Reader and informant Yotam Hadar brought an interesting site to our attention recently. Built by Fallon, the Travelers “In Synch Challenge” site is a quiz-based approach to learning about home and office safety. It’s incredibly similar to a site I saw several months ago called The Bad Luck Test created by Swedish studio Forsman and Bodenfors.
Both sites employ 3D and low-level interactivity to motivate the user, but Fallon’s effort takes a more cinematic approach, using camera moves and composited actors to add a sense of drama missing from Forsman and Bodenfors’ site.
This isn’t a critique of The Back Luck Test. Far from it. F&B did a great job and deserve to be commended. I’m simply saying that Fallon’s site is the natural evolution of this approach to web design. It builds on what F&B did and puts more of a broadcast spin on it. F&B’s site, by contrast, could be described more as traditional Flash-based web design with some very nice CG imagery.
Freedom Interactive Design: Would You Like a Website?
In the same vein as the Travelers site is Freedom Interactive Design’s Would You Like a Website?
In this instance, the compositing is essentially a reversed version of the Fallon site, with the live action creating a context for the work. Some of the tracking’s a little dodgy, but generally it’s well done, and the concept is pretty entertaining.
Thanks for the tip, Ross.
This Was Supposed to be the Future
The sites above are only two examples of a growing list of sites mixing 3D, motion graphics, live action and interactivity to create compelling (or at least novel) experiences. They’re not really new, but they’re getting more impressive by the day.
And yet I still feel frustrated by the current state of convergence. The lack of ultrabroadband penetration creates a glass ceiling for truly revolutionary mass market hybrid experiences. As it stands now, broadcast designers are forced to think within the rather rigid box of the browser, often treating it as a movie screen with hotspots. This is not unlike the trend of early web design in which sites attempted to basically become hyperlinked versions of their print-based counterparts. We try so hard to think outside of one box only to realize that we are still stuck in another, larger box.
Tools like After Effects (on the broadcast side) and Flash (on the web side) are inching closer and closer to each other in terms of overlapping functionality and roundtrip editing. And while Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia promises to expedite this merging of tools, the fact is that, in the US at least, the infrastructure behind our delivery mechanisms is woefully limiting. What sucks is that there are several viable technologies that could potentially grant high-speed, inexpensive wireless internet access to millions of people, but since these technologies don’t fit within the short-sighted business goals of telecoms (and because the FCC is merely a puppet for these businesses), our creative growth, both as designers and consumers, is stunted.
The Good News, a.k.a. The Gospel According to Motion
Okay, I know I’m ranting, but I recently did see a very encouraging development. While riding up the escalator in the Tottenham Court station in London, I noticed that instead of dozens of posters lining the wall, there were dozens of flat-panel monitors. Dozens is kind of an understatement: there were a crapload of them, all synced to show the same video at the same time, so as you rode the escalator up you had a continuous video experience.
Motion graphics, in effect, had supplanted static graphic design.
I’m not sure if this shift if happening in the States yet; I’ll keep my eyes peeled while I’m in New York. But I am sure that the floodgates are open. In the next couple decades, every surface we formerly regarded as the domain of static design will increasingly become the playground of motion. This is exceptionally good news for motion graphics designers. We are positioned to ride a huge wave of growth in the design industry as this paradigm shift becomes a reality in train stations, airports, waiting rooms, living rooms—even on the covers of newspapers and magazines. And don’t get me started on mobile phones.
It’s not as far away as you might think. In fact, I think everything I’ve said here is so self-evident it borders on being obsolete. What I think isn’t so obvious is that the rise of motion graphics as the lingua franca of communication design corresponds to a McLuhan-like shift back towards a culture of storytelling (albeit storytelling powered by imagery, instead of auditory experience). Motion is inherently imbued with a narrative impulse, however abstract it might be. Motion is dynamic and fluid, like life itself.
In short, motion designers are the most relevant communicators for the 21st century.