The award refers to the iconic user interface, redesigned for Windows 10, as the “Microsoft Start Experience”. It singles out Jaclyn Knapp, Callil Capuozzo, Jeremy Bowen and Holger Kuehnle as the designers responsible for its success, as well as the work of the Windows Start Feature Team.
As Neowin reports, the award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) is based around the Windows 10 Start menu’s modern design and adaptable nature that allows it to operate fluidly on very different device types but with the same core principles. The praise indicates that Microsoft’s talk of a “fresh but familiar” Windows 10 is more than just a glossy marketing phrase.
IDSA describes the original Start menu, introduced with Windows 95 over 20 years ago, as an “anchor point” that for the first time made it easy for people to get to content they actually cared about while using a computer.
It notes that the tiled interface of Windows 8 “continued the evolution of the Start screen” by providing quick access to “relevant and personal” information before settling on the unified nature of Windows 10, commending Microsoft for bringing back the “familiar and learned legacy” of the traditional Start menu.
“The design allows users to leverage what they know from one device and apply that knowledge to using a different device in a contextually appropriate manner.”
The Start menu in Windows 10 is a blend of its former Windows 7 self and of the Live Tiles of Windows 8. Instantly recognisable to users of older versions of Windows while still providing quick and direct access to information, the new Start menu is far more suited to a desktop computer than Windows 8 was but easily resizes to a full-screen tiled interface when used on a tablet.
However, although it has been generally well received, not everybody is impressed. There are still some who are yearning for the return of a “true” Windows 7-style two-paned menu while the creator of the very first Windows 95 Start menu, Danny Oran, recently said that he feels it is “a little disappointing” that Microsoft is still relying on it 20 years later.
Others see live tiles as little more than a clever marketing ploy by Microsoft, citing how a clean Windows 10 installation pins nearly 20 apps to the Start menu by default. Of these, around half can be seen as monetized advertisements to persuade you to try out Microsoft’s own services.
It’s worth noting that this can be, to some extent, anticipated and overlooked though. After all, most people will be getting Windows 10 for free – something unheard of for any previous release of Windows – but Microsoft still needs to make money and create a profitable Windows division. One way of doing this is by pushing new users to services like Groove Music, Xbox, Skype and Office 365.
At the end of the day, the Windows 10 Start menu was always going to provoke controversy. While it clearly draws from the much-loved Windows 7, it has also dragged along a lot of Windows 8 with it – a bit too much for some people. Still, with the Microsoft Start Experience now the holder of the IDSA Digital Design Award, it is clear that the new-look interface is making strong impressions everywhere it goes.