Tag Archives: Microsoft

Celebrating the ADA’s 25th birthday with a primer of inclusive design at Art Center

Kira Song's floatation vest for brain-injured athletes with limited motion.

Kira Song’s floatation vest for brain-injured athletes with limited motion.

As the nation prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, the community of makers at Art Center College of Design continues to innovate products and experiences that help improve the world for people who have essential life function limitations.

Since its founding 85 years ago, students, faculty and alumni have been making a difference through inclusive design by applying a human-centered theory to assistive products and experiences for populations challenged by issues of aging, race, gender, ability, chronic disease, psychological or developmental disorders, and more.

“We have a community of students who want to leverage their creativity to impact people’s lives,” said Product Design Chair Karen Hofmann (BS 97 Product) who has guided designers making significant contributions through rethinking how products can improve people’s lives for more than a decade. “That’s the most meaningful work designers can do.”

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Alumni Spotlight: Erik Molano, social impact graphic designer

3 catalysts

Erik’s story originally appeared as part of Desigmatters’ Alumni Spotlight series. Find out more about Art Center’s social impact design department, Designmatters.

Throughout my education, I had always been fascinated by the power of graphic design. It’s everywhere. In books, freeway signs, software applications, automobile dashboards, cereal box packaging, architectural wayfinding, maps, and so much more. The thoughtfulness and intention that goes into the communication we consume daily is so ubiquitous we sometimes forget that it’s carefully crafted by a worldwide community of graphic designers. Since I had become a part of this community, I challenged myself to find a place within it; to discover my full potential.

I began to ask myself, ‘What’s the most impact I can have as a designer? Is there more to design than just laying out images and text in a beautiful way? How does our work impact culture?’ After a few years of soul-searching, I found my answer lying within the world of social innovation, with many thanks to the following three catalysts.

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Alumni Q&A with Microsoft design pioneer, Bill Flora

Bill Flora photo by Alex Aristei.

Bill Flora on his recent visit to Art Center. Photo by Alex Aristei.

When Bill Flora arrived to his first day of work at Microsoft just over 20 years ago, as the ink was still drying on his Art Center degree, there were only seven designers working on staff at the company. At the time, Bill Gates’ thriving empire was the Goliath of the software industry. Products like Microsoft Word had become a brand synonymous with the service it provided, like Kleenex or Q-Tips. In essence, Microsoft sold itself — so design took a backseat to innovations in engineering.

Things have changed considerably since then. It’s no coincidence that design has become a prime mover at Microsoft, driving the development of its most high-profile software and hardware releases.  This shift occurred thanks in no small part to the contributions Flora made during his two-decade tenure at the company, which included work on a wide variety of products, from the Encarta Encyclopedia to the Windows Phone. His most lasting legacy at Microsoft, however, may lie within the set of design principles (now known as Microsoft Design Language), which he devised prior to leaving his post as design director in 2011 to launch his own interactive design firm, Tectonic.

During a recent trip to reconnect with his Art Center roots, Flora (BFA, 1991) took time out to chat with the Dotted Line about his career trajectory as a high-flying design evangelist in the tech world.

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Inside the extended-play version of the Microsoft Surface DesignStorm video


Earlier this month, we posted a teaser trailer capturing highlights from a DesignStorm in which students conceived innovative uses for click-on attachments (code name: Blades) to Microsoft’s Surface tablet. The three-day session consisted of a group of students from the College’s various design departments facilitated by Graphic Design faculty member Gerardo Herrera along with Product Design instructor, Todd Masilko and Jeff Higashi, who teaches both Graphic and Product Design.

DesignStorms are Art Center’s trademarked immersive workshops which pair  expert faculty with select upper-term design students with sponsors to form multidisciplinary teams. Over the course of the collaboration, the teams apply an intensive design methodology to identify opportunities for deeper exploration and innovation.

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Microsoft cracks the Surface with an Art Center Design Storm

Earlier this month, Microsoft placed the latest iteration of its Surface tablet in the eye of an Art Center Design Storm. For the following two days, a group of tech-obsessed designers (the futurists of the future?) gathered in a classroom at Art Center’s Hillside campus for a super-charged idea generating session with a single directive: Conceive the most mind-popping attachments and accessories for the device imaginable.

A flood of innovative and enticing ideas flowed from this quintessential Art Center technique designed to stimulate creativity. Watching the above video — produced by Microsoft and shot and edited by Art Center Film alum, Erik Anderson — feels a lot like peering into the right side of a designer’s brain as it fires at full capacity.

Have a look and feel free to let loose with your own unexpected and innovative concepts for  Surface improvements in the comments section below.

Asking ‘Imagine If?’: Interaction Design at Art Center

Alumnus Ian Sands PROD 95 in Microsoft's prototyping lab, testing a TouchWall.

This Fall term, Art Center took another step in its evolution and launched an Interaction Design (IxD) degree program headed up by user experience pioneer Maggie Hendrie.

Now, wait a minute, you might be thinking, hasn’t the College been teaching interaction design for years? After all, Art Center has alumni working at Google, Microsoft, Samsung and virtually every company exploring the boundaries of interactivity.

The answer to that, of course, is yes, Art Center has indeed been preparing its graduates to enter the field of interaction design for the better part of two decades.

“Art Center has a long history of maintaining the dynamic between the development of a craft and the application of it, and interaction design is an applied craft,” Hendrie recently told The Dotted Line. “Also, Art Center is already outstanding in the very fields in which interaction is applied: environments, interfaces, products, automotives, social projects and systems.”

Take for example alumnus Ian Sands, the co-founder of vision and strategy firm Intentional Futures, who graduated from the College in 1995 with a degree in Product Design.

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