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Organic Flash
December 3, 2004 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Organic Flash is a response to my perception of current design trends. In many popular sites that I come across I sense coldness; an attempt to master nature, to remove us from reality, a struggle to feel superior to our offline world and to one another. ... We are of this earth and though our online world is virtual, I believe that the most fulfilling user experiences will be so because the designer/artist wisely incorporated elements from our natural environment into their presentation. They made an effort to communicate with our humanity rather [than] squash it into cold vector perfection. In addition to speaking with the mind, they bonded with the soul. Yes, we are still left bodiless, but hopefully, when we get up from the computer and finally agree to go to bed, we take with us an enriched soul, rather than a depleted one.
- Kurt Dommermuth, 10 April 2001
posted by jefgodesky (61 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
[this is really freakin' good]
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:00 AM on December 3, 2004


Sweet jumping jesus, you were preparing this over the years you weren't a member, weren't you?

[wow]
posted by cavalier at 7:02 AM on December 3, 2004


Awesome. Mad props; made my Friday!
posted by tr33hggr at 7:03 AM on December 3, 2004


As a vector program, Flash lends itself easily to super-sleek, ultra-futuristic, cold vector perfection. (see Olson, Ross. "The Flash Aesthetic," A List Apart, issue 123). But with a widely-available plugin to include sound, graphics and motion, it also has in it the potential for the first truly interactive art style, and Kurt Dommermuth really made it that. You can see heavy organic influences in the work of Ingo Ramin of Lana Landis fame, for instance, or in Broken Saints (previously discussed here and here).

Organic Flash is an attempt to raise Flash to the level of art, and it comes with its own aesthetic and philosophy. Personally, I think too much of it is dark, but this is a reflection of its history as a protest movement. I think the future of Organic Flash lies not in continuing to rebel against what's wrong in the world, but trying to celebrate a new vision of what's right. And that is something that I find very, very exciting.

On preview: What can I say, cavalier, I've been lurking long enough to know to take a front-page post seriously. I'd hate to take a shit in the blue, as the cool kids say.

Disclaimer: The first link is to the forum simply because it's organicflash.com; I happen to be a moderator there, though not a particularly active one. I hope that doesn't disqualify all this on the "self-link" rule. I really don't think any of my stuff is anywhere near good enough to count among this, though....
posted by jefgodesky at 7:05 AM on December 3, 2004


I take back every disparaging remark I have ever made about new users.

This is absofuckinglutely fanfuckingtastic.

Now I have to recode my entire site I was working on. Thanks a lot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:05 AM on December 3, 2004


too.many.links
posted by page404 at 7:07 AM on December 3, 2004


Jefodesky I have a big crush on you now.
posted by pomegranate at 7:19 AM on December 3, 2004



posted by grateful at 7:20 AM on December 3, 2004


WOW. Superb post.
posted by yoga at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2004


Many great examples of good design here. One of my favorites [though the most current version isn't linked in this post] is flight404, I'm sure the current version isn't posted is because it's using a java environment called processing. I know that flash is much easier to come to grips with, but I've been watching this one develop for some time and really hope it catches on and becomes less buggy [my personal experiments have ended with lots of hair loss and screaming]. One of the most useful and dynamic applications of this technology is toxi's base26 [note: previous two links require java to appreciate].

When it comes to an overall aesthetic, Flash certainly does have it's place on the web. Maybe it's just me, but there doesn't seem to be many people pushing it further, interface or otherwise, lately [read: since Flash5]. Does Macromedia let plugins be developed outside it's own house? Perhaps it's too much of a hassle to get custom code working... It's all starting to look the same to me.
posted by phylum sinter at 7:38 AM on December 3, 2004


The components introduced in MX probably have a lot to do with the homogeneity you mention, phylum sinter.

