Kam Vedbrat - What influenced the visual design of Longhorn?

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Kam Vedbrat heads the team making all the graphics for Longhorn. The icons. The animations. The Aero/glass look.

You saw a piece of his team's work if you were at the PDC last year and saw Hillel Cooperman's demo of Aero (the new visual experience in Longhorn). The full version of Aero is top secret and will be revealed next year, according to schedules.

Anyway, we wondered what was influencing the new look in Longhorn.



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The Discussion

  • User profile image
    OK ... i watched a video lol
    ..I guess the others are mostly too techy for me .. please post more like THIS ONE! Wink
    * oh yah - interesting!
  • User profile image
    Good insight, and it is good to hear that MS is "thinking differently" Wink about how to design an interface. I've felt that the evolution of the interface for windows has been a little slower than it could be, but I suppose that is because for the most part the Win95 style controls did the job. Office controls have evolved but you don't see that look consistently across windows products. Apple has certainly held the lead in designing innovative and elegant interfaces/products.

    I think that there is danger in trying to stick to a trend, for the sake of user experience if there is room to improve the experience. Conversly, people don't care much for change, so I suppose if it was happening all the time that might be a little unnerving for some users.

    From what sneak peeks I've seen of the Aero interface, I can just say I am so excited about sitting in front of it. A mixture of elegant materials and hollywood rate imaging effects, is going to look so good on a wide format plasma display (if I start saving now.. maybe I can afford one when Longhorn goes gold ^_^ )
  • User profile image
    Fantastic video.  This is the exact right approach to design ... identify goals, and get feedback as to how you're approaching those goals.  What the users think about it is really irrelevant, since many users will either over-analyze or nitpick a design.  What's important is the gut-reaction, the visceral reaction that they might not be able to fully articulate.  The idea of using "cue cards" is very cool, and certainly explains why Microsoft's hardware design teams are so good at what they do.

    I'm dying to see Aero.  Absolutely dying.  And I'm sure that every other UI designer out there is too.
  • User profile image
    Again Channel9 showing its strength in bringing us less visible employees who work at Microsoft, like Bill Hill. Very cool.

    Looking forward to the rest of the Kam's videos.
  • User profile image
    No no no. I don't think its a good approach to design. I do design and art from time to time; and if you ask most designers/artists they will tell you that systematically engineering your design often fails compared to just relying on good taste and intuition. This doesn't mean you don't have design considerations. But I would suggest the person actually doing the design work only uses it loosely. The interview makes it sound as if there is some sort of strict calculus imposed on the designer.

    I will be waiting for Aero, and hope it turns out well. So far, I'm not completely happy with what I see through the placeholder visual styles placed in the alpha builds. Although I thought Luna was a little bit toyish it has a lot of good elements to it. One way Longhorn seems to be moving away from Luna though is by making the icons more professional looking. But I think its gone too far, I don't like the Mac OSX icons either, because they are too realistic and not 'iconic' enough as icons should be. Also, I really dislike gimmicks like faux jewel surfaces in Jade or even the faux metal in OSX.

    I think the Aero team should also watch the 3d ability of Longhorn and make sure not to make the interface based on it too gimmicky. People might be attracted to it at first, but I bet will grow tired of it as they use it for years. This means only using the 3d, shadows etc. in a way that is intuitive and not overkilling it.

    Also try not to make things too 'fun' looking or force some 'fun' appeal on the user. That was one of the major problems with Windows ME. And one of the reasons people stll back away from OSX. Still, don't make it bland or styleless either

    Also, I would argue that the default visual style in Longhorn be neutral in that it appeals to the most users; rather than just telling people that they can create their own style if they don't like it. This is because most applications will be designed for it, and most people will not bother changing it. This could also be solved by including a few visual styles with longhorn that appeal to a range of tastes. I personally would like something very minimal. And if the classic style is maintained it should be made to look well with the new features and not shoddy like it is in XP.

    I hope in the end, Aero doesn't have any of the problems it appears it might have.

  • User profile image

    Kam – Nice approach to reverse engineering Windows cosmology; Emanuel Kant would be proud.


    Your comment on the Windows UI not changing much in the last decade stuck me as interesting.  People are becoming conditioned and accustomed to the Windows UI.  Other platforms are closely copying it.  There is a reason for that. 


    We know where the gas peddle is in relationship to the break within almost every car, even though we haven’t been in every car.  I hope changing these relationships won’t cause accidents.


    I believe understanding the human process and how it relates to your platform is the holy grail of the user experience.  In fact, I believe it is paramount to the esthetics of the environment.  If every platform used a consistent human process driven / menu driven UI, we could all perform functions on no matter what was under the hood. 


    I get a kick out of the old and ugly AS/400 interface.  However, its ancient menu driven philosophy may benefit today’s platforms.


    Keep up the good work. 

  • User profile image
    SDDean wrote:

    We know where the gas peddle is in relationship to the break within almost every car, even though we haven’t been in every car.  I hope changing these relationships won’t cause accidents.

    Interestingly enough--to me, at least--the physical placement of the gas, brake and clutch pedals HAS changed over time in various cars. Smiley
  • User profile image

    Please, don't confuse "UI" with "art" or graphics.  They are linked, but not one in the same.  I know great artists that don't know anything about designing a usable interface, and I know great UI designers (myself included) that can't create outstanding art.  But you team these two people together, and as long as the UI guy (or gal) is in the driver's seat, you'll get a beautiful and more importantly, USABLE interface.

    As for your suggestion that they not make the interface too "fun", I completely disagree with you on that point.  As long as they give you the OPTION to turn off these "fun" enhancements for those that don't want to see them, I have no problem with them being included for those that do.  It's about CHOICE.  UI should be solid, consistent, intuitive.  DESIGN should be beautiful, eye-catching, and non-invasive.  But quite frankly, after using computers for as long as I have, I'd like something to make daily computing a little fun again.
  • User profile image
    Kam definitely a superb video ! But what was more interesting IMHO was that the way you guys approached the problem ! Not only is it cool that the whole thing was reverse engineered from the normal usability survey but also it was stupendous effort to pick things from a box and find out the exact properties that the words specify !

    It would be great if you can talk more on this and tell us in detail on exactly what kind of keywords were chosen to decide the exact feel of LH ! Also, if you can explain where these attributes had impacted the way LH was built using some of the old Aero screenshots and LH pictures, then nothing like it Smiley

    PS : hmm just a thought. If only for every design we could do something like this, if only our very perceivable world can be replicated in computers, it would give something infinitely similar and smaller like what the Matrix abstraction showed !

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