Jun 26 2013

On the Road: Mobile Design in Japan

Editor’s note: Brian Harper, Jeff Heaton and Brandy Porter are hitting the road to teach our mobile design courses in Ukraine, the Netherlands, India and Japan. At each destination, they’ll be sending blog “postcards” with updates.

As I travel via high-speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto, now officially on vacation after a month of teaching around the world, I’m able to reflect upon my time with Microsoft in Japan, but also on my trip as a whole. To begin with, the Microsoft team in Tokyo, Kasugai-San and Akiko-San, was a joy to work with. They were well-organized, helpful and down-to-earth, and they understood when to guide us in tradition, and when to encourage our “Western” habits.

We had a full turnout of around 60 people for the camp, which was held at the beautiful new Microsoft Tokyo headquarters. Kasugai-san began the camp by telling the attendees to “act like Americans and ask questions”, which made me chuckle. We were expecting a pretty quiet room, especially since everything we said had to be translated simultaneously by an impressive team of translators. The attendees, both designers and developers, surprised us all by asking really great questions after every session, and participating enthusiastically in the workshop.

The platform mix in Japan is about the same as in the US. Mostly Android, then iOS, Windows Phone 7, then Windows 8 being steadily introduced, especially in the enterprise space. The attendees were very interested, as all of the attendees have been, in Windows 8.1’s imminent reveal. What are the new features? Are there new guidelines for Snap View? Will the Start button make a reappearance? These are questions we don’t know the answers to yet. It sounds like the world is waiting to see what Microsoft does next.

It’s also satisfying to see so many developers embracing design principles, learning the reasoning behind design decisions, and eager to work with designers on their own projects. As a designer who has worked with developers in many team formats, it is exciting to see designers and developers communicating on such a technical level. Windows 8 is a platform that almost requires designers to learn about what’s possible in code, and why building in code is important. It also requires developers to understand design principles, and to communicate with designers about how to differentiate an app visually while staying smart about the way it’s built.Much like my other destinations, the attendees in Tokyo used Twitter to connect to Jeff and me before and after the camp. I have a huge new group of friends that share my passion for user experience design, platform capabilities and great travel photos (including food pics). It’s really striking to connect to so many cultures and people using the common language of design.

It’s also satisfying to see so many developers embracing design principles, learning the reasoning behind design decisions, and eager to work with designers on their own projects. As a designer who has worked with developers in many team formats, it is exciting to see designers and developers communicating on such a technical level. Windows 8 is a platform that almost requires designers to learn about what’s possible in code, and why building in code is important. It also requires developers to understand design principles, and to communicate with designers about how to differentiate an app visually while staying smart about the way it’s built.

This has been an epic month for me. I am not blind to the amazing opportunity I have been afforded. To be able to meet and work with so many special people across the world is a rare joy that I will treasure. I consider myself ridiculously lucky to work with such talented people, and beyond words to befriend the brilliant individuals in Kiev, Amsterdam, Bangalore, Pune and Tokyo. As Mr. Tolkein has been known to say, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

2 Comments

  1. Alex Debkaliuk

    The food pics mostly. :))

    Really does seem like you had a great trip and inspired a ton of people!

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