Editor’s Column

While the number of mobile and tablet app and interactive installation submissions grew this year, websites and microsites still comprised over half of the 1,333 entries we received for our 2014 Interactive Annual. Considering the exponential growth of mobile web browsing, it will be interesting to see the consequential evolution of the “traditional web” in future competitions.

Go to Jurors Biographies

“We saw a lot of rich, cinematic, high-production-value microsites that look like they were done in Flash,” juror Troy Lachance said. “I think it proves people love great stories and experiences, regardless of the technology or medium used to build them. The cinematic microsite isn’t dead after all, despite all the preaching from responsive web evangelists.”

 “It seemed like a lot of the projects are relying on HTML5, which is no surprise due to the increased importance of multi-device executions,” juror Dustin Callif said. “The biggest difference this year is that the HTML5 executions are getting more elegant with transitions, animations and interactive video.

 “I was most impressed when a team was able to make something engaging regardless of the device it was being viewed on,” said juror Sean Klassen. “This was only done extraordinarily well on a few occasions, and for good reason. It’s extremely difficult to pull off.

Some of the other comments the jury made about this year’s submissions: “I was happily surprised to see the growth of a hybrid aesthetic using the tension between sophisticated technologies and a hand-drawn quality of the visual imagery,” said juror Ana Serrano. “I think this aesthetic, which is native to the designers who grew up in the age of the Internet, will continue to evolve and will really start to find its footing in the years to come.”

“I was really encouraged by the creative use of the interactive digital medium to create ‘tech empathy,’ to help us better understand individuals with a wide range of medical conditions or disabilities,” juror Kris Kiger said. “I was most surprised with the interactive installations,” Klassen said. “There is a lot of really cool stuff going on in that space. I feel like I saw more creativity and innovation going on there than on the traditional web this year.”

Along with the praise came a few disappointments.

“I’m surprised that we still have not found depth in social,” Serrano said. “Many of the social experiences I saw were one-liners at best, and shallow at worst. I’m really looking forward to that seminal project that takes social to the next level.”

 “I was surprised at the limited number of good tablet experiences, especially e-books,” Lachance said. “There were a few mind-blowing apps, but not as many as I expected. I think this speaks to the web browser still being the most visible medium and best way to reach the largest audience. I think it also speaks to the high costs of creating something native and beautiful for the tablet. Most clients aren’t seeing enough of an audience to justify investing a lot of money in a really well-executed tablet product.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see tablets and social interactive being used for socially responsible causes.” —Kris Kiger

“People are getting too caught up in design trends, like parallax scrolling or ‘flat design,’” Klassen said. “It’s one thing to use a method like that when it specifically supports the theme and helps tell the story, but annoying and forgettable when used as a showcase of your skills (or lack thereof).”

“The vertical scroll was hard to miss among this year’s entries,” Serrano added. “The good news is that some took something so commonplace and gave it a context—traveling down the road, for example—that made a site more meaningful as a result.”

Interviewing the jury is a terrific opportunity to gain insight from industry leaders on some of the possible future directions in interactivity.

What’s next for social networking?

Lachance said, “I think you’ll see other platforms, like Pinterest, gain in influence and compete with the Facebooks and Twitters. I think it’s going to be increasingly hard to sift through the marketing noise that now permeates Facebook and Twitter, but I also think we’ll start to see more meaningful data pulled from these and visualized in interesting ways.”

“It will be interesting to see how online privacy affects the future of social networking and how people respond to their data being owned and exposed by social networks,” Callif added.

What breakthroughs will be required for wearable tech to become widely accepted?

“A rewriting of our implied social contracts around the notions of civility, privacy and public spectacle,” Serrano said.

“It comes down to product design,” Callif said. “If someone can crack the nut of having a beautifully designed device that is easy to use, they will win the race.”

“From what I have seen, the technical feat of making wearable computing is pretty much here and happening now,” Kiger said. “Early adopters are already trying out a wide range of wearable technology. What is really holding this stuff from being widely accepted is the lack of the killer app. What problem do you have in your day-to-day existence that can best be solved by a wearable computer? When the vast majority of people can answer this question, wearable computers will have wide appeal.”

“It needs to become more invisible and less of a fashion statement,” Klassen said. “I get the same visceral reaction seeing someone wearing Google Glass as I do looking at awkwardfamilyphotos.com.”

How will the continued diversification of personal electronic devices affect interactive design?

“At a pretty simple level, more devices will mean more responsive design—and more work,” Kiger said. “Basic content will need to flow into a variety of sizes, shapes and resolutions, and designers will need to consider the context in which people will be consuming information, as it’ll change the way content will be presented and delivered. With the continued and rapid development of devices, interactive designers will have no choice but to respond with micro-personalization as a way to drive and influence brands and manage the dialog between producer and consumer.”

“As more and more devices become available, it will make the roles of interactive designer and developer even more important,” Callif said. “The team will need to be collaborating and constantly evolving the design in order for it to work across all of the different devices. It hurts my head to think of having to accommodate even more screen sizes and operating systems.”

What business, cultural and social developments will alter the role of interactive media in the future? 

