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From ny subway maps to movies to ui. 

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From Transportation to Pixels

This post is a summary of a talk the Windows Phone Design Team has given a couple times recently, on the history and the future of the Metro design language.

In November, myself and Albert Shum drove a few hours north to visit our friends at the Vancouver User Experience Meetup, to talk about Metro and the design philosophy behind Windows Phone. The beginning of the presentation traced the roots of the Windows Phone Metro design language, a topic we’ve spoken about at a number of developer conferences (Watch Albert at MIX 2010). From there, we decided to push the discussion a bit further this time, to look at where we see Metro going next. As you can imagine, this was a lot of fun. Our presentation was over an hour long and covered a lot of material, so rather than just posting the slides up, I’ll describe the talk in its four parts. First, the story of Metro. Second, a look back at the history of UI design. Third, visions of future UI design in Science Fiction. Fourth and finally, where we see UI (and Metro) headed in the future.


The story of Metro

A couple years ago the Windows Phone design team realized that the design path that Windows Mobile was on was not sustainable. Once we decided to reset the direction, we didn’t look towards other mobile or PC user interfaces for inspiration. Instead, we surrounded ourselves by what we considered to be the best examples of design work, from Josef Müller-Brockmann and other pioneers of the International Style, Massimo Vignelli’s design systems for the NY Subway Map and brands like American Airlines, to conceptual work by Experimental Jetset. Similar inspiration was being used in Windows Media Center, Zune, and Xbox. In addition to this visual inspiration for our art direction, we create a series of principles to guide the interaction design, motion design, and overall experience for the phone.

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