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Windows 11 | The story behind the design

Windows 11 has only been in eager Windows users hands for a few short weeks now, first as a leaked build for some and now as weekly Insider Dev Channel builds and perhaps what is most pleasing about Windows 11 in the small and refined details.

Microsoft’s Christina Koehn and Diego Baca conducted “85+ research studies and tens of thousands of testing rounds” and they said they spoke to “long-time fans who love the familiar aspects” and “new customers wanting Windows to be easier and more approachable.”

Calm technology

Koehn and Baca say they set out to create a sense of calm and to “soften formerly intimidating UI, and increase emotional connection.” Was Windows 10’s UI intimidating? Perhaps the new Start Menu is less busy, but that is if you left the list view enabled. In Windows 11, there is more ‘White Space’ meaning more space between icons and objects and the rounded corners create a more friendly appearance.

Windows back in the spotlight

The importance of our PCs in our everyday lives has traded places with our phones over that last year and “Amid a new virtual paradigm of personal blended with professional, the power and flexibility of PCs enabled us to work from various corners of our homes.”

Microsoft put the Start Menu in the center because it is “the cornerstone of the Windows experience” and led to a design with “more efficiency and less noise,” combining your favorite apps with the documents you need. By adding the ‘Recommended’ section below your apps, the documents you were working on most recently are now one click away in your Start Menu instead of File Explorer, which could lead to more productivity. Unfortunately, I could see a near future when Microsoft decides to advertise their own or partner products in this space give the name ‘Recommended’ rather than say something like ‘Recent’.

“The team obsessed over every pixel; we updated the Start logo to align with our new visual language and leveraged animations to add delight and confidence to the interaction. We were also intentional with the choice of the wallpaper imagery, which welcomes you on boot and complements the new center alignment to make your experience more balanced and focused. We want your journey into Windows 11 to be literally centered from the start.”

Something long desired is that “You can also give your PC a name during setup so that Windows feels uniquely yours, more human than the random name used to accompany the system settings. Windows is yours, and we designed it to celebrate the way you live and work.”

In 2020 and 2021, “the boundaries between work and life have been redefined. In this new version of Windows, the ability to organize your activities is something that we paid close attention to, ensuring you remain focused and in flow regardless of changing contexts.” 

Windows 11 is all about being “softer, friendlier, and less intimidating” with an “evolved our visual and auditory expression.” The Windows design team “rounded sharp corners and created a warmer color palette” the they say “that doesn’t get in the way of your productivity.”

A former industry insider and tech industry enthusiast.