If you look over the internet today, you might think
it’s a wasteland of shopping carts and corporate
catalogs—but there is hope. You may not yet have
the plum client who has money to spend on unusual
navigation, a robotic system or killer 3D animation.
However, you can always point to great examples
of fun, engaging sites like these as selling tools
to encourage your clients to buy your best ideas.
Featured here are a wide variety of interactive and
3D experiences to inspire your design and intrigue
your creative muse.
Flashforward Film Festival website finalist ECCO
is an entertaining combination of live-action, photographs,
computer-rendered 3D landscapes and
animated 2D cartoons. ECCO is a shoe company,
so what would be a better metaphor than a character
strolling on top of the world? The ECCO World site
is based on the idea of an endless walk through different environments. The character is a liveaction
loop of a walking figure; it starts out
as a female character in casual dress, walking
in a field. If you choose a male character from
the menu at the bottom, the site loads not only
a walking male character, but also the shoes from
the men’s collection. If you click on the business
menu at the top, the character switches clothes,
the landscape changes to a business environment,
and so on.
A good design like this enables the user to
imagine owning and using the product himself.
Based upon one simple concept—the viewer will
want to buy the shoes once he has “walked” in
them—the results are convincing and eye-catching.
An exceptional example of the power of interactivity,
the website focuses on the places and ways the
product is actually used, making a joy out of the
shopping experience. Now where did they put the
Toshiba’s experimental website allows the user to
interact with cartoon characters by drawing symbols
on top of them. This is a case of a quasi-interesting
interface idea that is lacking the glue of a real metaphor
or concept. Yes, the interactivity of the site is
experimental, and they want the consumer to understand
Toshiba’s products are innovative. However,
there is no correlation between any of the elements
on the site and the reason for the site (information
leading to sales).
How do the cartoon characters relate to the products?
How does drawing a zigzag or spiral over the
character convey the concept of creative innovation? I
think this site might appeal to a child, but to an adult
who wants information about Toshiba’s products it’s a
waste of time. It’s not appropriate to put a children’s
game interface on top of a technology site, unless it is
fun, engaging, clever and, most of all, related through
concept or metaphor to the purpose of the site.
In delightful contrast, please find time to play
awhile on Fontpark’s typographical site. Japan’s
Morisawa created a website that provides an engaging
interactive and video experience. The idea is to
take the standard Japanese characters and form new
pictures from the elements. When you are done you
can submit your design to the gallery. Or you can
simply sit back and watch the animated creations of
other users as their pieces are turned into animals
and faces. After watching so many 3D masterpieces,
the elegance and simplicity of black on white is
soothing to this designer’s eyes and sensibilities.
And for those couch potatoes, the ultimate fantasy:
a flying La-Z-Boy. You can do everything (well,
almost) you need to do from the uber-lounge chair
of an American Airlines flagship flight. A floating carousel menu at the top rotates to show you how
you never need to leave your assigned seating in
order to watch a movie, sleep, work or eat. You won’t
want to ever get up again. You probably won’t even
care where the plane is going, as long as you can stay
seated in your comfortable chair.
This site is a fantastic fantasy flight of the imagination
that does what all good design and branding do:
engage the imaginations and wallets of consumers. The
download times are a bit long, but the 3D and motion
graphics of the seat folding and pieces of furniture flying
around the interior are quite entertaining. I don’t
think the corner office with the wall of windows comes
with the seat purchase, though. They should include a
disclaimer to that effect.
Sony Pictures’ 30 Days of Night is a movie made
from a graphic novel. This site advertises the movie
with graphics, trailers, downloads and a basic shoot-’em-up game. The site shows the mood of the movie
by preserving the style of the original graphic novel,
but the scenes load so slowly you wonder if you
clicked on the button at all.
The designers have attempted to put in more
interactivity by making the foreground follow mouse
movements, but the graphics are too big to move
quickly. This is a case where no matter how much
money you have to throw at a project, you still have
to consider the limitations of the medium.
A Flash movie is fast when it involves mostly
vector-based graphics. But when it has heavy, large
bitmaps, the interactivity and motion slows down
considerably. I would recommend selling the client
on a more complex game with different characters
and interiors than on a slow-moving, scrolling landscape,
as is the case here. There is no complex programming
on this site, so it should be relatively easy
for a beginning Flash master to design and develop.
Finally, an online aspirin for those boring documents
that excessively left-brain clients send us:
www.the-unloader.com. Nokia’s Unloader is a Rube
Goldberg virtual machine that takes any document
off your computer and sends it on “an exciting journey.”
It took quite a bit of time to upload my Excel
spreadsheet to the Unloader—in fact, I was ready to
quit—but it was worth the wait.
First I saw the document in the queue on the
monitor in the Unloader Studio. The document
printed into a tray. I started to wonder what was
exciting about that. Then a robot arm took the print
and dipped it in a vat, making it black, took it over
to a box that blew feathers on it and laid it in on a
conveyer belt, there to be destroyed. They tarred and
feathered my boring document—what a wonderful
gesture on their part! I felt immediate gratification
Now properly dispensed and disposed, I am
taken to a new screen. There you have several choices:
“Share the film with other intelligent coworkers,”
“Bring home your own hard copy,” “Post to blog,”
“Direct link,” or my favorite, “Delete the film—The
Unloader will pretend this never happened.”
A site like this takes enormous planning, cooperation
and the support of a great sponsor. It’s a site that
involves a fair amount of technical savvy, so if you want
to make a piece like this, you better make friends with
a good developer—and possibly some robotic technicians,
or even the geek squad from the AI department
of the local university. From a design standpoint, it’s
minimalist; its value is in the concept and execution.
Selling this concept to a sponsor could be an uphill
battle, so choose your candidates carefully—only the
biggest corporations with a history of innovative advertising
and branding should be on your list.
Red Interactive is a site you should see, although
neither the site nor the idea is strictly new. The
agency has overlaid a gaming interface on top of the
site. You can choose an avatar, name it and make
it run, fight, talk and interact with other avatars
on the site. Play the game. It’s a great way to get
inspired or kill a few hours at the office. Even if a
project like this is beyond your personal skills, you
may consider creating something similar for a highend
client that can afford to hire some programmers
and back-end people.
What do music and dancing have to do with buying
from IKEA? And why are these guys dancing in
their underwear? More questions to add to the many
other unanswered mysteries from the king of inexpensive
furniture and housewares.
At IKEA’s site—“Come in the closet. Let’s
Dance.”—you can change songs, upload your own
music, karaoke into the microphone or play on your
keyboard. The movement on the site is controlled by
the sounds you choose. The dancing figures respond
to the music, I assume in time to the beat; however,
some computers and internet connections such as
mine may not be able to keep the motion keyed to
the music without some kinks.
Enter the immersive 3D world of Alpha Omega, an
adaptable role-playing game that provides players with
a unique and innovative rule set with optional layers
of complexity. The website mimics the realistic quality
of the game itself, and is a great selling tool that shows
an array of creatures, environments and characters.
The company is clever to use the natural social
network of gamers to help promote the game. Use
the “Find Players” tool to find other Alpha Omega
members in your area. The site invites exploration
through its 3D graphics and engaging interactivity.
This is the kind of site where the designer can pull
out all the stops for a client—an example of “if you
build it (a cool site), they will come.” One of the
“stickiest” sites I have seen in a long time. I almost
don’t need to buy the game.