Virtual, Visceral and Visual: Technology’s Powerful Influence on Design and Branding

Part 3 in our new series examining design trends in 2017
blue green butterfly

Virtual reality. Artificial intelligence. Drones everywhere. One minute a new technology seems like the stuff of sci-fi. The next minute it’s this year’s hottest Christmas gift. We are inundated with the magic and wonder of innovative technology, even if we aren’t exactly sure how it will ultimately affect our everyday lives. But cutting-edge technology is already changing the way we see the world around us, and influencing brand expression through photography and web design.

Be there now

Do you remember the first time you saw a video of a ski run shot with a Go-Pro? The visceral you-are-there quality of a Go-Pro video is powerful stuff. As Getty Images puts it, “…rather than looking at an image, we are now in the image — we’re not seeing, but experiencing.” First-person camera angles and disorienting perspectives give us the sense that we are in the moment, not just passively watching. Brands can capitalize on this, making potential customers feel they are already part of the brand experience.

Moving in the right direction

On the web, video is booming, and competition for eyeballs has upped the ante for online advertising. But while most of us hate intrusive video ads that start playing at inopportune times, subtle movement can be surprisingly effective.

Who would have predicted that a GIF-finding search engine could be worth $600 million? But people love these tiny, looping movies, and marketers have taken notice. The lowly animated GIF is suddenly a hot medium for compelling ads and emails. GIF files are small, and when the movement is subtle and on-brand, it can actually enhance the user experience.

Ometria has assembled a good selection of successful GIF ads here. In a Chanel GIF, for example, the slight movement of the shadow is just enough to attract attention, while also giving a hint of a sun-dappled vacation. The Anthropologie GIF does a great job of being visually appealing while also serving as a mini-catalog.

animated gif of a chanel promo

 

The parallax view

Parallax scrolling in websites isn’t new (it was first deployed in 2011), but it’s being used creatively in more sites and ads. In parallax design, the background of a web page moves at a different speed from the rest of the page, giving the visual effect of depth and dimension. A good example is MakeYourMoneyMatter.org, an educational website for a credit union group, which shows how the parallax technique is particularly well suited to animated infographics.

Lexus also makes effective use of parallax design for customer education, this time in the service of high-end automotive sales. But parallax can also be an effective technique for online ad delivery. Take a look at how this works this demo.

A picture is worth a thousand data points

“Big data” is not a new concept, but data-driven design is increasingly prevalent. Data visualization, or dataviz, synthesizes mounds of data into coherent and dynamic images to tell a story or clarify a point of view. Consumers are inundated with information, and a clean, coherent dataviz graphic can grab their attention and make a lasting impression.

Here’s a graphic from the New York Times that takes decades of basketball statistics and turns it into a compelling interactive graphic. Even if you don’t know much about the game, you immediately grasp the significance of Stephen Curry’s achievement.

Marketers with a complex brand story or deep data resources can use dataviz to amplify their value to potential customers. Microsoft’s dramatic and informative site about data security is a great example. Real-time polling and live data feeds can also pull visitors deeper into an online experience and give them reason to return to a site, or share it with others.

The future is now

Trying to predict the next tech trend can be a costly gamble — even Google had a serious misstep with Glass. But embracing the visual dynamism of cutting-edge technology can be a powerful way to reach curious consumers — and stand out in a crowded market.

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