Darren Straight's Blog

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By - Darren Straight

Microsoft Designertopia 2007

Well I’m now back home after 2 days and 1 night in London as a Microsoft Student Partner attending the Microsoft Designertopia 2007 Design Conference, and I can definitely say that I’m pretty loaded with useful information on things such as WPF and Expression Studio which as quoted by Microsoft, is a suite of tools for creative designers that gives you the freedom to bring your vision to reality and boosts developer collaboration in the delivery of rich user experiences for the Web, Windows Vista applications and beyond.

  • Expression Web is a professional design tool to create modern, standards-based sites which deliver superior quality on the Web.
  • Expression Blend is the professional design tool to create engaging, Web-connected, user experiences for Windows.
  • Expression Design is a professional illustration and graphic design tool that lets you build compelling elements for both Web and desktop application user interfaces.
  • Expression Media is a professional asset management tool to visually catalogue and organize all your digital assets for effortless retrieval and presentation.

To kick start off Microsoft Designertopia 2007, Eric Zocher the General Manager Expression from Microsoft alongside gave a talk on how Rich media on the Web has become a key component in the way consumers and business users process information on the Internet and how Microsoft’s application platform provides an infrastructure and tools for the effective Web delivery of this rich content. As well as this, Eric Zocher also talked about how rich media experiences drive user satisfaction and create real business opportunities. He demonstrated this with Brad Becker by showing off Burton’s new website and other inspirational samples that demonstrated the power of UX and its business value.


After the welcome, Keynote and lunch the first session I went to was on the creative track and was titled “Look into the future of networked and mobile entertainment” and presented by Michael Zyda an Expert in Virtual Reality and Computer Engineering.

In my opinion this session was pretty cool for a first session as he talked about such things as the world of virtual reality, 3Dimensional networks and about how the future is entertainment, so if companies wish to gain competitive advantage they will need to apply VR and 3D technology to the Internet, digital television and wireless communications.

Some things mentioned include:

  • Community Games such as World of Warcraft (WOW) and Second Life
  • Classic Games on mobile devices such as those by EA Mobile which was formerly known as JAMDAT Mobile, Inc. before it was acquired by EA in December of 2005.
  • Bio sensor and signal processing system devices such as those by NeuroSky and emotiv for picking up brain waves, these devices could be used to only allow you to pass a certain stage of a game when you arrive at a certain emotional state.
  • Within 3 years Mobile phones will have reached 1TB of storage space, which I must say really doesn’t look like it will happen, more GB’s yes but not 1TB, it’s just not possible within three years to get there not at the rate we are going at the moment.


The second session I went to was this time on the technical track and was titled “Designing Rich Web Experiences with Microsoft’s Web Platform and Tools” and presented by Jeff King from Microsoft.

In this session Jeff walked us through creating and enriching a customer facing Web experience for a demo site called Burton Snowboards. This was all done by designing it using Expression Web and integrating that design into Visual Studio and ASP.NET 2.0. After that he enriched the site leveraging ASP.NET AJAX and finally pushing rich media and interactivity farther than ever before by joining it up with WPF/E.

I think I learnt some pretty interesting things in this session and now that I have a free copy of Expression Web, I’m free to play around with it and see what I can do.


My next and last session of this first day was titled “How do trends and technologies affect design?” and was presented by Cordell Ratzlaff the Director of User Experience at Frogdesign.

This was yet again another interesting session as he also talked about how the environment should be integrated with Virtual reality (VR) and about how design is intricately linked to culture and technology, both of which are changing rapidly.


And this is where the first day ended but not without a cool networking reception with plenty of drink and people to talk to.

One by one we started to leave, but that didn’t mean the fun had to end there, later on myself and Paul Kiddie a fellow MSP met up for dinner and for some drinks, and hey paul, thanks for your patience while I took pics along the way in London. All uploaded to My Designertopia Flickr Set of course!


On my second day at Designertopia there were now five sessions to choose from both the creative and technical tracks so for my first session I choose a technical track session titled “The Windows Vista user experience” and presented by Tjeerd Hoek a User Experience Design Director from Microsoft.

