My hats of to Microsoft today for putting on a truly inspiring keynote. Deborah Adler shared her story of redesigning the little orange prescription medication pill bottles that we’ve been using for the last 50 years.  I love that story and I had heard it before, but to get it straight from the designer was a real treat. It’s an incredible story and shows the real impact of design, an impact that truly improves (even saves!) lives. I was also happy that she emphasized the importance and the power of empathy, putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer of your design.

More importantly, I felt like today’s keynote with Deborah Adler and yesterday’s with Bill Buxton spoke volumes about Microsoft’s commitment to design.

To be sure, a decision to spend 60 minutes of a 90 minute keynote with a non-technical designer was not taken lightly. There were big risks. And if you watched the tweets during the keynote, you probably saw some of them playing out with many people questioning the value of the keynote (in addition to the many more who were praising it). I can’t help but feel like the venture paid off, though. I was invigorated by the content and encouraged by Microsoft’s commitment to it.

These are some of the other things I’ve seen Microsoft do this year to further the voice of design at the conference and in their products:

  • They’ve arranged a special screening of Objectified here (the second in the country?) and managed to get Gary Hustwit on stage for Q&A
  • They gave a copy of Bill Buxton’s book to every attendee.
  • They introduced features like SketchFlow, Photoshop import, Illustrator import and others into the next version of Blend, features that are clearly a direct response to feedback from the design community.
  • They gave us features in Silverlight like effects, perspective 3D, and H.264 video, all features designed to further the fidelity of experience that we deliver on that technology.
  • They gave me three and a half hours to introduce developers to design principles! (as well as at least a dozen other design focused talks).

I thought I heard Bill Buxton saying something yesterday about over half of the audience in the keynote being designers. Did I get that right? That’s a big number. Well, it was a good day to be a Microsoft designer.

By the way, for folks who attended the workshop, Debora Works for Milton Glaser, the same guy who created the Bob Dylan poster we talked about in the discussion about design vs. art. That was him sitting at the computer with her working on the new icons in the news story she showed.

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