Published on June 9, 2000
Lately I have been working at Animal Logic with a great team and an excellent team leader. Andy Polaine from Antirom fame has pointed out many of his views on interactivity to me, and much has rubbed off.
There has been a lot of talk about technology and human experience. Many people believe that technology is bad in the sense that it is making us more and more detached from humanity. The web has much to do with technology. Take cinema for example: films were once genuinely hand crafted and dealt with humanity. Today many films are all technology and deal almost entirely with technology.
Looking at the multitude of design related sites on the web, it's easy to see that many look virtually the same. Many have the same style and fashion about them, whether it be the 45-degree angle craze, the extruded to death 3D style or the little boxes and arrows style.
Why do people conform to fashion and style?
Is it because they find it too hard to do something original? If so, that is simply lame! I think it's very easy to create something original. I don't mean something new, just something fresh and personal.
I have said this before, every individual is different. If every website designer created their personal sites from personal inspiration, their memories and lives, then these sites would all be true to the "personal site" category. They would all be amazingly different and give insight into the individual. Instead, we find a bombardment of different people, different individuals with the same sites. All Splash, all Flash and all 'coming soon'.
So lets take this a step further.
If you look at all these sites which go overboard on the style factor--the slick techno look and feel; lines, arrows, angles etc.--and then take a look at them again ten years from now, you might say "Damn, hahahahaha! That looks like something out of early 2000!" But if you designed something now with a humane experience, it would likely stand the test of time and mean a lot more to people than just a nice look and feel.
Suppose you made someone laugh with your site. If we look at that same site ten years from now, most likely people will still laugh. It's the humane experience that is timeless here. It means something; it says something, whereas fashion seems to say nothing much... it just dates.
Let's take a look at an example.
Oven Digital, http://www.oven.com/
Go to the top right menu CONTACTS, this drops down a list of different cities in which an OVEN is located. (BTW, this does not work in IE on Mac!).
View them all. And see that while they are all great, all of them except 'London' are just exercises in style and fashion--flashy stylish text and arrows flying across your screen. But the London flash intro is quirky and fun. The camera pans across a room, you see slippers on a rug, a table with a cup of tea and sugar. Clicking on the sugar cubes make them jump into the cup, clicking on the cup makes the tea level go down while you hear a big "sllllluurrrrrpppp!"
So, what's the difference in those Flash introductions? The London intro immediately has elements that you can relate to and interact with while the other intros leave you watching some flashy stylized elements until they stop.
I hope I have scratched the surface for some of you out there. Don't conform to fashion! Look deeper and say something that means something! It's not hard. A picture of your big head on a page would say more than just another Designer's Republic rip-off "website coming soon" Splash screen!
Justin Fox is a fine artist and designer creating visual forms through experimentation and collaboration. Justin created the Australian InFront and was the director of DFM Design Fix Media for 4 years. He is currently the head of design at Animal Logic (Interactive division FOX Studios, Australia). His personal site can be found at http://www.cia.com.au/dfm/tintin.