Microsoft scoops 7 IDEA awards for design excellence















Lets be honest, Microsoft isn’t synonymous with design. Which is a shame as there is a strong culture of design here. I’ve gotten close to that culture over the last 12 months and met a lot design folks along the way –industrial designers, interaction designers, UX and UI experts, graphic designers, and more. I’m not suggesting for a moment that everything we do is wonderfully designed, but the more I stop and look around the more impressive design, and designers, I find. They a growing group who tend to operate in the background and have a humble streak. Their work is starting to shine through in our products though…and it looks like I’m not alone in that observation.

The Industrial Designers Society of America yesterday announced that Microsoft had won seven awards in their annual International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA). Nice. I assume then that this is some sort of namby pamby awards thing that nobody pays attention to? Evidently not as the past winners lineup shows the names you’d expect – Apple, Frog Design, Herman Miller and IDEO. 

The IDEA program is considered by many as the ‘Oscars’ of design competitions – not least as it’s judged by the experts in their field. The 20 experts for the 2011 IDEA jury were came from design consultancies, corporations and universities. After weeks previewing entries online and two-and-a-half days of face-to-face evaluation and debate they honed in on eight areas of industrial design excellence: innovation; benefit to the user; benefit to society; benefit to the client; visual appeal and appropriate aesthetics; usability, emotional factors and unmet needs for the design research category; and internal factors, methods, strategic value and implementation for the design strategy category. The results were announced yesterday…

New live tiles

Windows Phone 7 scored a hat-trick with a gold award in the category of Interactive Product Experiences, silver in the Research category and bronze in Design Strategy.


The Arc Touch Mouse also won gold in the computer equipment category – Young Kim is one of those humble types I mentioned and the video below featueres him talkng about the design thinking behind the Arc Touch – it’s as elegant a video as I have seen from Microsoft. Befitting for the product that is one of those things people love to touch and when they understand what it does, they smile knowing that someone has put time effort and love in to making such a thing. It attracts the kind of lust usually reserved for Apple products and I’m the proud owner of two – a standard issue black model and a limited edition transparent model.

Despite no longer being with us, the design work around KIN was recognized – I’d never actually seen it, but the KIN packaging was quite cool and KIN One was recognized in the category of communication.

I was delighted to see my friend Richard Banks of Microsoft Research Cambridge win silver in the research category for his Technology Heirlooms project – I featured that back on Next in December that is thought provoking, and thoughtfully designed and researched.


A number of my own favorite products won awards too – Jawbone JAMBOX for entertainment and Jawbone Era for packaging.

One project related to Microsoft that also won was Note-Taker, the winning project in the US Finals of the Imagine Cup. They scooped a silver in the student category and are competing in the worldwide finals next weekend in New York City. Congrats (and good luck) to David Hayden and the team from Arizona State University. Also close to home, the Seattle Children’s Hospital with Artefact won silver in the interactive category for their hospital medical information system and Anvil Studios deserves a mention for their silver award if only to link to the stunning Kestrel 400LTD bicycle. Oh and props to my alma mater, Loughborugh University, who won two silvers!

IDEA’s highest distinction, Best in Show, will be unveiled at the IDEA 2011 Awards Ceremony on Sept. 17th and we’ll be watching closely. Meantime, congrats to all the design folks at Microsoft…keep pushing against those stereotypes.