While the current 404 page impresses me on a technological level, I didn't link to it because its aesthetic is much more in the "cold vector perfection" camp, while v5 is much more experimental and a much better example of Organic Flash.
posted by jefgodesky at 7:43 AM on December 3, 2004


Oh, brave new world that is capable of producing such beautiful flash art. The only thing is those Norman Rockwell masterpieces that are used in a kind of decorative way -- those are art too, done by an actual man who lived and was passionate about his work the same way these flash artists are. Perhaps he should be given some credit.
posted by Faze at 7:51 AM on December 3, 2004


Perhaps he should be given some credit.
posted by jefgodesky at 7:53 AM on December 3, 2004


Thank you for this.
posted by odinsdream at 7:53 AM on December 3, 2004


This is *really* cool - many thanks!
posted by carter at 8:07 AM on December 3, 2004


Organic Flash is a response to my perception of current design trends

Flash - doesn't run on FreeBSD native, so flash is useless as far as I care.

If your content isn't important enough for you to care that other can see it, the idea isn't all that grand.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:21 AM on December 3, 2004


FreeBSD - doesn't run Flash, so FreeBSD is useless as far as I care.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:32 AM on December 3, 2004


Where does Flying Puppet fit in to the Organic Flash movement? It was the first I had seen, and I believe still the best.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 AM on December 3, 2004


If your content isn't important enough for you to care that other can see it, the idea isn't all that grand.

Is that a joke? Books don't run on FreeBSD either. And should we cancel books because illiterates can't appreciate them? I find it hard to believe there's no web browser available to BSD that handles Flash.
posted by yerfatma at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2004


Aaagh - the fly on the 24-7media.de link ("They made an effort to communicate with our humanity" link)...

... must... catch... the... fly... nyrgh...

Cool stuff - good fpp jefgodesky!
posted by Chunder at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2004


If your content isn't important enough for you to care that other can see it, the idea isn't all that grand.
Is that a joke?


Same thing applies to people who code their web pages to require Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer. The people presenting content have chosen a medium that is not universal and therefore don't really care that much about what they have to say in that content.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2004


Where does Flying Puppet fit in to the Organic Flash movement? It was the first I had seen, and I believe still the best.

Well there's no governing body to say what is and isn't organic, and even the guidelines are sketchy, but I'd say it would fit nicely in the category, sure.

Same thing applies to people who code their web pages to require Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer. The people presenting content have chosen a medium that is not universal and therefore don't really care that much about what they have to say in that content.

It's not really "content," it's art. The words are not particularly important. They're not trying to convey information, they're trying to create an experience, an atmosphere, an ambience. For that, they need motion, graphics, sounds and text all working together.

I generally agree with you about interoperability, rough ashlar, but something like 99% of the web has the Flash plugin. Even IE doesn't have that kind of monopoly (it's currently dropping to around 75%--go Firefox!), and if you're trying to create a piece of experiential, interactive art, there aren't really many alternatives.
posted by jefgodesky at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2004


.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2004


jefgodesky: this was enjoyable, educational-- a gift... many thanks!
posted by JenSpiral at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2004


Some great examples. I don't know if this is overall "organic flash" but the movement is just so nice, and the site is tons of fun so, check it out. And since we are talking about flash... here is an old link that has been posted but ... well it is amazing as is this created by twinkleland
posted by JBennett at 9:22 AM on December 3, 2004


Some great examples. I don't know if this is overall "organic flash" but the movement is just so nice, and the site is tons of fun so, check it out. And since we are talking about flash... here is an old link that has been posted but ... well it is amazing as is this created by twinkleland
posted by JBennett at 9:25 AM on December 3, 2004


groaned when i saw all those links, but quickly took it back when i realized they concerned a topic i'm greatly interested in.

thanks a lot, this is a great post
posted by jimmy at 9:28 AM on December 3, 2004


.
posted by shoepal at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2004


a good illustration of Flash's biggest flaw: no back button. too many links.

i clicked a heck of a lot of those, and had no idea what Organic Flash meant until jefgodesky explained it.

