Reboot: Windows Phone 7

by Omatic Design


I'll be damned.


I WAS GOING TO WAX PROFOUND on this topic at some point in the near future, but then Microsoft made their big international Window Phone 7 launch announcement the other day and woke me up from my nap, the bastards.

I got to work on advertising for the Windows Phone 7 earlier this year.  As a classic late adopter, I don’t have a smartphone and get all Andy Rooney grumpy at the thought of having to tote one around. As a lifelong Mac person, chronic Windows illiterate buffoon and a bit of a Microsoft cynic, I get flop sweat thinking about having to actually use a Windows machine. But as I worked on the campaign and delved into the interface of the phone itself, I found myself gulping gallons of Kool Aid and asking for more even while I needed to pee. It was truly the damnedest thing.

I’m going to ask you to put functionality of the phone aside. This isn’t about whether it can cut and paste, sing “Danny Boy”, vacuum the living room or open a beer bottle. These are the day-to-day concerns of the user and he will make his choice in the competitive marketplace. What affected me deeply about the phone ain’t the phone but design. That’s right, Microsoft delivered.

The interface is a triumph. It ain’t just cool, it’s badassery. It starts with a simple concept: icons are out (or rather downplayed), type is in. I saw this start with Zune, but it’s finally found a true home in the Windows Phone 7. If you put an icon for email next to the word “email”, guess which your mind will register first? We’ve become so dependent on icons that we’ve forgotten that the Roman alphabet is the icon system we are hardwired to recognize.

Add to this design. Words are cut off but still readable. Color fields are used without any gradients or shadows. The flow of the interface is alive, simply layered and fluid. We have a real world that surrounds us and we don’t need our devices to mimic it. These devices are there for function. This is about design that finally takes a breather and doesn’t try to create some kind of dippy three dimensional travesty.

Step back and remember the icon shift instituted by Adobe for the Creative Suite. I could never parse the damned overly complicated icons in my dock. Then they finally took it down to the essence: color and monograms. I was—I kid you not—thrilled.

I’m keenly interested in how the public reacts to some really good design from one of the unusual suspects.