By Thomas Kohnstamm
Job title: User Experience Designer, Windows
Earlier this year, a shockingly good Window Phone 7 fan video was making the rounds online and creating a lot of chatter on social media.
While the video didn’t make it to TV (yet), Brandon scored himself a pretty decent consolation prize: a full-time job as a User Experience (UX) Designer in Windows.
Not too shabby, Brandon.
I sat down with Brandon at his new office on the Redmond campus to discuss how he surprised Microsoft with his WP7 video and how Microsoft surprised him with its commitment to design.
Your work is really impressive. Where’d you get your skills?
I’ve been interested in design, technology and music since I was a little kid growing up in South Florida.
I studied design at Full Sail University and also learned a lot about motion graphics, computer animation and compositing. I’m always looking for a new challenge.
Did you ever think that your video would land you a job at Microsoft?
People are always complimenting me on “my plan to get a job at Microsoft.” Honestly, I wasn’t looking to come and work here. I didn’t even know that Microsoft had high-level design opportunities.
Where did you want to work?
I had recently graduated and was interning at Full Sail while I sorted out my next step. I was pretty focused on getting into the film industry, but – more importantly –I wanted to go where I could make an impact.
How’d you get the idea to make the video then?
My cousin and I are very close and have always shared a passion for technology. He’s a big “Microsoft guy” and had a new Windows Phone 7.
I was amazed by the principles of motion design that the phone exhibited; it was the first time I had ever seen a mobile device go that route. As a flipped through the phone, I started to imagine the motion graphics with music behind them.
I like to create all sorts of different things, but making music is my “foundation.” I always have a soundtrack coursing through my head. When I am doing things, even regular day-to-day things, I add music in my mind – especially music timed to movement.
I told my cousin about my idea and he encouraged me to turn it into a video.
How long did it take you to make?
A couple of weeks. And towards the end, I wasn’t sleeping very much. I finished it, posted it on YouTube and some social media and then crashed.
I had the first solid night of sleep in a while and woke up to find out that the video had already gone viral. Hashtags and everything. I mean, it really blew up.
That’s when you started getting calls from Microsoft?
Yeah, it was crazy. All of a sudden, I was speaking with five different people at Microsoft.
They were like, “Can you make another video for Mix11?”
And Microsoft brought you out to the event in Las Vegas?
Yes. It was a very cool experience, but also surreal.
I couldn’t believe it was all happening until I was up on the stage in Vegas. And next thing I knew, I was out here in Redmond, interviewing for design roles.
Is the company pretty different from what you imagined?
I’m impressed by how much youthful influence we have on the team. There’s a lot to learn from people who’ve been on the team for a while, but they also listen to us and really value our ideas.
There’s a devotion to design here. The focus on design runs much deeper than at a lot of agencies known only for their creative work.
What would you say to other young designers who are starting their careers?
While agency work or something like film can be fascinating, Windows is where it’s at – it is the base for everything.
Not only do I challenge myself as a designer every day, but I know that my work is really going to impact peoples’ lives around the world.
Brandon’s design site: www.brandonfoy.tv
Brandon’s music site: www.phnkmusic.com
Listen to Brandon’s music here: www.soundcloud.com/phnk