Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

A Little Bit of Personality

A Little Bit of Personality

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Greetings!  Based on the data we’re seeing we know a lot of folks on MSDN/TechNet/Connect are probably busy using the RC (Release Candidate) for Windows 7.  Thank you!!!  And of course many folks are looking forward to downloading the RC and using it as we expand the downloads—we’re looking forward to the participation and seeing the data that will help us validate the RC.  We’ve talked about making sure that you are “in control” of Windows 7 and one of the ways that people are in control of their PC is to personalize the experience.  With the RC you’re going to see some of the new personalization “elements” in Windows 7.  In this post, Denise Trabona and Samuel Moreau of our product design team provide a behind the scenes look at some of the work.  Be sure to check out the links below the images as you can see a lot more work by these talented artists.  Note, these are just thumbnails for this post so be sure to enjoy the full screen images in the RC.  --Steven

PS: Just a reminder, that just as with the pre-beta and beta we’ll be testing out Windows Update and the system for doing patches and updates.  So along with new drivers you might also see some other updates flowing through the system. 

One of the most exciting parts of engineering Windows 7 has been the wide variety of work that gets done over the course of a full product cycle. As evidenced by the variety of topics just in this blog, one can see that we are hard at work at all levels of the product. For fun, we thought folks might enjoy hearing some of the story behind the new personalization work in Windows 7.

As some folks have noticed, we are unveiling some new personalization content (wallpapers, glass colors and sounds schemes) in the RC build which allows people greater flexibility to personalize their experience. One thing we know is that Windows users love to express themselves by changing the desktop background and like many past releases, Windows 7 includes content in the box that allows you to begin customizing your experience immediately.

A picture speaks a thousand words

In developing the personalization features, we knew that we wanted great content for people to express their personal style. Because the desktop background is such a vibrant surface, we wanted to focus on providing quality content that demonstrated how creative people could be with this feature. When folks send us screenshots using the feedback button, we are regularly inspired by the rich diversity and personality of the wallpapers that people choose.

As we thought about how we wanted to approach personalization in Windows 7, we knew one way was to honor our lineage. In the past photography has been featured heavily Windows. Some of that photography has been quite beautiful and has become a proud tradition we wanted to maintain. In addition, we also wanted to explore new territory and expand our visual palette. In the realm of photography, we kept a theme focused on landscape photography which is our tradition, but added new themes for architecture and nature. Much of the this imagery is from our stock imagery partners, but we also had the good fortune to work with a talented local photographer named Will Austin, who has photographed all over the world on many subjects with an emphasis on architecture. Will’s photos provide a little bit of the local flavor of the Seattle area that we are proud to call home.



Raising the bar of inspiration and delight

With the photography covered, we tried to broaden our coverage to include additional images that would inspire, delight and invigorate people’s imaginations. We wanted to stretch into some new content that felt unique, timely, and with a distinct point of view. Our goal was content that balanced the timelessness of great photography with graphical illustrations that are energetic, modern, and fresh. On top of it all it was also important to achieve a rich variety in the illustrations to appeal to different tastes, genders and ages, color ranges from quiet to loud, and from large compositions to small and detailed.

Inspired by our neighbors in Zune, we worked with an agency called 72 and Sunny to search for illustrators around the world to create one-of-a-kind art work for you to have in Windows 7. In the process of looking through tons of samples, we sought a group of artists whose styles seemed both incredibly varied, to cover the broad diversity we were after, and maintained a common thread that we felt was applicable to the overall tone we were striving to achieve. Then began the fun part, with little more than some simple guiding words (light, energetic, inspiring, optimistic, etc.), the artists went off with a blank canvas to create concept sketches of their original pieces.

Iterate and refine

We still remember the first chance we got to review the artist’s initial sketches and concept work, and right from that moment, we knew that these images were going to be a lot of fun. The next step was to iterate back and forth a few times to make sure certain goals were achieved and get little details just right. For example, a couple of things that were important to us were how the image flowed under the new task bar and striking the right balance between visually compelling, and not too distracting when it came to finding that important file on your desktop. It’s tricky to find the right balance and we were fortunate to have an amazingly talented set of artists and our friends at 72 and Sunny to work with on this project.

Windows is for the whole world

Finally, we wanted to recognize the global audience of Windows by seeking out illustrators with varied backgrounds and styles with the intention of representing and appealing to people all around the world.

With that, we are honored to introduce the amazingly talented artists and the work that they contributed to Windows 7 personalization.




Yuko Kondo
From Japan, now resides in London, England



Katharina Leuzinger
Born to Swiss and Japanese parents in Zurich, Switzerland, Katharina Leuzinger now resides in London, England


Osmand Nosse
Wicklow, Ireland


Klaus Haapaniemi
From Finland, now based in London, England


Chris Sickles of Red Nose Studios
Indiana, United States


Buenos Aires, Argentina


Pomme Chan
Born and educated in Bangkok, Pomme Chan now resides in London, England.


