Encarta was a big part of Microsoft’s consumer CD business in the late twentieth century. Before the internet provided enough horsepower for rich multimedia content, Microsoft developed compact-disc based consumer products like the Encarta suite of encyclopedia and educational products. Fresh out of design school, I joined the Encarta team at Microsoft.
“Cool Tools” was a set of 300 x 300 pixel topic-based content modules displayed on affiliate websites to promote Encarta’s encyclopedia products. The design goal was to provide a visually engaging and slightly interactive way to draw eyeballs from another’s site to theirs. The set of Cool Tools looked something like this: