Presenting at the
Microsoft Design Expo
This is a story from long ago, which I like to tell because it was one of my first entrances into the design world. And because I'm still very proud of the work we have done.
The setting was the annual Design Expo at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. I came from Jerusalem to Redmond and was up on stage in front of hundreds of people for the first time.
The expo topic was “People-to-people, from close friends to strangers.” We were lucky to have Hillel Cooperman from Microsoft, and Rob Girling & David Gilmore from IDEO give us feedback. Our project was ‘My Memory Box’, a metaphor for a messaging system for creating, reading and searching your memories.
In today’s world, when almost everybody uses email, some of the everyday experiences we used to have by using regular mail, are lost. Do you enjoy tearing up the envelope with a letter that was sent just for you as much as opening another e-mail?
From talking to people, and after looking at their shoeboxes, we learned that email’s are closer in character to post-it-notes, even between friends, while letters are more like small and personal journals people write to each other.
"The box was a kind of treasure chest, a safe, a parent proof place for the strongest feelings - love, friendship, occasionally lust - people had about me."
"Emails are never as personal as letters, even if printed, the papers are not the actual papers that the person you care for has written on."
"There is magic in a letter because you have to put some real physical effort into it, buy a stamp, go to the mail, grab a pen - its harder, its realer"
Feeling nostalgic, but also wanting the speed and accessibility of email, we asked ourselves what would happen if we put a hard drive in a shoebox? ‘My Memory Box’ is a real wooden box that combines a personal shoebox with your inbox.
The wooden Memory Box contained a set of removable postcard-sized electronic screens that simulate the use of the old shoe box and mailbox combined into one product. The electronic screens receive new letters, and all letters are saved within the wooden box.
(1) Emotional: Returning the lost excitement of letters into email. We achieved this by creating a personal identity to e-mail, just like the handwriting and paper create a personal identity to letters.
(2) Permanent: We wanted to create a timeless product. As technology moves forward, the device on which data is saved changes. It is still possible to read text written on paper or parchment from thousands of years ago; yet, digital data written only ten years ago which was saved on a big floppy disk is almost impossible to read.
We achieved this by combining the encoded data and the output. In the same way as handwriting is not encoded and therefore can be read even after thousands of years; the electronic screens used by My Memory Box save the text and pictures as they are, not as a file. There is no need to purchase an external device in order to read the data (unlike the CD for example, which needs a computer in order to perform).
(3) Accessible: Simple use of the product. In order to use e-mail, you need a computer and basic knowledge of how to use it, characteristics that don’t apply to a large portion of the population. My Memory Box maintains a (purposely) non technological user interface. There are no menus, no buttons, and as a whole the product does not consist of many components.
The time of day in which the letter was sent defines the background color of the postcard. A letter written in the middle of the night will receive a dark background and a different personality than a letter sent in the morning. This will assist the user to differ between the letters; and create the feeling that it was sent from far away.
The more times a user reads a letter, or the older it gets – its color will fade with yellowness. In this way it is possible to recognize immediately the older and more read letters, without having to actually read the text.
At the Microsoft Research Design Expo, this project won the title Most Outstanding Innovative Idea
Designing Windows 7
Presenting at the Microsoft Design Expo as a student, made me hope that someday I’ll get to work at Microsoft. So when I got an offer 5 years later, I was over the moon! I couldn’t believe I’d be entering an opportunity to impact hundreds of millions of people.
At Microsoft I worked on the design of the Windows 7 desktop and mapping artists' wallpapers to different Windows Live products. The goal was to keep the design consistent across all platforms while taking into account the different scales, resolutions, and volume of text. This effort resulted in a rich and vibrant look and feel for all of the Windows Live products. I loved this design process because I got to work hands on with extremely high fidelity illustration assets, created by artists all over the world.