Kustaa Saksi
Amsterdam, Netherlands







Paul Hwang and Benjamin Lee of Nanosphere
Los Angeles, California


Adhemas Batista
From Sao Paulo Brazil, now resides in Los Angeles, California


Kai and Sunny
London, England


Nan Na Hvass
Born to a Danish father and Chinese mother in Swaziland, Africa, Nan Na Hvass now resides in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We hope this post has given you some insight into the Windows 7 content. We also hope that we achieved the goals we set out for ourselves with this element of Windows 7.

-Denise Trabona and Samuel Moreau

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 8 and 4 and type the answer here:
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  • Wow, those wallpapers look like crazy acid trips. Word up, Microsoft.

  • Overall, the work of the Windows Development team has been fantastic.  You have turned out a release candidate that is fast, fun, and exciting.  Great job!!

  • update all previous-version ICONs to win7style


    Many ICONs is previous-version (vista style).

    The style of these previous-version icons does not match that of the new version.


    update all previous-version ICONs to win7style


  • I don't really like a few of the artworks. Then again, not everyone likes everything. It'll be interesting to see how well these new types of wallpapers take on.

  • look grotesque except maybe the last two ones, and the first two pictures (i'm talking about what's shown in this article) and this time i think you mixed up things without thinking of cultural and perception differences with all these horribly childish-cartoonish-anime-crazy-minded looking illustrations. i hope none pass trough in pro and higher SKUs. Come on Microsoft, some of these wallpapers make me feel sick and dizzy just by looking at them, really. I hope I'm the crazy man and everyone else likes them, so help you God.

    Sorry but I had to be honest. I respect your great work but this is crappy.

  • For the first time since Windows 98 I'm using default wallpapers and I'm quite surprised about all these negative comments. While the "Scenes" pack was not to my taste, all others are awesome. The "Characters" pack was a hit on Digg.

  • Hey, I like that Windows is getting a bit more personality.  It could use some humor, too.  I remember many years ago when I was installing Red Hat Linux for the first time, the installation was naming the different packages that were being copied over, and each one had a description.  Some of the descriptions seemed pretty funny, and I thought to myself, "you won't see that in Windows."

    I know that since Windows has such a large audience, there's a need to be careful about perception differences between cultures.  But anyone who gets offended by the backgrounds above needs to get a life.

  • Speaking of personalization, you really need to fix it so when in Aero Glass mode, a user can still set the colors of menus running in Legacy apps.  The default baby blue color you guys have chose is very annoying.  I'd like to make it so my legacy apps use the old WinXP Zune Theme colortable.

  • I really love the personality that's being added into Windows 7 along with all the other work!!

    The abstract and unique designs provide users with more choice and can tailor to just about anyone. The designs don't need to appeal to all, but knowing that their is a large selection is assuring that Microsoft is focusing their attention to the user.

    Good work!

  • Much like many people that have commented, i am delighted that Microsoft is 'gettin' some personality', and i am equally surprised at all the negative comments..

    Personally  i think the larger selection of wallpapers is a really good thing, and i know that when i download the RC i will be using one of the default.

    Although, i must agree with 'fuchueh'..

    i was expecting some new icons as well..

    when i first upgraded to Vista the new icons where dazzling and exciting, can everyone expect the same from Windows 7?

  • sorry, but putting a picture on the desktop doesn't constitute "personalizing" to me. anybody can put a picture on the desktop, who cares?

    what about being able to put the ie icon on the desktop? how about getting rid of full row select? or the ability to have explorer windows open in the size i want them, instead of the size "you" want them (all he same size)? why do you block the ability to change the version number of an xls file in file properties and allow it for an xlsm file?

    this is customizing the os to my needs, not some stupid picture on the desktop, or any other useless aero effects.

  • @GaryK:

    I rather like the addition of these crazy new desktop backgrounds. I wouldn't want to have all of them necessarily on my desktop at some point, but I'm sure someone will.

    Not everyone is a performance freak, so lots of eye candy and fun makes for a more enjoyable windows experience for those people.

    I say good on you, Microsoft developers.

  • Okay...

    YES, YES, YES!! I love this!! Finally :) !!

    On a side note, I still woulda loved a tweaked UXtheme.dll to the XP-extent, but as long as things become flexible, let's see how things might turn out?

    Oh, and think that there might be options that turn Explorer.exe into a WINDOWS-ONLY manager? We have a desktop, but no icons (no constant managing needed for it), and I do believe it saves resources. I believe Ubuntu's Openbox windows manager does this, and let me say, it is so much speedier than even XFCE (due to the nature of desktop-vs-window managers).

    Overall, amazing job. And please, pass on a congrats from me to the photographers. I like how you guys are expanding your horizon -- maybe now MS notices that we aren't all inert and apathetic users ;) ?

  • I honestly don't see much here. Wallpapers, sounds, cursors, icons could have been done since XP. Glass Color in Vista. The only major difference is slideshow and the shipped content. Why not make MSStyles for the themes.

    For example. The Architecture theme: Make an architecture type MSStyles.

  • I like that you're adding something less...corporate.. as far as backgrounds go.

    Total side note, any idea what happened to the Microsoft Generic 802.11b/g/n USB driver in the RC? It was in the earlier beta builds but it seems to have disappeared (which seems odd..)

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