The FWA Review is an ongoing series of articles providing a snapshot of each year at FWA and occasional specials focusing on certain styles and categories. These articles will be highlighting the main focus of the FWA project… websites who use cutting edge technology, together with inspirational ideas, that lead the way for future generations.
The FWA Review will act as a history of cutting edge web design and a reminder of those future-thinking sites, companies and individuals who have paved the way so far.
This fifth article in the series takes a look back at the fifth year of FWA, the year 2004…
With photography sites being amongst the most beautiful and eye-pleasing websites, the showcase for the Magnum photographer, Carl De Keyzer, would become one of the best examples of its kind and the epitome of what could be achieved when you combined intelligent design with awe-inspiring photography.
With site intros having received so much bad press over the years and being practically shunned from the web, group94 took the brave step of producing an emotive intro for Carl’s site and one that showed how, if done correctly, elegant introductions could enhance the user’s surfing experience.
Not only was this a fun site to play with but it also had potential for a greater use. Morphases was an online next generation face manipulation software, allowing users to modify and create human faces from a large database of facial features and accessories.
The Idea Company, better known as Canada’s Fuel Industries have a reputation for producing exciting and original online game experiences. Cowboys and Engines was a perfect example of what they were capable of as it highlighted their impressive 3D skills and quirky ideas as seen through this western style game site.
This would be the first and certainly not the last time we would encounter Sweden’s Daddy, with their unique production for Absolut’s Level Vodka. A website that was completely interactive and even too interactive for some people, if that’s possible, as the whole site was based on the Level Vodka bottle and the exploration of it and its surrounding environment.
A very clever website from Hi-ReS!, one that had the rare trait of lulling the user into a false sense of security to hit them full face with a high impact message as they delved into the site.
The beginning of this website was produced extremely well, with seamless video integration and a quality look and feel that gave a corporate impression. However, the true effect of this site occurred after the user had signed up for a life changing experience of luxury and wealth to tell the true story of LifeSwitch and suddenly the user found themselves completely immersed in this unique and unforgettable experience that highlighted the plights and poverty in many areas of the globe.
Some people left this site before taking in the whole experience or should I say before they actually “got it” but that was half the beauty of LifeSwitch.
Scholz and Volkmer, well known for producing many of Mercedes-Benz’s web campaign sites, turned their hand to ACHT Frankfurt, a progressive German post production company.
With the whole site being like one long show real, seamlessly blending their huge and industry leading portfolio of commercials, cinema, music videos and much more, yet easily navigable through the simple navigation.
Who would’ve thought that a site for a Polish car loan company could be one of the best sites of 2004? The interactive agency Max Weber from Poland (fast gaining a reputation for a country of exciting new media designers and developers), took what could be regarded as a boring and lack-lustre subject and transformed it into one of innovation and charm.
The PDK website boasted a number of slick and entertaining short animations and coupled them with some very clever scripting and programming, resulting in a very professional corporate web presence that oozed personality and quality.
Without a doubt, the most unforgettable personal portfolio website of 2004 from Canada’s Greg Washington. Literally in your face, as the face of this creative was pressed against your monitor and the condensation from his breath steaming up your screen. The eerie atmosphere was made complete as Greg’s eyes followed the user’s every move.
Another stunning photography showcase, built by Hi-ReS! for the UK fashion photographer, Miles Aldridge. With an atmosphere created through ambient sound and sound effects really setting the scene for some awe-inspiring photography surfing.
Miles Aldridge’s talent shone through his top-drawer portfolio of work. An added “Bookmark” feature gave this site an extra edge and the “Bio” section was noteworthy in its own right…something different to your standard text bio, a pictorial history.
Hyper Island is a Swedish school of new media design and every year they try and find placements for their students in established multimedia studios. 2004 was the year for crew 9, 2003 was crew 8 etc.
Every year they manage to come up with an original idea and 2004 was no exception as the students (prospective interns), were all on show in a face-packed visual interface. With each face following your mouse movement, the students were on “sale” and if you wanted to get more information from them or offer them a placement, you just had to add the particular student to a shopping cart. Sold, to the man at the back with the ginger beard!
In June 2004, we started receiving a number of suggestions for the official J.K.Rowling website. Yet every time we looked at the site all we saw was a long list of her publishers on a throwback 1997 html text page.
However, we soon realised that the reason for this was down to some ISP caching and soon we were able to see the all-new site for Harry Potter’s highly acclaimed author. In true Lightmaker style, attention to detail and interaction were very apparent and their trademark choice of five languages, yet again, made this a site with global appeal.