“The installations that used illusion to create moments of surprise and give people glimpses into the future were fun to see this year.” —Troy Lachance

“The combined influence of mobile technology and social media is continuing to affect the way people digest content,” Lachance said. “The experiences we design will need to continue to shift with that. As people become more familiar with common touch gestures and the use of sensors, we’ll see more demand for interactivity that utilizes those mediums.”

“One very big area of development that will impact interactive is the massive amount of real-time data,” Kiger said. “So far the data revolution hasn’t been a truly visual one. There are lots of anecdotes about instances in which we had all the data we needed to make a good decision but we simply lacked the understanding. Creatives that can help organize, visualize and make sense of the real-time data explosion will have an invaluable role to play.

“Another development that is just starting to take shape is in the area of biometrics, as we continue to break down the barrier between technology and the body,” said Kiger. “I am really excited to see us moving toward a future in which we have the ability to personalize our experiences, as well as identify individuals through their unique biometrics. This bio-interactive trend will change the way brands, services and businesses interact.”

 “The emerging technologies are going to be the new devices that allow people to access apps and browser-based content on their TV,” Callif said. “It’s going to open up a whole new world of interaction for this type of media.

“I think people will increasingly want access to interactive media in a variety of places,” Klassen said. “There already needs to be compatibility between devices, but the next step is how they can work together. I envision brands taking over networks as primary content providers someday. For example, instead of tuning in to ABC to watch your favorite show, you’ll load it up on your Nike app on the train ride home and finish after dinner in your living room. The question is: how can designers make this experience seamless while also being more engaging and interactive?”

“Economic, religious, political and social divisions are increasingly making themselves felt in society,” Serrano said. “Interactive media will either be used to escape the tensions, problems and stress caused by this divisiveness or be used to ease them. Augmented reality and the ‘Internet of Things’ will have a tremendous impact on how our digital experiences will be shaped in the future.”

Evaluating this year’s submissions required a ten-week commitment by our jurors, who reviewed the projects in their offices prior to the final rounds. Bundles of disk-based entries, lists of URLs and preloaded mobile devices were sent to the jurors for evaluation every two weeks. Finals were held in our offices using multiple workstations with a T-3 networked connection to evaluate web-based entries. Mobile and tablet entries were presented on the appropriate devices. Disk-based entries were delivered over our network-based server.

Selection for this year’s annual required a minimum of four out of five votes. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects with which they were directly involved; I voted in their stead. The winning projects can be viewed on our website (commarts.com) or in the iPad edition of this issue.

I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 20th Interactive Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca

Jurors Biographies


Dustin Callif

Managing Partner Digital

Tool of North America

Dustin Callif is managing partner digital at Tool of North America in Santa Monica, California. Since joining Tool in 2009, Callif has been responsible for building the company’s digital division and overseeing the development of interactive content that merges the worlds of technology, art and advertising. Before joining Tool, Callif was co-owner and managing partner at digital agency Spacedog, which was acquired by Mendelsohn Zien and Hakuhodo. Callif has overseen over 150 digital media projects across all digital platforms and his work has been recognized with numerous awards, including AICP Next, Cannes, Clio Awards, Davey Awards, FWA, MTV Video Music Awards, OMMA and the Webby Awards.


Kris Kiger

Managing Director, Visual Design


Kris Kiger is managing director, visual design at R/GA, New York. She leads the visual design team of 100-plus in delivering digital experiences for some of the most respected brands worldwide, and develops diverse talent within client teams to create innovative and award-winning work. Trained in traditional graphic and brand design, Kiger received her BA in graphic design from the University of Arizona. She has won virtually every creative award from organizations including the ANDY Awards, Cannes, Clio Awards, D&AD and The One Show. She has also served on numerous award show juries such as Cannes Cyber Lions, D&AD and The One Show.


Sean Klassen

Founder and Partner

Legwork Studios

A sociologist by education, Sean Klassen has turned a lifelong passion for art and technology into a successful career in interactive design. He is a founder and partner at Denver, Colorado-based Legwork Studios, where he wears many hats, including creative director, designer, producer and front-end developer. His work has been recognized by CNN, Communication Arts, FWA, the New York Times, The One Show, SXSW and the Webby Awards. Outside of work, Klassen spends his free time screaming in punk bands, playing ice hockey and hanging out with his wife, family, friends and his dog, Bruce.


Troy Lachance

Principal and Design Director


Troy Lachance is a principal and design director of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based interactive studio Bluecadet. Lachance combines a liberal arts sensibility with over twelve years of experience in the interactive industry. Previously a senior interactive designer for the Smithsonian Institute National Portrait Gallery, Lachance specializes in experiential design, UI and UX. He holds a master’s with distinction in history from George Mason University, which informs his work for museums and cultural institutions. His projects have been recognized by a number of educational and interactive design organizations including AAM Muse awards, Adobe, Communication Arts, HOW, SXSW and the Webby Awards.


Ana Serrano

Chief Digital Officer

Canadian Film Centre

Ana Serrano is chief digital officer of the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is also the founding director of the Centre’s Media Lab, a new media research, training and production think tank, where she provides strategic and creative leadership for all of the Centre’s new media initiatives, including the development and production of a diverse range of critically acclaimed interactive narrative projects. A three-time Canadian New Media Award-winner, including Visionary of the Year, Serrano frequently speaks at new media and film festivals throughout the world about the future of storytelling and entertainment.

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