Catching the Metro: Send in the Designers

 Is it time that the Windows community foster its own community of designers?

I’ve been struggling to write this post so I really apologize for its poor writing. The question above was a something I posted a week ago on Twitter. It was a rhetorical statement (for me anyway) and was more a statement about a need and want. For every award earned, for every positive review, and whatever amount of good karma earned; Microsoft faces a design problem.

And Metro is to blame.

Or to be more specific the focus on “Metro” as a specific style and type of application versus Metro in the larger context as a shift in design for Microsoft and its community. People have overused Metro as a term in the same way as they have innovation. They have used it to describe touch applications, the new start screen in Windows 8, and a specific style of application.

And that’s been a problem. In the debate around Windows 8, and to lesser extent around Windows Phone, we’ve argued over scraps and things already decided. The desktop has been decided. The minimum specifications have been decided. The division between the touch and desktop has been decided, but we argue over it like its still up for debate.

Then there is the argument over “Metro”; is this app Metro? Is Metro confining or is it not constrained enough? Metro is about large colored blocks and letters. Metro is too cold, too repetitive. Windows 8 isn’t Metro, it has gradients. Too much whitespace, not enough information density. Why couldn’t they have used Windows Phone? Why couldn’t Microsoft just copied Apple?

Frivolous debates and squabbles without end, that is what Metro has brought us. And yet ass much as its the issue its also the solution. And the solution is why I think now is the time to talk about

Designers, Designers, Designers

It’s funny but reading the recent article by , essentially the creator of the design we call Metro, I got confirmation (lack of better word) about how people should think about Metro. It is not about a specific style, but about an approach to creating applications.

People have debated so much on how to create Metro styled applications, of getting them to match the templates or what they can/can’t do, that they forget to think.  Those guidelines we here coming from designers in Redmond; fast and fluid or authentically digital aren’t rules. They are reminders.

The problem I see is that people have gotten so wrapped up in following the guidelines that constrained themselves. And this is where I go back to the question.

Microsoft has some of the best developers in the world, but their focus is on function. For a large majority design is on of the 7 words you can’t say on television. If they have to have a design they want a template. This is not a knock but an observation. And I have seen a lot of lazy designs that try to get Metro right but fail because they think its simple. And with Windows 8 I am seeing a repeat.

When Microsoft introduced Metro it was as the Metro Design Language. Now a language is always changing; it has pigeons, and slang. A language has double meanings. Most people I’ve seen treat Metro like people learn French, very formal and stilted. Designers, especially those who get Metro beyond tiles and letters, are necessary. Not just so I can have nice applications, but to help out developers. I mean don’t you want to stand out a little bit? Play with the concepts without getting your hands dirty? Get a designer. Windows needs a designer class that not borrowed from Apple. It needs designers to help developers avoid from making blown up phone apps. Designers are needed that get the design changes, but that also know which guideline to follow and which to bend. The Windows community needs people for whom Metro doesn’t feel like a constraint, but a canvas. It needs deft hands that push the platform with compelling applications. Designers are also necessary for major app companies looking to port already established brands.

I want to be truthful I want designers to come to the platform for me; yes some of you get benefits. I’m tired of looking at apps that look like someone did paint by numbers. And if we get them I hope Microsoft doesn’t just stuff design tools into Visual Studios. I want them to invest into Expression Blend and make it into a product that equals Visual Studio.

So designers if you listening, Metro is cool, you are already emulating it, and Apple won’t be redoing iOS this year.

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1 comment
  1. Fantastic post. Very helpful. Thanks for the info.

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