikko (poppy) and Kaivo (well) were created in the 1960’s and have been an important part of Marimekko’s collections ever since.. Siirtolapuutarha (city garden) and Räsymatto (rag rug) were both created in the last ten years and have become contemporary Marimekko classics.
All four patterns represent the creativity and spirit of Marimekko and give Surface users an opportunity to customize their devices – and since these devices are used on a daily basis, what better way to bring joy and happiness into people’s everyday lives than with an accessories line that brings a pop of colour to your life!