Industry Professional

Breaking down walls: the soulful Xbox Design Studio

Take a look inside this unique Xbox workspace

So, we like each other here at the Xbox Design Studio. We like collaborating, collective brainstorming, poking our heads into open-invite meetings. We believe that literally breaking down walls is what contributes to truly great design work. And so we did that.

 Our space used to be more like your standard office space. You know the one – some people confined to their offices, doors closed, open spaces that just aren’t big enough, hallways a labyrinth of hushed conversations. Let’s be real, it wasn’t our favorite, particularly when you consider the massive amount of talent hiding within that confining layout. We have a seriously wonderful design team at Xbox, one that’s at its best when everyone’s strengths are leveraged in tandem, and out in the open.

To get everyone living together, we navigated some tricky building codes. Some walls are required to a certain degree, and some walls are really expensive to take down. Who knew? So we asked “what’s the fewest number we can get away with?” and went with that. The result was a collection of “super pods” and open spaces, filled up with all of our creative Xbox Design minds. We created a co-op comprising software and hardware, console, PC, and mobile, interaction, visual, motion, design development, design program management, user research, prototyping …everyone’s here, and everyone’s essentially a foam dart throw away.

Microsoft is a big place that manages to feel small. Everyone is supported by the company’s collaborative vision, and the efforts to truly be One Microsoft. For Xbox, we knew an important part of achieving that mission was improving our workspace: gathering up every expertise, and encouraging growth mindset through mere proximity. And we think that our new space reflects who we are at Xbox Design: we’re casual, we’re talkative, we’re artists and engineers and brainiacs and daydreamers.

Email is awesome, but so is turning to the person standing next to you and asking for quick feedback on your design. We have amazing minds at work here, and everyone is keyed into the Microsoft culture that nurtures creativity and promotes risk-taking. We don’t compete, we celebrate collective successes. We don’t assume we’re right, we learn continuously and stay curious. We’re encouraged to fail fast to get to the right solution. The evidence is all over our walls, which by the way, are mostly corkboard and whiteboard and covered with sketches, user flows, wireframes, comps, and to-do lists. Because building a product requires A TON of work, and we want everyone from program managers to developers to corporate vice presidents to be able to walk around and give feedback. Nothing we do is made in a vacuum. What fun would that be? We love our work, our space, and wowing our customers. It’s just who we are at Xbox.


Photo credit: Nitish Kumar Meena, UX Designer at Microsoft