Michael Gough, the vice president of experience design at Adobe who spearheaded the company’s ventures into tablet drawing hardware like the Ink & Slide pen and ruler, and quirky iOS apps like Adobe Brush, is going to Microsoft.
As Microsoft explains in a press release on the matter, Gough will become “corporate vice president of design for the Applications and Services Group (ASG)” where he will lead design across products like Office 365. In this new role, Gough will report to Julie Larson-Green, chief experience officer.
At Adobe, Gough and I had at least three conversations through 2014 in which he mentioned his newfound freedom. The company had moved to the subscription-based Adobe Cloud a year earlier, so Adobe wasn’t relying on his innovations for immediate revenue. In turn, his department–where he led about 100 cross-discipline creators, from sculptors to traditional designers, all quarantined from the rest of the company in a large low-lit hanger–could develop ideas with the long-term health of the industry in mind. When I toured it in November of last year, I met designers who were playing with quirky apps they’d coded in less than a day, and saw demos mixing iPads and TV-sized touch screens. It’s that loss lead, experimental mentality that allowed Gough to bring the aluminum Ink & Slide drawing platform to market, even though the platform wasn’t likely to be a hit out of the gate.
Now as Gough heads to Microsoft and is tasked with wrangling Office 365–a multi-platform productivity app that’s key to the future of Microsoft’s revenue stream–he will no doubt have to lead in a different climate, one where invention has to equal profitability, and the competition is a free service offered by Google.