Part 3 – Project 4: Exercise 4 – Cutting Edge

Explore a range of websites or other forms of new media (games, video, other interactive media, etc.) and identify examples of what you would consider cutting edge or inventive forms of visual communication. You could conduct your search in terms of the aesthetics used, the functionality of the site, or simply the ideas being explored. Pick examples that you find intriguing, exciting or novel and reflect on what makes them interesting to you. Think back to Project 1 and see if these examples still conform to messages that persuade, inform, or entertain.

The first really interesting website I came across was crypton.trading. It’s a site for a cryptocurrency trading bot, but it has some amazing scroll-triggered animations. It’s admittedly rather slow getting through them all, but the effect is fascinating.

It’s no surprise that Apple’s website is beautiful, but the page for the newest iPad is really stunning. It has different sections as you scroll down the page, demonstrating all the bets features. There are different types of transitions between the sections, and lots of tiny animations. There is a lot of ‘hand drawn’ style text (presumably to go along with the idea of their Apple pencil which is itself an exciting and innovative visual communication tool).

Screenshot from https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad-10.2/

Another fascinating thing I came across which I didn’t know about is Facebook Horizon, which is an ‘ever expanding VR world’

VR itself is an interesting development in visual communication. Facebook has it’s own VR hardware products and games to go with them.

Something I’ve used and is probably going to become more popular is collaborative project sites and apps like Slack which aim to replace email for team working on projects. It is a little bit like Facebook groups I would say, where you can see messages, files, and other information all in one ‘channel’. There are a slew of alternatives out there as it’s a becoming a popular way to communicate not just for business, but for gamers and anyone who is working on something with a group of other people.

Here’s a screenshot from Slack:

As well as this kind of team communication tool for sharing files and information, there is a new wave of collaborative design tools such as Figma where you can actually work on a design file with your colleagues together, in real time.

User Experience (UX) is always a hot topic and there are numerous articles about future UX trends. The Fast Company have listed lots of the best UX Designs of last year (view here) which include many interesting visual communication concepts such as US Denim‘s website where you can view jeans on a model in your actual size, Augmented writing products like Textio, or the Chrome extension Tune, which controls which comments you see on YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.

Also on that list is Quicktake by Bloomberg (formerly Tictoc). This is an interesting concept in visual communication. It’s essentially very short videos on current news items which give the main facts. I think this says a lot about the way online news communications are heading.

A fun Google experiment I found is something called AutoDraw, which allows the user to do a little doodle, and then AutoDraw brings up suggestions of drawings/icons that you might be attempting to draw which you could then use online, to make posters/cards, or to put wherever you like. It’s not perfect, but a fun little tool for translating terrible drawings into something more recognisable!

In the world of social media, many sites are predicting future trends that include a lot of visual communication methods, most notably, video. It’s expected to become the most common type of content, both pre-recorded and live. The popularity of Instagram stories over the regular newsfeed, and the introduction of the same functionality in Facebook, shows how important video is becoming in the world of visual communication.

I came across a really cool company called Visual Editions who have produced interactive books, made to be read on your phone. Breathe, for instance is a young adult ghost story that uses your location and camera to insert personal details into the story and use your surroundings as part of the background. The book was produced as part of a collaborative project called Ambient Literature that worked to ‘investigate the locational and technological future of the book’.

Something that is becoming more popular is the concept of ‘niche social media platforms’. Unlike the generalised giants like Facebook and Twitter, these sites offer places for people to talk about specific interests. Looking through these, I notice that many are very visual in nature, as opposed to old-school message boards and text sites that I remember being part of when I wanted to find like-minded people in the past. Instructables, for instance, offers user produced DIY projects which are taught through photos and videos. Behance offers a space for creatives to show off their work. All Recipes allows users to share recipes with the community, and a big part of that is posting pictures of the final product. Other users can add their own pictures when they’ve made the recipe too. Twitch is an incredibly popular platform for gamers to both communicate and also watch other gamers’ livestream their gameplay.

InnerVoice is an app that is related to the very essence of visual communication. It is designed to ‘address the complex communication needs of people on the autism spectrum’ through research into language development. In short, it helps those on the autism spectrum learn communication skills. The way it does this is through visual cues – avatars, photographs, characters, videos, emojis, gifs, speech and texts. It’s a really innovative way of using visual communication to teach speech and language communication skills.

The final interesting thing I found in this particular search on cutting edge visual communications is ‘Deepfakes‘ (a combo of the words ‘deep learning’ and ‘fakes’). Deepfakes are AI-generated fake videos and are becoming more and more common. They are the progression of ‘photoshopped’ images, and are incredibly convincing. Deepfakes combined and superimpose visuals of a person’s face onto the video of another person’s body. Machine learning therefore allows production of videos showing a person saying and doing things that they never actually did.

Is this the start of an era where video based visual communications become untrustworthy? When we can be convinced that fake videos are real, and real videos can be plausibly denied and labelled as fakes, it seems like we are heading for a future where we really cannot believe our eyes. This already happens with still images. We are probably all now familiar with the concept of altered, or ‘photoshopped’ photographs that are incredibly well done. Just like the alteration of still images has improved over time, the technology that produces the deepfake videos is getting better and better in a very short amount of time, and there is a race on between many groups to come up with ways to better spot these fakes. It may not be too long before the average Joe can produce excellent fake videos in minutes, just as easily as they can change their appearance via a free to download app on their smartphone, or a clever filter on social media.

With technology developing so rapidly, the future of communication is really going to be more visually based, but at the same time, that visual communication technology is going to become far more open to manipulation for negative purposes.

For a discussion on how the future of content is visual, and why, the below video by Amy Balliett is highly informative.

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