“Immersive content and storytelling dominate this year’s entries,” juror Natalie Lam says. “Every brand knows content is king, and it’s good to see more entries are focusing on creating classic, high-quality content instead of ‘flavor of the day’ social content that just adds noise to the clutter.”
“This year, we saw some powerful ideas based on great human insights that let people experience something more,” says juror Mark Renshaw. “We saw some great augmented reality work that actually augmented what you were experiencing, rather than just adding a different layer.”
“The work that stood out was either in quick, simple interactions with the brand or in deep, immersive experiences with the brand and its content,” juror Drew Ungvarsky says. “There wasn’t a lot of great work in the middle, and perhaps rightfully so.”
We added the ability to upload videos directly to our online entry system for this year’s competition, resulting in a surge of case study video submissions. This somewhat altered the judging process, but not necessarily the outcome.
“In certain cases, a great case study video could actually mask a weak project,” says juror Megan Meeker. “But further investigation into the real body of work surfaces those weaknesses right away.”
“You can make almost anything look good in a case study video, but great work considers every detail like it’s the most important part of the project,” adds Ungvarsky.
“I loved seeing entries exploring uses of—and creating new solutions for—augmented and virtual reality.” —Megan Meeker
I asked the judges what they felt were the weakest areas in this year’s entries.
“The continued use of parallax scrolling, which largely takes navigational control away from users,” says Meeker.
“There were a lot of scrollable web interfaces, but some found ways to make them fresh and engaging,” adds juror Gabe Kean.
“While we saw a few great, truly augmented experiences, the overall standard is still low, given what’s possible with the technology that is available,” says Renshaw.
“The lack of strategic and innovative mobile experiences,” Lam says. “Every day, there’s a new mobile app that makes our lives easier—or lazier, depending on how you look at it—but the mobile entries stayed pretty predictable.”
Ungvarsky concurs. “I expected to see more work that blew me away on mobile. Our audiences are spending more time than ever on mobile devices, and I don’t think we saw enough work that was truly mobile first.”
“The experiences delivered through browsers had some of the most exciting interactivity and use of integrated media.” —Gabe Kean
I also asked the jurors a series of questions about the future of digital interactivity.
What does the future hold for social networking?
“I think we’ve reached a saturation point with everyone and every brand getting onto social media and trying to keep a constant voice and the best—or deceptively best—public-facing image,” Lam says. “The challenge is how to be authentic and meaningful rather than creating noise for noise’s sake.”
“I suspect we’ll continue to see more niche social networking platforms grow from new audiences, behaviors and content types,” says Ungvarsky.
“The future of social networking will continue to push toward more video-based messaging,” Renshaw says. “Video will be so persuasive between people and brands that we will stop talking about it as video, and it will just become the new norm in content production and distribution.”
How will the continued diversification of personal electronic devices affect interactive design?
“Diversification of devices is going to continue to impose more challenges on designers as they try to provide a consistent, yet adaptable experience for people,” Renshaw says. “The companies that deliver design-based experiences on all devices will be the brands that win.”
“It’s certainly going to continue to make our jobs harder,” Ungvarsky says. “Responsive design is certainly the right approach, but there’s no getting around the fact that every device and browser does things a little differently.”
“The continued diversification of personal devices is more and more problematic for interactive design in creating effective responsive experiences,” Kean adds. “I expect that we are getting close to hitting the edge of what can actually be marketable in terms of devices. Consolidation or standards must be on the horizon, as it makes good business sense for all.”
What breakthroughs will be required for wearable technology to become widely accepted?
“Adding everyday functionality to wearable devices is necessary for wider adoption, along with extended battery life and extremely limited user interactions,” Meeker says. “Even the most basic data entry proves to be a huge hurdle toward progress with wearable technology.”
“Wearable technology will continue to grow, but be limited in acceptance until the experience on a small screen is as powerful as it is on a phone screen,” Renshaw says. “Voice or speech recognition technology could be the solution that enables small devices to provide the ease of use needed.”
“Voice and the development of natural language processing will help lure us away from our traditional screens to embrace wearables,” Ungvarsky agrees.
What business, cultural and social developments will alter the role of interactive media in the future?
“Many of us live in a world where efficiency is critical and we have to choose between work, family and, um, social media,” Kean says. “I’m expecting that, like any movement, there will be a shift in response to our current screen-time consumption.”
“I think as creators in the business/cultural/social space, we should all be mindful of answering ‘Is this development fundamentally adding to our lives as human beings?’” says Lam. “In the future, interactive media should continue to help humanity and serve a higher purpose, instead of enslaving us.”
“New technology and hardware is rapidly being created without planning or solving known user needs,” Meeker says. “We will continue to be inundated with new opportunities for unique interactive experiences. However, it is up to the designers and developers to create real-world solutions for existing user-based needs.”
I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 22nd Interactive Annual.
Selection for this year’s annual required a minimum of three out of five votes. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects with which they were directly involved; I voted in their stead. —Patrick Coyne ca