“Several entries found ways to create new, unexpected experiences on social media platforms,” says juror Libby Bawcombe. “By combining a platform’s known limitations with certain user behaviors, these entries creatively gamified social interactions.”
“Many of the most ingenious entries, especially in social media, built on top of existing social infrastructure, gaming platforms and cultural references already taking root in the physical and digital zeitgeist,” juror Hayley Hughes says.
“Social media has the potential to be the most powerful media because of its inherent reach,” says juror Dan Mall. “My favorite entries were the ones that capitalized on existing user behaviors like memes and hashtags.”
“I saw some incredibly interesting ‘hacks’ of social media apps,” juror Phillip Tiongson says. “Creating new interactions using the Instagram grid, for instance, was really creative and fun.”
Along with the impressive quality of the entries, the jurors noted a few surprises.
“I saw fewer parallax entries than I expected, and those who used the effect did so cleverly,” says Bawcombe.
“I was surprised to see so many augmented reality (AR) projects,” juror Guillaume Braun says. “I was pleased to see that some projects made the experience more participatory.”
“There were so many unique projects and perspectives coming out of the student category, which filled me with hope,” Hughes says. “There were also a lot of social justice projects, but the ones that focused on a specific, well-framed goal and audience tended to have the most successful outcomes.”
“I was surprisingly energized by the quality of the student work,” says Mall. “If this is what the future holds for this industry, we’ll be seeing some great uses of technology very soon.”
“I thought the student work was outstanding and really showed how the next generation of interaction designers is going to be thinking about a whole new class of problems and opportunities,” says Tiongson.
I asked the jurors what they felt were the weaknesses in this year’s entries. Their most frequent complaints were directed at the formulaic approach to web design.
“I saw a lot of blue and gray corporate websites that are using the same homepage template,” Bawcombe says. “You know the one: a giant hero photo or video on a loop, a grid of text boxes, a large text treatment or pull quote, a row of customer testimonials or staff photos, and a dark footer. We’ve seen it before!”
“The website category was clearly where there was a lot of similarity from one project to another,” says Braun. “They were all excellent, but lacked originality when compared to each other.”
“A lot of the user experiences were not as accessible as I had anticipated,” Hughes says. “Some entries failed to take into consideration responsiveness, performance, and how people navigate, view and control their experience of the content.”
“Very few were accessible both visually as well as to assistive devices like screen readers,” says Mall. “Great design that works for everyone deserves to be awarded, and I hope to see that become more prevalent in the future.”
Finally, I asked the jurors a few questions about the future of digital interactivity:
How will the continued diversification of personal electronic devices affect interactive design?
“Designers will continue to move from designing for individual devices or aspect ratios to design systems that encode the intent of the designer into an interactive form,” Tiongson says. “But designers will need better tools to express themselves dynamically so that their systems behave not just well, but also organically.”
“As devices change and new platforms are introduced, I see a greater need for experience designers to play a leading role in how we interact with technology,” says Bawcombe. “Smart speakers have recently shifted how we approach interaction design and user flows. User-centered design and experience design are key to helping audiences understand changing technology in everyday things.”
“The diversification of personal electronic devices will continue to enable more complex communication systems between people and machines,” Hughes says. “This opportunity also comes with a tremendous responsibility to measure the impact of new inter- actions we introduce. I hope the outcome is that people have the freedom to solve more intellectually and emotionally challenging problems facing society.”
What breakthroughs will be required for virtual reality (VR) to become widely accepted?
“Wireless systems such as Oculus Quest are a big step towards the democratization of VR, but I believe that the best VR experience will always be where the user’s physical environment matches the virtual environment,” says Braun.
“No matter how great any VR experience is, it requires you to cut yourself off from the outside world, and look pretty odd while doing so,” Tiongson says. “So the breakthrough that would be required—and I am not convinced will happen anytime soon—will be for new social customs to emerge, where people can truly feel comfortable with each other and understand where their attention is focused. Until a larger cultural shift happens, I believe VR will remain a novelty.”
“Perhaps when VR offers day-to-day utility, we’ll see it become more commonplace,” says Bawcombe.
What business, cultural and social developments will alter the role of interactive media in the future?
“I believe that interactivity makes sense when it is the accompa-niment to humans in everyday life,” Braun says. “We must always be aware of the speed at which these technologies evolve. We must not be afraid of change or failure.”
“People want to engage with interactive media in ways that enable them to become creators and have agency over their personal and professional worlds,” says Hughes. “Whether they influence city planning by marking up their neighborhoods with suggested improvements or put together streams of data from different wellness apps to send an overall picture of health to their doctors, people want to be able to combine media with things in the physical world, tell new stories with it and make it work for them.”
“Design can shine a light on cultural issues in order to raise awareness, seek resources and spur action,” Bawcombe says. “Creating methods to help the audience experience these issues firsthand will go a long way toward building empathy and under- standing. Interactive media has the power to affect change.”
“As technology becomes cheaper and the means to control it becomes easier, I think we’ll see interactive media take on a different purpose as it morphs to serve different communities,” says Mall. “I’m all for technology playing a more significant role in helping people find more fulfilling roles in society.”
