“Across all the categories, it was wonderful to see smart, creative projects that were servicing real causes in meaningful ways,” says juror Erika Tarte. “I sincerely hope this isn’t a trend so much as a shift in brand values and recognition of the importance of design for social impact.”
“I was surprised by how many experiential entries there were this year,” juror Jason White says. “It’s clear that even more studios and agencies are engaging in this arena.”
“I was especially excited to see experiential design leaving the boundaries of cultural institutions and museums, and starting to play a role in day-to-day life,” says juror Fanny Krivoy.
“I wish there were more VR/augmented reality (AR) submissions, but these technologies are still in their infancy,” juror Eva Mautino says.
“The entries that got me playing—rather than forcing me into a leaned-back experience—were intriguing and captivating,” says juror Stephen Hadinger.
“It was also great to see a plethora of entries that involved the use of artificial intelligence,” White says. “There were some innovative uses of this new technology that I found inspiring.”
Not all of the judges’ commentary on this year’s entries were laudatory and, in the interest of balanced reporting, I’ve included some of their more critical opinions.
“Quite a few sites are trying almost too hard to grab people’s attention with extra animations or visual trickery often not needed for the content and messaging of the site itself,” says Mautino.
“I was surprised to see so many promising and visually stunning entries struggle with interactive storytelling,” Tarte says. “Many entries packaged traditional, linear media in beautiful web, environmental and VR wrappers without consideration for the unique challenges and opportunities provided by those mediums.”
“I was surprised to see the amount of case studies that still use the tired method of convincing me of the campaign’s success with metrics that are seemingly inflated or generally unimpressive,” says Hadinger. “I assumed the industry had moved on from these tactics, but apparently the formula is still in use today.”
In addition to requesting comments on this year’s submissions, I also asked the jurors a series of questions about the future of digital interactivity.
What business, cultural and social developments will alter the role of interactive media in the future?
“Interactive media will be more prominent in all aspects of society,” Mautino says. “As more companies and institutions are investing in interactive media, the quality of the work will increase and reach bigger audiences.”
“The role of multinational corporations in providing services that have long been the purview of governments is already changing the role of the designer and interactive media itself,” says Tarte. “Good stories will be less important than real services and products that will be primarily experienced through interactive media.”
“Algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence will continue to impact the way in which we design as they provide an affordance for creating dynamic media that’s tailored to each individual user in real time,” Hadinger says.
How will the continued diversification of personal electronic devices affect interactive design?
“Ideally, we will leverage the strengths of each device to match it to the goal of the experience that we are designing,” says Krivoy. “As designers, we will need to continue broadening our understanding of technology and data and partnering with technologists who will help us tackle more complexity and design better experiences.”
“With the wider adoption of different devices, users will be more demanding of the content they decide to interact with, putting more pressure on creators to focus on better interactive design,” Mautino says.
“Clear user interface design is needed to level the landscape of the myriad devices out there,” says White.
“With the evolution of internet-connected objects and as the Internet of Things continues to grow with momentum, our mobile devices are going to be the keys that unlock compelling and engaging experiences that interact with our physical environment,” Hadinger says. “I’m excited for the near future in which people get back to exploring the world around them rather than looking down at a small screen in their hands.”
“Gone are the days that users engage with a product or service through only one device or even through a visual interface,” says Tarte. “By necessity, interactive designers will need to design with consideration of a medium’s idiosyncrasies and opportunities, and challenge the notion that there’s any ‘right’ device for a particular service.”
What breakthroughs will be required for VR to become more widely accepted?
“To many people, VR is still a nebulous medium that they associate with the headset and not the experiences that live within,” Hadinger says. “It’s still in its infancy and therefore only has a small sample size of resources, tools and ‘best in class’ examples that make it easy for those who are interested in the field to acclimate themselves to the breadth of capabilities. And until the hardware becomes more accessible and distributed, brands are going to be reluctant to invest production budgets in experiences that will garner such little visibility.”
“Technology breakthroughs are needed so that the devices are less cumbersome, uncomfortable and expensive,” says Krivoy. “Once the novelty wears off and the technology becomes more accessible, it will be an invaluable tool.”
“We need to find the right fit for VR so it becomes purposeful,” Mautino says. “We should focus on specific areas to allow for a more natural and focused interaction, such as education. If kids start using it in the classroom, they’ll naturally be more inclined to use VR for other purposes too.”
“VR will gain wider appeal when more affordable headsets match the quality and processing power of their higher-end competitors, and designers have more intuitive tools for interactive and collaborative experiences,” says Tarte. “But I’m more interested in AR becoming a more widely accepted technology—the hardware needed for compelling AR experiences is already in most of our pockets.”
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. The winning projects, including links and case-study videos, can be viewed on our website at commarts.com. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 24th Interactive Annual. —Patrick Coyne, ca
Stephen Hadinger is the partner and global design director of Siberia, a design and engineering firm with offices in Berlin, London, New York and San Francisco, where he’s helped expand its international creative footprint. Crossing disciplines for more than ten years, Hadinger uses his experience in everything from creative direction to product development to physical computing to help push what’s possible for brands. He’s created numerous award-winning ad campaigns for BBH New York, co:collective and AKQA San Francisco, where he led the establishment of its creative technology practice. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, Layla, and their two cats, Sid and Jazz.
Fanny Krivoy is the founder and creative director of New York City–based Studio Analogous, which builds digital products, services and capabilities for mission-driven organizations. Today, much of Krivoy’s focus revolves around inclusion, designing for often-overlooked groups who have a lot to contribute to business and culture. Krivoy studied design at Instituto de Diseño de Caracas in Venezuela and graduated with honors from the London College of Communication. Before Analogous, Krivoy was senior vice president of experience design at Schematic (now Possible) and held executive creative director positions at Renegade and Organic.
Eva Mautino is the chief administrative officer for Stockholm, Sweden–based visual effects and digital animation studio Important Looking Pirates. Prior to joining the firm in 2017, Mautino was director of production for B-Reel in Venice, California. Born in Italy, she started her advertising career in post-production and animation in Stockholm; in 2006, she joined B-Reel to combine her film and web knowledge. Mautino then moved to London to head the B-Reel UK office as its managing director, later relocating to Los Angeles to run the West Coast office. She also ran the Los Angeles chapter of SheSays, facilitating knowledge sharing among women in the creative industry.
Erika Tarte is the creative director of experiential design at New York City–based Edelman Digital, where she applies emerging technology to the needs of communications marketing and leads an internal creative technology laboratory. Tarte was previously the director of visual experience design at Local Projects, where her award-winning work encompassed everything from educational apps to immersive interactive installations to branding. She holds an MFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in history from the University of California, Berkeley, which actually comes in handy more often than one would expect.
Jason White is the cofounder and executive creative director of Chicago-based conceptual design agency Leviathan. With expertise in motion design, White guides his team through the production of high-profile projects for global brands, agencies and entertainers. Under his creative lead, Leviathan has worked with major brands, including BMW, Nike, North Face and Samsung, as well as with the recording artists Drake, Skrillex and Amon Tobin. A guest speaker at numerous industry conferences, White has seen his work featured in international media outlets, including Communication Arts, the Creators Project, Motionographer, Stash and WIRED.