This would be a site packed with hidden Potterania giving that extra edge and ensuring users really saw all aspects of the site, as they explored to uncover the Easter egg style treasures.
Having stole the stage early in 2003 with v1 the crazy talents at tokyoplastic unleashed their incredible animation skills on us in 2004 again, with version 2 of their site and with a couple of new pieces, most notably the Drum Machine and also the unforgettable Music Box.
As the name implies, the user had 99 rooms/photographs to explore, all of which emitted an atmosphere of age, rust, dust and exfoliated paint. The twist to this site was that many of the rooms had interactive elements, taking the whole premise to another level.
The best online Flash racing game to be launched on the web so far. Designed and developed by Extrajetzt, Driver’s Heaven made for an exhilarating time. Earn points by challenging others or setting new lap records and buy your way up to the Ferrari Enzo Black for a mere 250,000 points.
Totally addictive, real time gaming at its best. Only available in German but easily understood.
One of those sites that you felt was way before its time, D’Art Design from the always-impressive group94, harmonised a futuristic 3D “solar system” as an interface and an industry leading interior design company.
Bubbling with innovative features and the ability to move through the 3D “solar system” with your keyboard made exploring this site a rare treat and a glimpse of the future of the web.
2004 was definitely the year of Sweden’s North Kingdom and a year that saw the integration of video to bring websites to life. The Philips Home Entertainment site was another example of their fine work, as they took the Philips Experience One Building Complex and breathed life into it through the web.
The Saturn Relay site would be another example of North Kingdom’s powerful year of producing video enhanced interactive experiences.
Yugo Nakamura, one of the true old skool Flash masters, launched his highly anticipate fourth version of his personal portfolio and experimental playground. More impressive than this though was his involvement and experimental brilliance that graced a number of other exciting and very progressive sites in 2004…
The website for intentionallies an architecture firm, now with a web presence, thanks to Yugo, that would make them look like something from the distant future.
Fotologue, a Japanese site for fotologgers, now boasted an incredibly innovative site that would make this community stand out from all other photo blogging sites.
And, if Yugo hadn’t given you enough of a future feel from those sites, then he finished off the year with the massive FM Festival ’04, another piece of intelligent content management, brilliant scripting and progressive thinking.
The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA commissioned a study of twenty five of the tallest buildings in the world that were designed in the last ten years. For Office Use Only did an excellent job in presenting the large amount of content in a professional, informative and enjoyable website.
Possibly, the scariest website ever made, for the film The Grudge. Everyone has a film in their memory that had them sat on the edge of their seat waiting or the next something to happen that would make them jump out of their skin. American Werewolf In London being a classic example.
Well, the site for The Grudge was the modern day web equivalent, being a unique and truly unforgettable experience, with no two visits being the same as the user tried to avoid coming face-to-face with the curse itself. Big Spaceship taking the credits for another movie site treat.
Using his trademark zoom effect, the Amplifier site showed us how to deliver the personality of a company through a totally original interface and a number of very humorous sound clips.
With a corporate but edgy look and feel, FI managed to take Ford ahead of its competitors with a future-proof site that took huge amounts of content and wrapped it up in a easy to browse website that gave Ford’s target audience the ability to garner whatever information they wanted, with all the latest cutting edge features the internet could offer.
When I hear or read people saying, “WOW!” it makes me cringe. It’s just a personal grievance. However, The Zoom Quilt was producing “WOW!”s all over blogs, forums and chatrooms.
Take fifteen very talented artists and graphical wizards and a very simple idea and you end up with the eternal Zoom Quilt. This collaboration gave us a piece of art that you could zoom into or out from infinitely. Seamlessly joining over forty pieces of art and using a simple flash zooming technique, made this a website that would struggle with bandwidth but manage to survive the barrage of eager surfers.
Deserving of a place in an art museum and being an ongoing project and something to look forward to as it evolves into an even bigger masterpiece.
We get to see a lot of personal portfolio sites at FWA from Art Directors etc, and whilst many of them are well polished only a few stand out from the crowd. Italy’s Fishouse added another unique client website to their already impressive portfolio with Boula Burton’s portfolio showcase.
Using the “only Art Director dog on the planet”, this site had a Jack Russell as the star of the site. Through the use of video and entertaining music, the dog left the user with a memorable experience and one that they would not forget.
Incredible attention to detail at 2D Depot as the user takes on the role of Ximo in his own home. An ongoing personal project that sees regular updates and one where you can dress up in a number of different costumes, including Michael Jackson, get cooking in the kitchen or try and find a way in to the hidden room.
