UK Design Museum praises Windows Phone 8; Apple devices have 'faux-leather look'

Windows Phone 8 devices, particularly those made by Nokia, have been selling much better than previous Windows Phone devices since they launched in November. Now Microsoft has received more good news: Windows Phone 8 is in the running for a major design award.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the mobile OS has been nominated for the U.K. Design Museum's 2013 Designs of the Year award in the Digital category. Pete Collard, the exhibition’s curator, praised the design of Windows Phone 8, saying:

The language that Windows Phone 8 presents is a very digital language, it says ‘this is digital information presented on a smartphone,’ and as such is not trying to bring in other cultural ideas ...  It is a nice, clean, pure color, interface. The tiling system is intuitive. It is not over-designed to bring in other narratives from other objects.

Collard is less impressed with the designs of competing Apple products. While no specific device or operating system was mentioned, he did say, "What was Apple doing in bringing in the faux-leather look? Were they suggesting that people miss their old leather books?"

Other nominees in the Digital category include the Raspberry Pi computer, the Gov.UK website and the "Zombies, Run" app. The winners in each category will be named in April, along with one overall Design of the Year winner.

Source: Wall Street Journal | Image via Microsoft

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I agree Microsoft has gotten fresh with their new Metro design. Although, this swiss style has been used by many websites and publications for many many years, but rarely was implemented into software interfaces. We sometimes got the Helvetica themes for web applications and that was it. I think Metro is nice when done well, but sometimes it can become redundant and it can become hard to differentiate between different windows phone applications. Each app doesn't have its own character. I think Holo is a nice blend between extreme minimalistic metro and overdone iOS design styles. The problem with iOS in general has been from Apple's side. In the past five years, they haven't changed their design style much just for the sake of not confusing their long existing userbase. There is alot of amazing design work going into iOS apps either in interfaces or innovative user experiences (gestures, flicks etc.), but mostly this is from the third party applications. Apple's way too slow to iterate its own apps either being late with features and never really changing up their ui. There are many excellent examples of third party iOS app that have the best balance in minimalism, subtle shadows, light gradients etc. An example is the recent iOS app that kickstarter just launched. http://www.kickstarter.com/blo...rter-app-for-iphone-and-ipo
The app is beautiful and there are many third party apps with unique clean and user friendly designs.

"The language that Windows Phone 8 presents [...] is not trying to bring in other cultural ideas"

Somewhat ironically, that sounds remarkably similar to what Jobs once identified as one of Microsoft's main flaws:

“The only problem with Microsoft is [...] they don't bring much culture into their products.”

CSharp. said,
"The language that Windows Phone 8 presents [...] is not trying to bring in other cultural ideas"

Somewhat ironically, that sounds remarkably similar to what Jobs once identified as one of Microsoft's main flaws:

“The only problem with Microsoft is [...] they don't bring much culture into their products.”

It's a very different design approach. Microsoft has now gone all out and committed to a compleetly functional design language. Where Apple makes a book reader look like an actual book, Microsoft looks at what functionality is required and then builds a minimal UI around it.

Some like this, some dont. Jobs obviously didn't like it but times change so who knows what will be popular in the future. It does appear to me that edges and Industrial design are becomming popular again. The futuristic 'roundness' seems to disappear in all kind of products (cars, electronics, etc).

Ronnet said,
It's a very different design approach. Microsoft has now gone all out and committed to a compleetly functional design language. Where Apple makes a book reader look like an actual book, Microsoft looks at what functionality is required and then builds a minimal UI around it. .

I've never used Windows Phone, but it's anything like Metro on Windows 8, then I have to disagree with that. To me, Metro on Windows 8 is very much looks over functionality, with its hidden menus, low information density and visual cues removed for identifying UI elements that can be clicked on. Say what you will about Apple's design approach, but it's never just about looks. Usability is always the primary goal.

CSharp. said,

I've never used Windows Phone, but it's anything like Metro on Windows 8, then I have to disagree with that. To me, Metro on Windows 8 is very much looks over functionality, with its hidden menus, low information density and visual cues removed for identifying UI elements that can be clicked on. Say what you will about Apple's design approach, but it's never just about looks. Usability is always the primary goal.

Unfortunatly Windows 8 isn't like Windows Phone. Windows Phone doesnt doesnt compleetly hide the UI elements. Its filled with visual cues. Although I have to say that once you get used to the metro interface you dont need these cues anymore. This goes for WP but also for W8. I now know that I have to right click to bring up the option menu as this is the same for each app. But WP's design is much more friendly towards new users.

I'm a designer and have been saying the exact same as this guy. Everything has been heading towards the Metro/Swiss graphic design style for years. Which focuses on content and typography and has a digital clean look. A good example where you can clearly see it happening are sites. When a site has a redesign or a new site launches it will often be cleaner, have a more Metro-ish look, with content taking priority (Engadget, Ars Technica and The Verge are some examples that people on here might be familiar with).

Then if you look at Apple stuff it's all very dated looking, from around 2001 - 2006 design era. The days of shiny icons, rounded corners, gradients, drop shadows, faux-leather / metal / wood effects and other pointless eye candy like transparency and reflection effects.

It's quite amusing that MS now lead the way in design out of the big tech companies. Who would have thought that would happen.

I've alsways say the same, but my theorie goes futher: in 2006 more and more websites got a glass-look, in the same year as Vista. With 7, everything get lighter, more to the style of Windows 7. And now, again sites take over the design of Windows 8. Since it's possible on the web to create that kind of lay-outs, Microsofts OS is starting new hypes every time again.

xstex said,
I think 2001 is a bit of a stretch. Look at software in 2001.
Windows XP is full of gradients and chunky UI everywhere, and that was 2001.

xstex said,
Look at software in 2001.

Maybe you should? Check out OSX Cheetah, the first version of OSX released in 2001. It has almost all the same graphical stuff (and UI) that Apple use now. OSX really hasn't changed much and is looking extremely dated these days.

MS was a little influenced by OSX with Vista but by the time Vista came out that design style was already fading away in graphic design circles. But now it's MS who lead the way.

Yeah still don't agree it's design that looks out of 2001. I totally agree it NEEDS refreshing badly, but can't agree it looks that old.

1Pixel said,
Then if you look at Apple stuff it's all very dated looking, from around 2001 - 2006 design era. The days of shiny icons, rounded corners, gradients, drop shadows, faux-leather / metal / wood effects and other pointless eye candy like transparency and reflection effects.

Even back in 2001 - 2006 I thought that stuff was cheesy and was glad Microsoft for the most part was staying away from it, along with other things introduced by Apple like photorealistic icons. I cringed when people said Apple products had good style.

Not sure why you're including rounded corners in that mix though, they're still okay if used modestly.

1Pixel said,
Maybe you should? Check out OSX Cheetah, the first version of OSX released in 2001. It has almost all the same graphical stuff (and UI) that Apple use now. OSX really hasn't changed much and is looking extremely dated these days.

By your standards not much has changed between Windows 95 and Windows 8's desktop either then.