“Location-based AR and projection mapping were far more dominant than expected [having] just come out of a global pandemic,” says juror Andre Elijah. “Having creatives reimagine spaces to bring them to life after years of solitude was inspiring.”
“There were a lot of entries that utilized AR, which is to be expected in our post-COVID world, but I also saw more experiential work than I expected,” juror Laura Hobson says.
“The physical installation [in public spaces] seems to be back! Perhaps [its revival is] a post-COVID reaction to bring people back into the world with tangible, ‘real’ experiences,” says juror Matt von Trott.
“Maybe because we were not interacting in physical spaces in 2020 and 2021, or maybe because [we were] spending so much of our time on small screens, the projection and installation work felt very powerful this year,” juror Pam Scheideler says.
I asked the jurors what other trends they saw this year.
“It seemed like audio was a big trend this year, which was nice to see—[or] hear,” says juror Jen Vladimirsky. “Even on websites, audio was used to further immerse viewers in the experience.”
“Delivering engaging interactive content on mobile has created some really successful real-time, 3-D projects this year,” von Trott says. “The skill set to work in this space is expanding.”
“I appreciated the projects that pushed beyond a flat design and a basic responsive grid,” says Scheideler. “Sometimes it seems as though every mobile experience feels the same—and while consistency is great for users, we need to keep pushing brand expression through UI.”
“I was very impressed with the caliber of student work—especially the in-depth UX work carried out in some of the projects,” Hobson says.
“There is a generation coming to market that is fluent in the use of code and data, relying on it as their default canvas,” says juror Laurent Thevenet. “It’s promising for our industry.”
I also asked the jurors to describe the weakest areas they saw in the entries.
“Site design on the whole still feels stagnant,” Elijah says. “Despite a shift in technologies from Flash to HTML5, things haven’t progressed as much as I’d hoped.”
“Some of the entries were great visually but lacked purpose,” says Laura Hobson. “I felt the entries that provided real value to the user really stood out.”
“I saw a lack of interaction design craft in many entries,” Thevenet says. “Interaction design cannot be based on the same principles as graphic design. A website will not work if it’s just pretty while extremely difficult to use. There needs to be a balance in this.”
“There were still some entries that had usability issues, and no matter how beautiful or interesting something is, if it’s not accessible to users, it’s tough to get behind the experience,” says Scheideler. “Really—there shouldn’t be a big loading experience. That needs to go.”
“I’d love to see more innovation brought to the world of e-commerce,” Jen Vladimirsky says. “It’s so widely used—everyone purchases things online. So why are e-commerce sites so standardized and boring? There must be room for innovation there.”
I asked the jurors to speculate on how the increasing array of digital devices will affect interactive design.
“Designing for one screen size and in flat formats will become irrelevant soon enough,” says Thevenet. “There are too many devices with different screen sizes and different levels of immersion (2-D, 3-D or AR) to [only design] UIs with a fixed format. Interaction designers need to think in terms of ecosystems. Interactive experiences will be continuous across different UI touch-points.”
“In short order, the masses will be wearing headsets that replace their traditional computing setups, their phones and everything else,” Elijah says. “Traditional creatives and designers will have to adapt from building for flat screens to 3-D that adapts to the users’ environment and placement in the world.”
“People expect to see the same experience across all of their devices,” says Vladimirsky. “This leads to having to simplify design and scale back content to deliver on this expectation. So, interactive design ends up focused on utility rather than creativity.”
I also asked why virtual reality hasn’t become more widely accepted.
“For users to fully immerse themselves into VR, I think the cost of the headsets or equipment would need to come down to [encourage] a much wider user base,” Hobson says. “But more importantly, I also think virtual reality needs to have a genuinely useful use case and provide a much larger benefit to users’ lives to be more widely adopted.”
“I think soulfulness is required in VR spaces to achieve adoption,” says Scheideler. “The immersive Flash websites of yesteryear remind me of VR. There was beauty and art in those experiences that made the download worth the wait. VR needs experiences that have intrinsic value.”
“I worry that virtual reality may never become widely accepted,” Vladimirsky says. “The price-point for headsets has reduced significantly over the last few years. The experiences are easier to build and access, and people have been much more isolated in the last few years due to the pandemic, which seems like the right environment for a more solitary experience like virtual reality. And still, it hasn’t really caught on in the mainstream.”
Lastly, I asked what business, cultural and social developments will alter the role of interactive media in the future.
“Generation Alpha will be even more digital than Gen Z,” says Thevenet. “We can expect them to be so fluent in the use of interfaces that they will essentially interact with them for everything they do. They will not just use laptops and mobile phones. They will also be using advanced AR interfaces over 5G, augmenting their experience of the real world. We can expect to start seeing new AR devices reaching the masses over the next 24 months.”
“We’re still in the very early stages of how the virtual and physical worlds can be blended,” Hobson says. “There were some advancements made due to COVID, but I think it will be fascinating to see how media will change in the future with new forms of immersive technology and devices.”
“I think truth and trust are becoming increasingly important as interactive media becomes more real-time,” says von Trott. “Taking time to curate and craft experiences with fact-based content will hopefully still be appreciated.”
“Interactive media is more important than ever, especially as we work within an environment where there can be low trust around information,” Scheideler says. “Interactive media can bring people with different perspectives together around issues that we all care about, like climate change, social justice and political freedom.”
Selection for this year’s annual required a minimum of four out of six 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 29th Interactive Annual.
It is with deep sadness that I acknowledge the recent passing of several influential members of the creative community.
Marshall Arisman, 83, was an illustrator whose provocative and often violent work appeared in the New York Times, Playboy and other major periodicals from the 1960s onward. Arisman was also the founder of the illustration as visual essay program (formerly illustration as visual journalism) at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He started teaching at the school in 1964, began the program in 1984 and was its chair until his death. We published an article on Arisman in 1982, and he was a judge for us in 1984.