General Electric have been developing their online “pen” with Atmosphere BBDOImagination Cubed saw the launch of the third generation pen. The whole idea of this campaign for GE was the notion that “every great idea begins with a sketch”. for some time now and
The pen had a lifelike look and feel to it and a range of tools making it that much more interactive to use and play with. The ability to invite friends to draw and chat with live took this to another level.
A true pedal-to-the-metal experience for Ford’s Mustang from 2Advanced, with credit going to their hugely talented Art Director, Shane Mielke. With a few hidden Easter egg treats, like the wheel-spinning, dust-churning Mustang itself and the lifelike atmospheric additions of tumbleweed, lightning and more. Plus, the chance to mix your very own sounds from the “Sound Gallery” and even download them to you desktop or mobile phone.
A very innovative interface and blend of music, voice clips and video where Billy would follow you around his apartment as you explored. As always, sofake delivered another personality packed web presence for the client.
Some of you might remember the Spooks Spy Academy from 2003 by Preloaded. This year Preloaded upped the anti by going into the nerve centre of MI5’s counter-terrorism unit. It might sound like I’m about to drop in the Weapons of Mass Destruction comment here but I won’t as the GRID OPs was another promotional piece for the BBC’s Spooks TV series.
The games themselves were superb, very impressive indeed and they set themselves apart from many online games through their detailed approach and difficulty, giving the user a true sense of satisfaction on completing each one. Users took on the role of a new recruit, fresh out of the Spy Academy and had to complete a number of assignments, unlocking each one along the way.
Could this be the most in depth online game experience to date? Quite possibly. First impressions of The Hiding Room were that it’s a simple 3D environment where you have to solve a few clues to access certain rooms and escape from the house.
However, those who spend some time getting immersed will soon find themselves in a tangled web of riddles and clues, as they are involved in a far greater puzzle, the search to find Jon Harker. This is a cross-website puzzle of unparalleled proportions.
Jonathan J. Harris from Number27 is one of a dying breed of web explorers who, through experimentation and exploration, have brought us treats like Wordcount10x10 he showed us an interactive exploration of the words and pictures that define the time. and with
He programmed 10x10 to automatically scan a handful of the leading international news sources and performed an elaborate process that would determine each hour’s most important words. These words were then displayed with their corresponding images in a grid like interface, almost a tapestry of news headlines and one that changed every hour.
One of the most anticipated launches of the year, the all-new FI displayed a maturity and evolution quite unlike anything else. Their new, huge, web presence boasted a progressive direction for interactive design studios that pulled on the power of the latest available cutting edge technology, both through software, programming and network capabilities.
High-end video presentations that highlighted their projects, thoughts and even video interviews with their clients like Road Runner, gave FI an edge over the competition and further enhanced their vision for the future… Internet 2.0.
One of the first websites to launch in 2004 and one that paved the way for an exciting year ahead, the Vodafone Future Vision, designed and developed by North Kingdom, site immediately grabbed a huge slice of everyone’s attention in January 2004 and for the months to follow.
A website that boasted new techniques and innovations, both through the website’s presentation and through the awe-inspiring gadgets that could mould our future.
Right from the opening screen, users knew they were in for a futuristic and progressive surfing experience with the welcoming voice introducing the site, followed by the innovative and original video-enhanced launch page.
The whole package was full of new levels of web design and development with pioneering features and techniques that would lay down a new style and trend for 2004 and the web in general.
The whole premise of the Vodafone Future Vision site, to give a glimpse of the future, was fully achieved through this groundbreaking website and a site that would be the pinnacle of 2004 and the worthy winner of both the FWA Site Of The Year and People’s Choice Award for 2004.
Notably, the first year in FWA’s history that the same site would win Site Of The Year and the People’s Choice Award.
2004 saw the beginning of real experiences and sites that quite literally came to life. This was achieved through the incorporation of video, with perfect examples being mentioned above in this 2004 Review. The question is, how realistic can websites become?
We can also witness the huge complexity websites now display, especially the content rich sites which are beginning to become more of a software application than a website. As designers and developers blend these two elements together Flash and HTML hybrid sites are beginning to become increasingly popular, especially for small to medium sized businesses.
In 2005, expect to see more 3D, more hybrid sites and, most importantly, the brand new and long anticipated FWA website.
About the author, Rob Ford
Robert J. Ford is FWA’s Principal. Born and bred in England with a background in finance, sales and project management, working for companies like Halifax PLC and American Express. He has been focused on cutting edge web design and development since 1997 and oversees the day to day running of the FWA project.