One of the most iconic pieces of software design ever is the Clippy (or Clippit) assistant that was baked into Microsoft Office up until 2007. Users had and still have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Clippy. Despite the assistant no longer being included in Microsoft Office, Clippy has lived on with a variety of different fan-made renditions, fiction stories, and more.
Now, the original illustrator of Clippy, Kevan Atteberry, has sat down with Motherboard for a full interview…
Atteberry offered up some interesting details about the design process of Clippy, noting that there were over 250 candidates. He explained that Microsoft and the designers worked with social psychologists from Stanford to make a final decision, which is interesting considering most people ended up hating Clippy:
I originally worked on a project called Microsoft Bob, which was probably their biggest failure ever. When Bob crashed, we took the character help over to Word. We designed about 250 characters, and I had about 15 or 20 of ’em in there. Through working with some social psychologists out of Stanford, we spent six months going through them all, whittling them down.
They fucking hate him! And you know what, that’s fine. Any press is good press. But to be honest, not everybody hates him. I get a dozen pieces of fan mail from people that just loved Clippy.
Perhaps most notably, however, Atteberry himself designed Clippy but then never had to see the character again. As it turns out, Clippy was designed on a Mac and Atteberry is a Mac user:
As much as people hate Clippy, when I meet [fans], they say, “Oh god I HATED THAT! That’s so cool!” But I totally understand the annoyance factor there. I didn’t really experience it myself, because I’m a Mac guy. In fact, I designed Clippy on a Mac.
From there, the interview gets a bit weird. The focus shifts to Clippy’s reputation now, such as the pregnant Clippy art that you may have seen making the rounds on Twitter recently. Furthermore, Clippy has become the subject of “erotica.”
The full interview is worth a read and can be found here.
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