I was a little sceptical at first about choosing this session over the other session called TechnoCraft as I was worried it might just be about the same old stuff that I already knew but in fact it was quite different, because not only did he talk about how Windows Vista’s new design features like transparency, 3D visualisation and Live gadgets support a better user experience but he talked about how Windows Vista was designed!

So overall it was yet again another pretty cool session to start of another day of Designertopia 2007.


My second session I choose was yet again on the technical track and was titled “Introduction to UniveRSS a WPF showcase application” and presented by Thorsten Künnemann and Kalle Vänskä from Futurecom interactive AG.

In this session Thorsten Künnemann and Kalle Vänskä talked about how WPF and XAML could create some pretty stunning 3D visualizations of your applications and how easy it really was to implement them. They demonstrated this by showing us how UniveRSS was built. UniveRSS being a 3D RSS feed reader for Windows Vista which leverages WPF and provides a new way of visualizing RSS feeds and their content.

All pretty interesting but there’s definitely some ways on how UniveRSS could be improved.


My third session I choose was yet again another technical session and was titled “demonstration of Real World WPF projects using Expression Blend” and presented by Carrie Longson from Microsoft.

In this session Carrie demoed a series of real world WPF projects she has been working on using Microsoft Expression Blend. The projects covered a variety of areas, such as sports coverage, media, transportation and education.

In my opinion this was definitely one of the best sessions.


My next and fourth second session was this time on the creative track and was titled “Multidimensional Innovation” and presented by Lars Engman the Design Consultant to IKEA.

This talk was very different to what I thought it would be about, as he talked quite a lot about himself and how he had been in design since 1968 and had been at Ikea since 1975. He also explained Ikea’s design process and how they carry how certain stages.

So though I have to admit that there were some parts that made me a little sleepy, probably due to the fact that I was already full up with information, it was definitely a different but interesting presentation. I’m sure I will value the knowledge acquired for years to come.


For my fifth and last session of the day I attended the last technical track of the day titled “Designing for Media Center, Mashing up with Windows Live Services” and presented by Simon Davies an Architect Evangelist from Microsoft.

This session talked about how Windows Media Centre in Windows Vista can be used to create compelling applications driven from the remote control and how those application experiences can be extended to Media Centre Extenders such as the XBOX 360, he also talked about Virtual Earth and showed us an example of how this can be combined with other emerging Windows Live Services to create an interesting mashup scenario.


So overall I can definitely say that going to Microsoft’s Designertopia 2007 Conference as a Microsoft Student Partner was a great experience, and that I would definitely love to go again, however that may not happen again as this time it was free as a Microsoft Student Partner but unfortunately next year I won’t still be an MSP so I would have to pay!

So hey if anyone who organises the event can get me in next year in exchange for helping out, I’m all up for it, it would be pretty cool to help out at a event, especially as its the kind of think I love doing and would love to do when I graduate!

5 thoughts on “Microsoft Designertopia 2007

Laurent Van Winckel February 7, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Woo nice, long post, Darren 🙂 Seems like you enjoyed it. And the pics are greats :O thanks for uploading them 😛

Tjeerd talks Vista UX at Designertopia – istartedsomething February 17, 2007 at 9:44 am

[…] Dear Tjeerd stalking diary, today I found pictures of Tjeerd’s presentation slides from Microsoft’s Designertopia event in London from earlier this month. Special thanks to Darren Straight who is a Microsoft Student Partner who attended the event and uploaded his photos. […]

Yousef’s blog » Designertopia February 22, 2007 at 1:12 pm

[…] I went to Designertopia as MSP (Microsoft Student Partner). I met several other MSPs at the conference, mostly from the UK of course. One of them was Darren Straight, who I also met during a Windows Live Session in London in May 2006.  Check out his blog for a more detailed report on the conference.  […]

Clonazepam | spunkygidget June 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

[…] London. I was there for my European conference for the Microsoft Expression Launch : designertopia. […]

Clonazepam ⋆ @Ang the @SpunkyGidget presents her Choose Your Own Adventure Diary January 13, 2018 at 8:14 pm

[…] London. I was there for my European conference for the Microsoft Expression Launch : designertopia. […]

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