How Microsoft Designs at Scale for a Changing World

By Albert Shum, CVP of Design at Microsoft

Illustration: Justin Cheong.

Design has an intricate lineage. From iconic arts, architecture, and product design to the burgeoning landscape of machine learning, UX, and design systems, design’s identity twists and grows through time with a shared DNA to create. Design means many things to many people, but in the end it’s always ‘form follows function’ – beauty in its usability.

That impulse to gracefully solve problems has only gotten more complex. The world’s portfolio keeps proliferating, with an expected four devices for every human on Earth and more than 5 million apps available by 2020. The digital trends keep moving upward with no sign of slowing. In this new reality, it has become the designer’s responsibility to navigate the tricky space between expediency and craft.

Enter the modern design tool. In the past few years, rapid prototyping tools like Adobe XD have helped large design teams share libraries, wireframes, working prototypes, and creative ideas. This isn’t just a boon for collaboration – it makes a huge impact on the business too. We’re able to design value in real time, quickly presenting work to partners that scales across vast product categories and customer needs. Design’s creative energy is merging with automation, an opportunity to experiment at scale.

Microsoft has its own 40-year lineage to consider as we explore the future of experience design. The challenge to scale has become the biggest conversation among our teams. To design for millions – at times billions – of people, we have to redefine innovation. No longer just a sense of cunning, design requires multi-faceted talent and a focus on intention more than invention. Understanding who uses our products and services – and why – leads to better designs. And that understanding only comes from collaboration among partners and customers, extending our prototypes to experts in human behavior.

Being able to show your design – the full story behind every screen, every button, every interaction – grounds the opportunity in something tangible. More than extolling the virtues of good design, we’re building a real product before ‘production’ even begins. Modern design tools help us build the best kind of pitch – a working prototype.

Beyond the product and the business, tools like Adobe XD have changed our culture of working. We’re more open, nimble, and responsive. We’re more tuned to the intricacies of the solution end-to-end. We see the big picture. We’re eager to share with other teams. We want to connect the dots and bring holistic value to our designs. In the end, this shift in culture from the lone visionary to the shared collective extends beyond our walls and gives customers a more complete and cohesive experience.

As we continue our journey through design’s evolution, watch the above video to see a capture of its modern moment. Thanks to our Adobe partners for helping Microsoft achieve our mission to empower the planet.