2019 AIGA Corporate Leader Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is recognized for leading the way around designing for inclusion, for its philanthropic and employee-focused practices, and for engaging AIGA and supporting its beliefs.

As partners in design, creativity, and equity, we’re honored to accept the 2019 AIGA Corporate Leadership Award. In today’s world, where technology continues to scale and impact the lives of billions, Microsoft’s mission is more crucial than ever: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We can’t hope for that global reach without the undeniable impact of design.

Design is more than a flourish. It is an integral part of responsible product creation. Designers have a unique power to affect the soul of technology, and at Microsoft, that means imbuing our experiences with an ever-more important sense of trust. We design for inclusion—to create solutions for those who may be excluded and extend access to the greatest number of people.

Good design is invisible. It’s frictionless and fair. It considers the person behind the screen before the screen itself. Beyond brand identity, look and feel, colors and components, motion and material, design carries the weight of unintended consequences. At Microsoft, it’s our imperative to take care, and to design as corporate stewards of a greater world.

A sincere thanks to AIGA for this recognition.
Albert Shum, Corporate Vice President of Design, Microsoft
Tim Allen, Partner, Director of Design, Microsoft


What does it take to empower the planet?

At Microsoft, technology is more than the sum of its platforms, programs, and pixels. Technology is how we empower people to achieve more. More than ever, innovation is defined by giving a voice to those unheard and ensuring that digital transformation is universal and inclusive. It’s our imperative to take care, and to design as corporate stewards of a greater world.

More than design, more than culture, more than innovation.

In 1975, Microsoft was founded with the goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. The world has evolved far past that mission; a modest foundation for today’s complex modern landscape. As technology has expanded to serve millions—often billions—of customers, we’re reminded of how far we’ve come and technology’s implication on lives around the world. It’s our greatest responsibility to recognize that scale of impact and to design accordingly. More than four decades of experience in technology has taught us the invaluable lesson that technology is more than what we make and how we make it. It’s about why we make it.

Empowering people is about finding the human need and designing technology that meets it.

To design at Microsoft means going beyond what’s technically possible and focusing on the person behind the product. It means redefining innovation as usability and usefulness, balancing a future vision with the here and now.

In that spirit, we were proud to design the Xbox Adaptive Controller, conceived and realized from the ground up in partnership with gaming, disability, and non-profit communities. Rather than following the prescribed controller designs of years past, we created a unified hub that hosts a gamer’s preferred inputs and devices. Gaming is a particularly joyful activity, and access means everything to be able to play and connect with others. No one should be denied the basic human instinct to have fun.

We continue to design with an inclusive design methodology, identifying exclusion and launching product development in partnership with experts in adaptability. Technology is at its best when it grants access at scale, acts in service to human intent, and gracefully steps out of the way to let people achieve their purpose.

Thinking of who we serve to inspire what we make.

We are continually inspired by those who use technology to achieve amazing things. All over the world, Microsoft partners with leaders, educators, workers, creators, and visionaries to create the next generation of technology to serve them and their missions.

We look to the power of students. Through Microsoft Learning Tools, we support personalized learning styles at every age and skill level to transform the classroom into a catalyst. We look to worldwide teams who need state-of-the-art communication tools like Surface Hub 2 and Teams to collaborate across time zones, languages, and systems. We look to the needs of first-line workers. Dynamics 365 Guides and IT admin portals modernize often-outdated technologies and insist on the democratization of tech tools in the workplace. We look to families, businesses, and artisans. Everyone deserves access to the tools they need to work, play, and live well.

No matter the individual or organization, it is their goals that inspire us. Technology is simply a tool for limitless human potential.

Technology is how we create, discover, collaborate, learn, and conserve.

In 2019, we acutely recognize the power and influence of technology on the world. At Microsoft we’re constantly examining our own processes, values, and principles to develop the right products and programs that serve a purpose beyond new technological capabilities and inform the practices of the larger industry.

The imminent realm of AI requires particularly intentional design. In partnership with governments, economists, engineers, philosophers, ethicists, and more, we continue to host open conversations and publish public knowledge about the way Microsoft and the tech industry is developing intelligent systems. Design plays an essential role in those frameworks, integrating the humanities into our technical solutions.

We’ve developed ethical principles for AI inspired by the continued work of Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. We’ve published design guidelines for AI in partnership with Microsoft Research. Microsoft has invited grant submissions for AI for Earth and AI for Good, and committed resources to responsible intelligence across worldwide platforms and systems.

All of this is in recognition of the power of technology to empower people and respect our environments, and to put solutions into the hands of those who break down barriers, turn ideas into reality, and change lives.

It’s a reflection of human ingenuity and design holds the mirror.

Technology is what we make. And design is how we make it more human. Great design fades into the background—at its best when it is invisible. Our Fluent Design System gives us a common language through which to create simplicity, coherence, and trust for our customers. We adapt alongside Microsoft’s vision and translate it into every design for people around the globe.

Technology scales to billions, and more than ever, that means designing responsibly, ethically, and in partnership with the world around us.

Herein lies our gratitude for this honor from AIGA. No one achieves anything alone, including—and especially—corporations like Microsoft. We rely on surrounding communities and organizations to inspire our work. We look to the passion and creativity of others to keep us energized. We see how design has evolved to reach people in new and inventive ways, and our stake in that reality as technologists. We recognize the power of the arts to breathe innovation into everything we create, and spark something in people who hope to achieve more.

What does it take to empower the planet?

All of us.