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 tenth article in the series takes a look back at the most creative personal and portfolio websites ever to have launched on the web.
Creativity should hold no bounds when it comes to a personal showcase. There are no rules to follow apart from trying to do something original.
Having interviewed hundreds of Creative Directors, I can safely say that a unique portfolio site is the fasted way to get noticed on the web.
The following list represents the twenty most creative portfolio websites ever to have been featured at FWA since 2000. The list is in chronological order, with the first in the list being the earliest featured at FWA.
What better way to start than with this true classic which originally launched in 1999. This site demonstrated everything Flash was made for in those days… vector graphics, simple animations and sound FX.
Shane Mielke's original portfolio site, V2. Awakenings, still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I hear the almost haunting audio that accompanies his highly acclaimed work.
The Genesis Project took this site to another level with his trademark atmospheric locations.
One of the first portfolios to use realistic video motion, with Pantone colour swatches, Bryant Fernandez's site instantly gained worldwide acclaim with his unique approach.
With the inclusion of new video capabilities in Flash, Alexis Trepanier made full use but with an extra twist.
The site's intro showed Alexis with a full-on afro haircut and as he welcomed the viewer to his site and explained his skills, his hair slowly transformed into a short style as well as his beard disappearing too.
We're lucky that sites like this are still online as this was a first for the industry.
Personality is one of the most important aspects of a website if you want to get noticed and, more importantly, want to be remembered.
Salted Herring, whilst also having a very original domain name, had personality in droves.
This interactive site revolved around a bald man with a very large forehead, and a blackboard.
Robert Lindstrom's DesignChapel gave us a glimpse of the true master that he is. His work for Paregos first got him noticed by FWA and now he delivers outstanding productions with his company, North Kingdom (winners of FWA SOTY and PCA with the Vodafone Futures site).
His unmistakeable illustrations still seem so very fresh. Hands down, one of the most influential creatives of the last decade.
Simone Legno is another individual with a unique style. His love of Japanese culture has set him up for life. I've even seen one of the contestants on America's Next Top Model wearing one of his t-shirts.
The whole look and feel of his work is one of fun and colour, with a small amount of titillation thrown in.
It was only after I interviewed Jens Lofberg that I found out he was dyslexic. It really does seem that the most creative people have an extra edge from the norm and possibly something that gave them difficulties in the early stages of their life.
His three dimensional personal playground was really something else. Having just refreshed myself on his site I wish more young people, students and up and coming designers would get more creative.
It's sites like these that get you noticed.
Another personality packed and original personal showcase. This one has a totally unique magic theme running through it. The use of your keyboard arrow keys was one of, if not, the first we had seen.
Again, more originality… this time Micael Reynaud from France gave us a site that would change depending on the time of day you surfed it. Day and night type websites would be seen more frequently in the future.
Vibrant colour, sound FX and a classic zoomable landscape would take this site an extra mile.
A simple idea with incredible results. Greg Washington's scanned face and hands make this one of the most unforgettable websites ever released.
With each section loading a different pose, his site was exciting to explore. For first time users, the experience could be quite unnerving as Greg's eyes followed your mouse movement.
Whilst not the first example of a site which builds before your eyes, this is without doubt one of the best.
Slick, polished and clean design from Poland.
Tokyo's Masaki Hoshino is a favourite of FWA. His style is unique and his work is best described as being delightful and pixel perfect.
His personal site shows a range of skills from pixel graphics through to motion and animation. He recently launched a shop for some of his work. Let's hope he expands that to make products available outside of Japan.
Attention to detail, a perfect colour palette and an Easter egg helped Erik Otten's portfolio site from 2004 make this exclusive list.
For those with inquisitive minds, it's all about the binding strings.
A website with a dog. Pet websites have received very bad press over the years and rightly so but Boula Burton's portfolio re-invented the wheel, so to speak, by introducing a Jack Russell into his website.
In itself this was a great idea but using video of the dog was something else. Yet again, unforgettable.
You want to get noticed as a new media creative? Package yourself up and go on sale "in stores now"!
This is exactly what Dan Noe did, using a metaphor of an action hero toy pack, with the end result being outstanding.
I really don't know how to even go about explaining Oculart…
A world of outrageous motion graphics, art, music, darkness, life, death…
This is a rare website to say the least.
Stephane Guillot was the star of his own website. The animated character, in his own room, performed for the user between each phase of the site and transitions.
The whole premise of the site and the levels of interaction pretty much ensured that visitors would explore every item.
Version three of Oleg Paschenko's Conclave was more than highly anticipated. The previous version deserves a slot all of its own.
Haunting sound, random motion glitches and an almost lifelike quality, all reminded us about the enigmatic genius from Russia.
As we entered 2006, featuring personal portfolio sites at FWA is becoming more of a rarity. The reason simply being that there are so few with an extra edge that sets them apart from the rest.
Dave Werner went for it in a big way though and scooped FWA SOTM for February. Whilst winning a SOTD for a portfolio site is hard, achieving SOTM is almost unheard of.
Dave's site, Okay Dave started in previous months with an original teaser trailer, Kayne West. This built the anticipation level for his site and he certainly did not fail to deliver.
A site that is packed with video and explanations of his work that must have taken complete dedication and focus over many months to achieve.
Dave's site would almost create a gold rush from agencies trying to employ him.
I certainly don't have to even start to think for this section of the article.
Personality and originality.
Two simple yet very hard to define words that give individuals a head start over the masses. The sites they create are the ones people try to aspire to. They are the sites that inspire people and sometime they are the sites that people try to replicate.
Over the years I have become aware of the fact that FWA doesn't showcase as many personal portfolio sites as we used to. As mentioned above, it's because the original sites, like the ones mentioned in this article, are becoming few and far between.
You don't need a big budget or a massive client… nor do you need a team of creatives around you. All you need is software and imagination.
The rest is down to you…
About the author, Rob Ford
Robert 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 oversees the day to day running of the FWA project.