Leaving Flash behind

Even before the Apple vs. Adobe bunfight erupted, we were beginning to assess every rich media requirement on every one of our projects to see if it could be done without Flash. If it could be done in code, then we would avoid Flash. That is now standard practice.

Flash, as the default choice for delivery of rich media, has had its day. For us at least.

Adobe has had plenty of time to look for alternative directions for its product, but have preferred to continue the ‘all-things-to-all-men’ marketing approach. “It’s a video deployment platform! It’s an animation tool! It’s a fully-fledged development platform! It’s… give us a while to think of something else!”.

For me, and for many others, the leap to AS3 was too much. In trying to appeal to developers, Flash lost part of its core user base: those designers who had managed to develop rich media experiences in AS2. Adobe eventually realised this, and spent a lot of time trying to convince us that AS3 was the way to go.

I’ll hold my hands up: for years, I threw myself into conquering Flash, so sure that it would yield a fantastic future. But let’s be brutally honest: Flash was never quite the universal, cross-browser, cross-OS platform that Adobe would have had us believe. It never really worked quite in that way.

One of my abiding memories of working on advanced Flash projects was that moment when you suddenly felt very alone. You had promised the client some feature or other, completely convinced that of course Flash would be capable of it. And then you would try and implement something relatively straightforward. Then you would get stuck. Then you would hit the Live Docs, the Flash forums, and everything would go silent. You would find yourself pursuing the issue in some obscure forum, the web equivalent of a country road with grass growing in the middle. You would get that sinking feeling somewhere in the pit of your stomach, and realise that you may actually be asking something of Flash that it was never able to deliver. I had that feeling too many times, and I never want to go there again.

Adobe and its bloggers may post all they like and try to retro-evangelise that we were never meant to develop certain work on their highly legitimate platform. The fact is that for years we were asked to buy in to the idea of Flash as a site development tool. Hundreds of dire ‘Macromedia Site of the Day’ examples – usually the more complex, the better – will testify to what Flash’s masters were trying to promote. Adobe never seriously tried to change the agenda, except when early warning signs started to show, and video delivery became Flash’s saviour.

The simple fact is that the medium has had its time. At 12 years, it has had a good innings. The truth is we are finding other ways of doing what Flash used to show off about. In the early days of this migration, it even irked me. “Why is all this stuff suddenly cool to do in code, when Flash has been able to do it for years” I would whine. Then the penny dropped.

I am no anti-Flasher now. I’m a realist. So long Flash. Sorry Adobe. It’s not you, it’s me.

Simplicity vs minimalism

My work tends toward simplicity to the point that I sometimes I think it marks me out as some kind of design luddite.

As I grow older I’ve become increasingly aware of how difficult it can be to simply stop designing. There is a time when a design – or to be more accurate – a style is done, finished.

Simplicity is the art of removing complexity (my definition but apologies if this has been subconsciously lifted from an official definition from elsewhere). For the user, complexity is a usability killer. For the designer, complexity is a time drain and a creative anathema. The more complex a design is, the less sustainable it becomes and the more work is required at later stages to uphold the extreme level of detail or clutter that has been established.

Simplicity is not minimalism. I see minimalism as an aesthetic, whereas simplicity is an imperative. Very different. And simplicity does not mean “plain” or “bland”. Just simple.

I’m barely touching on this huge subject but I’ll revisit it again and again I have no doubt.

Here’s a good point well made which I think illustrates what I’m getting at: http://www.usabilitypost.com/2010/07/23/a-mild-case-of-borderitis/

There’s something about airports

Airport architecture makes them enjoyable places to be. I rarely travel by air, but I do know that it’s possible to waste hours at a time in them. It seems that ever since the Pan Am terminal at JFK airport in New York appeared, airport terminal design took a turn for the transcendent. I can’t say that Stansted Airport is up there with the best, but it’s beautiful by night.

stans.jpg

Vancouver 2004/2010

It’s been kind of odd watching the 2010 Winter Olympics. I was in Vancouver at the time that the city won the bid, back in 2004. Although on a holiday, my professional interest soon peaked when an emerging story related to the Games’ logo started to emerge.

The Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) launched a competition to design the Games’ logo, open to amateurs and professionals alike. Nothing short of a huge speculative pitch. I documented the story for CSD’s ‘The Designer’ magazine and the piece was kindly reproduced by the GDC on its website (now offline).

The dogged determination shown by the GDC at the time to ensure that professional designers were represented intelligently and fairly was fantastic to witness, and renewed my faith in design associations at a time when the virtual community provided by the web was quickly making them obsolete.

The logo competition controversy aside, there were some neat little design touches that accompanied the Games, right down to the competitor bibs for Games events. CBC’s Olympic website was a concise and comprehensive reference point for events, results and Games news. The winners’ podium likely went unnoticed by most, save for those fortunate enough to step up onto it.

The success of the Games overall was a credit to Vancouver, and the infectious enthusiasm they brought to the party eventually won over even the most cynical of oberservers.