by Arturo Toledo, Sr. Product Manager, Silverlight Design Audience

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Europe as part of the Microsoft REMIX Tour 2009. REMIX is basically the little brother (or sister) event of Microsoft MIX – our annual event in Las Vegas during which we show all of our latest and greatest technologies for web design and web development. It was an amazing experience to visit Brussels, Helsinki, Vienna and Lisbon and meet so many people (both designers and developers) who are interested in Silverlight and Expression Blend.

On the last stop of the tour – Lisbon – I met a very interesting group of folks who call themselves Mix and Blend (check out their cool Silverlight site and their portfolio). Mix and Blend is the name of their design shop and they help software development companies with the creation of the user interface and user experience of software applications and websites using Expression Blend. “We do the Blend work for development companies who do not have designers in their teams,” said Sérgio Ferreira, CTO.

we%20blend%20for%20you%201_thumb

From left to right: João Bandarra, João Albuquerque, Sergio Ferreira, Vitor Costa, Nuno Leitão and Emerson Ferreira

Talking to Mix and Blend put me in a Beach Boys mood (for a full multimedia experience play this song in the background while reading the rest of the article). All the guys in this team were wearing a cool black t-shirt that said We Blend for You. I talked to them to find out more about who they were and what they do with Expression Blend. Mix and Blend is a group of surfers – not web surfers but ocean wave surfers - that includes mainly designers but also developers. The designers in Mix and Blend like to spend time on the beach riding the waves. The developers mentioned they do not surf but they enjoy drinking beer while designers are out there in the ocean. A well-balanced team as you can see :). Talking to this group of creatives, designers, and developers, I couldn’t help but think of Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in the old classic Point Break (1991). Although this gang doesn’t rob any banks (that I know of), they report getting the same thrill by using Expression Blend to create user experiences. Sounds like fun? It is – and it’s also a good business.

In the Ocean Look website, for example, We Blend for You merged its two passions – Surf + Silverlight – by designing this website for the surfing community in Portugal. They designed a great-looking site that, among other features, provides weather status and live camera feeds showing the conditions of beaches in real time.

we%20blend%20for%20you%202_thumb

In an upcoming project for one of the most emblematic venues in Portugal, Campo Pequeno, a bullfight arena, shopping center and special events location, Mix and Blend explores the use of Silverlight and Blend to successfully produce a contemporary experience that involves juxtaposing a traditional activity like bullfighting with today’s more modern activities (e.g. movie theaters and music concerts). The site is expected to go live shortly.

we%20blend%20for%20you%203_thumb

Mix and Blend has also produced the official website for a highly popular musician in Portugal, Rodrigo Leão. It is truly a multimedia site built with Silverlight and Blend – a .NET site that mixes media of all sorts, from photography to illustration, video and audio – rich media that allows visitors to enjoy the musical talents of Rodrigo and other musicians.

we%20blend%20for%20you%204_thumb

By using Blend, this design studio has found a way to reuse its existing creative and design skills to help .NET shops and as well as to create its own projects. Silverlight is still a relatively new technology but its adoption numbers amongst developers are growing very quickly because it is simply .NET, one of the most popular development technologies in the world. Developers feel at home. Silverlight enables the creation of not only powerful experiences that run on Windows, Mac and Linux (and every popular browser) but also rich interactive multimedia experiences. For this capability, Silverlight requires user experience design understanding and practice. Silverlight needs designers; therefore designers have become some pretty popular people within the .NET world. Everyone wants a designer! This has created a big opportunity in the last couple years for designers who, in addition to Flash and Photoshop skills, have developed Expression Blend skills. Mix and Blend has effectively leveraged this new market opportunity for designers. They can be creative and make their business grow – all while continuing to surf. You can watch the full interview video here, and drop Sergio an email if you need design and user experience support with your project.

we%20blend%20for%20you%205_thumb

The Microsoft office in Portugal has helped this new design business and other design agencies to meet and collaborate with our existing business development partners. At Microsoft, we are experts in match making – helping developers find good designers to work with to produce spectacular Silverlight websites. I think this is an interesting story for other designers as well as small and big agencies around the world: reuse your creative skills, learn how to use Expression Blend and expand your creative services portfolio by producing Silverlight experiences. You don’t have to become a developer or stop creating Flash websites. It’s about extending your existing skills into a new market for designers, the .NET world. Being a creative individual or agency is what makes you popular in the.NET world. Drop me a note in this blog, twitter or contact your local Microsoft office if you are interested in getting started with Silverlight. Also check out this blog post with the Top 20 Online Resources to get started with Silverlight.