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 26th Interactive Annual.
It is with deep sadness that I acknowledge the recent passing of several influential members of the creative community.
Philip Gips, 88, created many celebrated movie posters, including those for Rosemary’s Baby, Alien and Fatal Attraction. He and his firms’ partners also designed annual reports, album covers, signage and corporate logos, including the one that ESPN has used since 1985. Prior to the formation of his first firm, Gips & Klein, in 1962, Gips was a designer for CBS and an art director for Time-Life International. We published multiple articles featuring Gips, beginning with Gips & Klein in 1963, Gips & Danne in 1969, Gips & Balkind Associates in 1980 and Frankfurt Gips Balkind in 1991.
Vaughan Oliver, 62, was a British graphic designer best known for his album covers for the independent record label 4AD, which became visual accompaniments for influential alternative rock bands like the Pixies, The Breeders and Cocteau Twins. Oliver spent 20 years as the label’s in-house designer and art director and helped founder Ivo Watts-Russell turn the company into a cult label that was prominent from the 1980s well into the 1990s. A book collecting his work, Vaughan Oliver: Archive, was published in 2018. He also taught at University for the Creative Arts Epsom, which now houses the Vaughan Oliver Archive.
Charles Santore, 84, was best known for illustrating classic children’s books, but began his career in the 1970s creating print ads and more than 30 covers for TV Guide. He also sold illustrations to Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook and other publications. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Brandywine River Museum of Art and in special museum exhibitions across the country. He has earned medals from the Society of Publication Designers and the Society of Illustrators, including the prestigious Hamilton King Award. We ran a feature article on Santore in 2004.
Michael Stinson, 49, was an accomplished corporate communi-cations designer and a skilled typographer and educator. A cofound- ing creative director of Los Angeles–based Ramp Creative, Stinson was also a cofounding instructor at TypeEd, a typographic education and training program. In 2008, he began teaching design and typography at institutions such as the College of the Canyons, the University of Southern California and Santa Monica College. His most recent professional roles included serving as senior designer at Udemy and as a faculty member teaching typography and brand identity courses at Laguna College of Art+Design. Stinson was a judge for us in 2018.
Jack Summerford, 76, was an internationally recognized graphic designer, best known for his iconic and ironic Helvetica poster, created in 1979. He worked for Stan Richards for eight years before opening his own shop in 1978. Summerford served on the AIGA board of directors at the national level and was a founding director of the Texas chapter, ultimately becoming the first AIGA Fellow in Texas. He was also the recipient of the Dallas Society of Visual Communi-cations lifetime achievement award. He was a judge for us in 1983, the same year we published a feature article on his work. —Patrick Coyne ca
Libby Bawcombe is the manager of design research and strategy at National Public Radio (NPR). She practices user research, visual design, user experience, design thinking and agile methods in order to bring NPR’s unique story-telling to listeners and readers across digital platforms. Bawcombe was formerly the digital design director at the Atlantic, where she led user experience, art direction and responsive design for theatlantic.com and citylab.com. Prior to this, Bawcombe was the manager/senior multimedia designer at the Newseum, designing interactive touch museum exhibits and educational websites. A past AIGA DC board member, she currently volunteers for her local library.
Guillaume Braun is founder and chief creative officer of inteactive design agency Akufen, based in Montréal, Canada. Prior to founding Akufen in 2007, Braun started his career at Sid Lee. He has been instrumental on such projects as the “Big Data” episode of interactive documentary series Do Not Track, the interactive graphic novel The Wanted 18 and A Journal of Insomnia. The latter, which he codirected, was presented at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the Tribeca Film Festival. More recently, Braun began teaching in the web design and interactive media program that he helped initiate at Collège Salette.
Hayley Hughes is a user experience manager for Shopify’s Polaris design system. Previously, she was an experience design lead for the design language system at Airbnb. She formerly pioneered the design language at IBM, where she led a team serving more than 2,000 designers and product teams. Her philosophy is grounded in an idea she describes as system stewardship, the integrative practice of building systems from a deep understanding of human behavior, community and culture. She has shared her scaffolded model for a design system of human needs in twelve different countries and has participated in webinars with Adobe, InVision and Monotype.
Dan Mall is founder and executive director of SuperFriendly, a design collaborative that helps in-house teams make better products through design systems. Before opening SuperFriendly, Mall worked as design director for Brooklyn-based digital creative agency Big Spaceship. Prior to that, he was an interactive director at the web design boutique Happy Cog. Mall is also the cofounder of SuperBooked, an online community that connects designers and developers to work through people they trust. He is the author of Pricing Design, a book that helps agency owners and freelancers figure out how and what to charge for their services.
Phillip Tiongson is a cofounder of Potion, a New York–based interactive design studio that crafts technology into intuitive interactive experiences on mobile devices, room-sized screens and installations. A software engineer, designer and filmmaker, Tiongson is interested in the ever-evolving interplay between tech-nology and humanity. Tiongson currently serves on MIT’s Council for the Arts, a catalyst and funder for the development of a broadly based, highly participatory arts program, and he regularly speaks about technology, design and culture. He earned his MS from the MIT Media Lab and his MFA in film directing from Columbia University.