Colin Forbes, 94, was a founding partner of the influential design partnership Pentagram. Forbes was already a successful designer when he cofounded Fletcher/Forbes/Gill in 1962 and then joined Alan Fletcher, Theo Crosby, Mervyn Kurlansky and Kenneth Grange to create Pentagram in London in 1972. Mr. Forbes designed a partner- ship structure that balanced independence and collaboration. We published articles on Pentagram in 1975, 1981 and 1996. Forbes wrote an article on Pentagram’s structure for us in 1992, and he was a judge for us in 1979.
George Lois, 91, was one of Madison Avenue’s best-known art directors whose audacious work and personality helped define creative advertising in the 1960s and ’70s. He also created covers for Esquire magazine, famous for their wordless social commentary. A veteran of Sudler & Hennessey and Doyle Dane Bernbach, Lois joined Fred Papert and Julian Koenig to form Papert Koenig Lois in 1960, which started a trend by going public in 1962. Lois went on to cofound multiple agencies over his career. We published articles on Lois in 1963, 1969 and 1972.
Michele McNally, 66, transformed photojournalism at the New York Times as its director of photography and later as a top newsroom manager that resulted in six Pulitzer Prizes for news and feature photography. During her fourteen-year tenure, McNally demon-strated how to complement articles with images and how stories could be told solely with visuals. Prior to that, she was picture editor of Time Life’s Magazine Development Group in the early 1980s, then picture editor of Fortune magazine from 1986 until she joined the Times in 2004. McNally was a judge for us in 2002.
Lanny Sommese, 79, was a graphic designer, poster maker, painter, artist and educator, best known for having more than 100 of his posters in the Library of Congress National Poster Collection and for his 45-year tenure inspiring and mentoring generations of students as the head of Penn State University’s graphic design program. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, Sommese had his work exhibited in dozens of the world’s major museums and poster exhibitions. We published an article on Sommese in 1983, and he was a judge for us in 1996.
Dan Wieden, 77, was cofounder of Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), considered one of the top independent creative agencies in the world. As the agency’s creative leader, Wieden inspired generations of creatives while continuing to write copy, penning the “Just do it” tagline for Nike in 1987. Wieden began his career at McCann Erickson, where he met his future collaborator David Kennedy. The two moved to ad agency William Cain, where they created campaigns for Nike, then a small company that would become W+K’s biggest client. We published articles on Wieden+Kennedy in 1987 and 2014. —Patrick Coyne ca
Andre Elijah is a Toronto-based award-winning immersive director and creative technologist delivering cutting edge technical projects for world-renowned brands, performers and leading XR platform companies. To kickstart his career, Elijah led the technical elements of both production and post-production for Beyoncé’s certified platinum concert film Live at Roseland: Elements of 4, which served as the first ten-camera multi-cam shoot of its kind on the RED Digital Cinema camera system. Elijah built many AR experiences in support of 2022’s Super Bowl LVI, and he will release two games on the official Oculus Quest Store this year.
Laura Hobson is lead product experience designer at the London, United Kingdom, office of Digitas Health. During her career, she has created digital products and experiences for numerous high-profile healthcare and consumer brands, including Boehringer Ingelheim, BT, EE, GSK, HBO, HSBC and Virgin Atlantic. Her work at Digitas Health includes the award-winning Heartbase Pro app, which supports doctors in visualizing and treating heart failure. Passionate about understanding people and using design to improve their lives, Hobson uses her expertise in digital design and UX to help brands ensure user-centricity is at the heart of everything they do.
Pam Scheideler is the US head of digital at Edelman. With more than 25 years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies connect with audiences in digital space, Scheideler has a track record of leading teams to deliver platform and content innovation and inspire companies to be digitally active brands. Prior to Edelman, she spent seven years at IPG (Deutsch and R/GA) and held senior-level positions at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Google Creative Labs and JWT New York. Scheideler was named to Campaign’s Digital 40 Over 40 list and was recognized as one of Business Insider’s Most Creative People in Advertising in 2016.
Laurent Thevenet is the head of creative technology for Publicis Groupe in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions. Over the last 20 years, Thevenet has worked at tech startups and agencies such as BBDO, R/GA and now Publicis Groupe, delivering large-scale digital campaigns, products and physical installations for Google, Heineken, Honda, Netflix, Nike, Telstra, Toyota, Uber and YouTube, among others. A perennial award winner, Thevenet remains an active practitioner in fields such as generative design, new media art and creative AI, and constantly works on developing new capabilities around emerging technologies across Publicis Groupe’s agencies.
Jen Vladimirsky is an executive producer at the New York office of Stink Studios. For more than a decade, she has been honing her craft at agencies large and small, including Big Spaceship, LBi, mcgarrybowen, TBWA\Chiat\Day and Wieden+Kennedy, producing award-winning work for brands like Delta, Duracell, Equinox and Nissan. Vladimirsky’s work spans websites, digital content and large-scale events, but her favorite projects are those that bridge the physical and digital spaces. When she’s not producing work or mentoring her team, she’s trying to teach her daughter to talk and cook—she’s a year and a half.
Matt von Trott is a creative director and a founding partner of Auckland, New Zealand–based production company Assembly. von Trott has collaborated with high profile brands to create websites, applications, VR experiences and commercials. Working as a creative director, von Trott has led award-winning digital work including interactive websites like Oat the Goat for the Ministry of Education, PwC’s Extraordinary Challenges, Sony’s Be Moved, and the online game Kubo & The Two Strings for Laika Studios. His work has received a healthy roster of awards, including ADCs, D&ADs, two Webby Awards and a bunch of FWAs for good measure.