Microsoft ‘Clippy’ Designer Says He Was ‘so Embarrassed’ by Creation

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  • The creator of Microsoft’s divisive assistant “Clippy” said he was “so embarrassed” by it.
  • Kevan Atteberry told Great Big Story he would keep Clippy off his design portfolio.
  • He told the YouTube channel he’s since found pride in the “annoying” digital character.

The man behind Microsoft’s notorious “Clippy” assistant said he used to be “so embarrassed” by his creation that he’d leave it out of his design portfolio.

Speaking to the YouTube channel Great Big Story, Kevan Atteberry described how he came up with the “annoying” paperclip-shaped character that made its debut in Office 97. 

The process involved whittling down 260 potential designs, Atteberry said. Microsoft even called in Stanford psychologists to ask members of the public which one they found the most trustworthy or humorous.

Atteberry’s design came out on top, much to the annoyance of some Microsoft staffers, he told Great Big Story.

But many users found Clippy’s functionality to be “too basic and annoying,” he said, leaving him “so embarrassed.” 

Clippy was phased out and then eventually removed entirely from Office 2007. Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft’s former chief experience officer, told Insider in 2016 she decided to kill Clippy because it could only offer scripted responses.

But Clippy has managed to find a way into some users’ hearts, and in 2021, Microsoft said the character could make a comeback as an emoji following a social-media campaign.

“He’s a guy that just wants to help, and he’s a little bit too helpful sometimes — and there’s something fun and vulnerable about that,” Atteberry said, adding that Clippy had helped to open doors for him as he continued his career as an illustrator.

“It doesn’t matter if you like him or hate him. As long as you know who he is, I have cache,” Atteberry joked to Great Big Story.

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise