Jensen Harris: Windows 8’s lockscreen photos are design easter eggs

In the same UX WEEK 2012 presentation where Jensen Harris showed off some early mockups of Windows 8, he concluded his talk with an interesting tidbit about the design of Windows 8.

The default lock-screen images that shipped in every copy of Windows 8 are actually Easter eggs carefully picked by the design team.

Jensen explains, “every one of them was selected as an Easter egg to showcase one of the (design) principles. … Something no one’s going to notice, we’ve encoded the principles of our design language into Windows 8 itself.”

Clockwise from the top left…

  • Bee hive / Win as one (internal motto) – bees working together to do something greater than just the sum of the parts
  • Colored lines / Authentically digital – the idea of no ornamentation
  • Train / Fast and fluid – beautiful train zooming around the bend into the city
  • Shell / Do more with less – beauty of what you can do with basic shapes that are in nature
  • Piano / pride in craftsmanship – ivory keys of a piano that has been hand carved and polished

And now you know.

13 insightful thoughts

  1. What about that terrible semi cartoon/semi photo of Seattle that is forced to be the default system lock screen image and shows regardless if you choose your own image when you have multiple users?

    Every time I see that image I shudder a bit in disgust.

    So, what ‘easter egg’ is that one? “Resistance is futile… oh, and we have bad taste?” Sigh… -_-

    Luckily you can go into the system files change a few permissions/ownerships around and replace it with your own image, but you shouldn’t have to go that far. It’s like forcing a brand image on your computer, but in this case the brand image looks like it was created by failing 6th art student.

    1. Oh holy cow you’re so right. I actually found this site just because I just reinstalled 8 and more so than feeling a need to complain about 8 not loading one day mysteriously on me and forcing me to reinstall or the one program I use from adobe cs4 not being compatible in 8 or 8’s various nonsensical functionality redesigns, the one thing I want to rant about to a fellow human being is that default lock screen. It’s so awful it just defies all natural laws of taste and logic.

      I’m happy with 8 for the most part, much of that happiness coming from the simpler, more aesthetically neutral interface, and all of the other lock screens featured above look great.

      But that one screen is so horrible it actually makes me hate an otherwise satisfying windows interface just knowing that it exists. It’s that bad, that it makes the rest of 8’s design suck just by existing, even after you’ve removed it.

      I work with graphics a lot and the “6th grader” comment is spot-on. Someone with absolutely no experience with adobe illustrator or photoshop could slap that together in a matter of minutes. The fact that an all-powerful corporation like MS would associate themselves with it just bewilders me. Maybe one of the lead developers’ kid made it and everyone around the office thought it would be cute to make it the official lock screen.

    1. I should have said that instead of poor taste, it’s just very different than what I would have chosen to ship with Windows. :S

      1. I think it’s fair enough to say in the world of art/design there are some things that are universally accepted as being pleasing to see and even other items that are neutral/benign to the point where people don’t have a reaction in either direction.

        Those are the types of designs that make for a good candidate to use as a default image for the world’s more commonly used operating system.

        That Seattle lock screen image has neither of those attributes by any means. In fact I’d argue it has the opposite effect.

        Furthermore, it’s not that a Seattle photo would necessarily be bad, or even using a vector based image for that matter; it’s that the actual final image is just poorly designed, terribly executed, and well… ugly.

        I actually question who made it. Do they hold a degree in design? I sure hope not. Was it just somebody messing around one day and somehow an exec in charge thought it would be a good idea to put it on hundreds of millions of PCs by default and then force them to keep it if they have more than one user?

        It looks like something you would try to make using power point and clip art. Even looking at it right now I’m struggling to find anything good to say about it.

        The closest I can come to is to say that the detail on the Space Needle is nice, but then the rest of the vector image looks like shit, with mix-matched styles, all of which don’t fit with the photo in the background of the mountain range.

        I have to imagine there is a “reason” why someone in the end decided to go with it as the default; I just hope that whoever that was, they aren’t allowed to make to types of decisions anymore.

  2. To change the lock screen when using multiple logins:

    The lock screen is stored in:


    You need to turn on the Show Files and Folders option from Folders Options in order to see it.

    Here’s how to change the sign out screen:

    go to folder C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows
    Right click on SystemData ->Properies->Security->Advanced->Change
    Enter your user name (You must be in Administrators group), then click on Check Names->OK
    Place a tick on “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects”, click Apply ->OK, Yes->OK->OK->OK

    Go to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\SystemData\S-1-5-18\ReadOnly\LockScreen_Z

    You will see 2 images of the Seattle Space needle in this folder, To view these 2 images.

    Right click on it->Properties->Securities->Edit->Add
    Enter your user name, Click on Check Names->OK->OK->OK

    Replace these 2 images with whatever images you want, make sure they have the same names and resolution as shown
    in LockScreen_Z.

    IMPORTANT: After swapping the images, Right click on image->Properties->Securities->Edit
    Make sure SYSTEM is in the user list with permission shown below:
    (If SYSTEM is not in the list, you have to add it to the list using the 2 steps above)


    Sign out, you should see the new Image.

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