Designers represent an important minority at Microsoft. Existing workplace guidelines were developed for sales representatives and developers but the Windows and Devices Group (WDG) found that they didn’t adequately address the types of space that facilitate the design process. Working with these highly creative teams, we identified that the space allocated to focus rooms in the WPA 2.0 program isn’t used by designers. Together we discovered that what they really need are pin-up areas, extensive white board walls, charrette, and critique areas – all spaces that support the interactive and iterative character of the design process.
We launched the design effort with a user group visioning session that identified a key project goal: do more with less and create a cool, start-up feel that makes an organization of over 260 people feel more like twenty. We identified strategic KPIs that were “must-haves” and explored the design elements that respond to the desire for a start-up, industrial creative vibe by trimming out elements that weren’t perceived as important and focusing on real user needs we successfully created. Through choice of materials and shapes, we established the qualities of space desired by the Microsoft design teams. Unexpected elements distinguish the space as unique to this group, like the old Microsoft logo neon sign we salvaged from the exterior of one of their former buildings. We retrofitted the “M” with LED lights and put it in the new space – a playful reminder of the company’s past.
Realignment of the space enables the consolidation of the Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox design teams. Self-funded by the business unit, the project integrates WPA 2.0 (light) space standards with space types and configurations unique to graphic, audio and industrial design teams. The resulting design achieves the group’s vision through smart repurposing of existing fit-up elements in addition to cost-effective new construction. Our process delivered proof positive that user-focused design is cost-saving design. The resulting design solution set a new bar for quality and cost management, bringing the project in 60% below a typical capital budget.