By the end of next month PCs will start running Windows 8, which will introduce one of the most controversial changes in Microsoft's history. Microsoft made a daring bet with its new Metro - or whatever it's called today - interface, which focuses more on design than ever before.
A new article at FastCoDesign reveals the design process of Windows 8 started in May 2009 when Julie Larson-Green, Sam Moreau and Jensen Harris gathered 150 thought leaders from various Microsoft groups (Office, Phone, Bing, Xbox) to think about how to revolutionize Windows.
The first mock-up of how Windows 8 should look like arrived in 2010 when Moreau and Larson-Green presented "Pocahontas", a codename that reflects their journey into a new world of design:
It was 2010 when Moreau and Larson-Green laid eyes on the first mock-up of Windows 8, named "Pocahontas" to reflect their journey into a new world of design. Since then, Metro has worked its way into other products and software applications. The Xbox features a dashboard of tiles branded with modern typography. Bing touts a Spartan design that fuses social networking with search. And in the next version of Office, blue, green, and red ribbons will slide out from the left side of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint when users, say, print or save a document, providing a simplified interface for navigation. Most menus will seamlessly refresh rather than disgorge clunky pop-up boxes, and all files will be stored in the cloud by default. Much of the clutter will be gone--fewer buttons, no drop shadows--and, like Windows 8, Office will be touch-screen ready.
One of Metro's sources of inspiration is the German Bauhaus school, a modernist movement from the 1920s and 1930s that focused on reducing things to their most beautiful form and function. The Bauhaus school thoughts were later applied in the design process of everyday objects, including chairs, lamps and teapots, and by the 1960s, it was used to help passengers navigate city streets, highways, and transit hubs. Examples include the signage at Heathrow’s 1961 Oceanic Terminal (now Terminal 3) and the Italian designer Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 New York City subway map. Moreau says the new interface does away with useless distractions, and reveals the previous codename of Metro was "Airport", a reference to the crip and no-fuss iconography used at those places.