Organic Flash is an attempt to raise Flash to the level of art


hasn't Flash been about art since the very beginning? if that isn't bad art, i don't know what is. the ads came after the art pieces, i think.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2004


I hear that there are all these websites that use images to convey important information. I am a cantankerous jerk who uses lynx exclusively, so all these websites are useless as far as I care.
posted by majcher at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2004


Wow! What a welcome treat - definitely Best of the Web links. Best flash friday entries for quite a while...
posted by jasper411 at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2004


I refuse to install Flash on a permanent basis on any of my machines. Occasionally, I must install it in order to get some sort of information from a site that doesn't provide a non-flash version (b*stards!), but I always have uninstall_flash_player.exe (or Add-In Manager on my XP box) standing by for when I'm done.

Why do I hate it so much? Three reasons:

1) The fact that you cannot turn off sound on the client side
2) Complete and utter misuse
3) Its proprietary nature

Honestly, I could even live with the second and third. It's the first one that kills me, since I'm always listening to something on Winamp. The inability to unconditionally turn off sound is totally unacceptable.

As for misuse, I have a few very specific complaints:

1) Graphics on a webpage should ONLY move in response to users' actions, and NEVER independently. People love to violate this precept using Flash.
2) Flash allows for the creation of a species of advertisement that actually manages to be more irritating than animated .GIFs.
3) I'm generally annoyed by designers' attempts to "pretty up" their websites with graphical widgets that don't add anything to content or usability.

As for its proprietary nature, I think that this problem speaks for itself.


posted by afroblanca at 10:05 AM on December 3, 2004


Same thing applies to people who code their web pages to require Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer.

The whole point of Flash is to provide an experience that you can't get with HTML. Unless a site is making use of something that only IE can provide, the analogy makes no sense.

1) Graphics on a webpage should ONLY move in response to users' actions, and NEVER independently. People love to violate this precept using Flash.

A Flash-only site isn't web page. It just happens to be hosted in a browser.

Is there any chance you anti-Flash geeks could just go back to your command lines and leave this thread alone?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2004


The people presenting content have chosen a medium that is not universal

No medium is universal. There's certainly an argument to be made for making content as widely accessible as possible, but for you to say "this sucks because my niche product can't support it!" is kind of dumb.

2) Complete and utter misuse

No medium is immune to misuse. I completely agree, there's a lot of sucky flash out there. There are a lot of sucky web pages out there. Some books are absolute crap.

These particular sites, on the other hand -- the ones we're discussing in this thread -- are excellent work.
posted by ook at 10:45 AM on December 3, 2004


have to be with Armitage on this one

1) Graphics on a webpage should ONLY move in response to users' actions, and NEVER independently. People love to violate this precept using Flash.

precept? and which stone tablet was this one carved on? i really fail to see the point of attempting to restrict an art form based on some outdated idea of what the interweb should be like. see, there they go, doin' it agin, just like when they brung out those dam' talkies!

2) Flash allows for the creation of a species of advertisement that actually manages to be more irritating than animated .GIFs.

not nearly as bad as wood, which allows us to make clubs to bash in the heads of baby harp seals. not to mention the Great Satan that is twine.

3) I'm generally annoyed by designers' attempts to "pretty up" their websites with graphical widgets that don't add anything to content or usability.

depends on how you define "content" -- graphic design is all about content, mainly emotional content. very disconcerting to many. way too hard to pin down. and uncomfortable for some.
posted by badzen at 10:57 AM on December 3, 2004


You know, whenever I have The Flash Discussion with people, the opposing side likes to characterize my viewpoint in neo-luddite terms.

Let's get this straight- I'm not against the idea that is Flash. I just think that it is implemented and utilized in a way that ignores some basic notions of usability. I also don't like the power that it gives to the Macromedia corperation. This irritates me, which is why I try not to use Flash.
posted by afroblanca at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2004


I'm generally annoyed by designers' attempts to "pretty up" their websites with graphical widgets that don't add anything to content or usability.

And that sentiment is basically the deviding line.
Camp 1: The primary purpose of an interface is to present content in a usable fassion. Any element that does not add content or aid in usability is therefore extraneous and should be eliminated. Plus, you can't even search the text! What an inefficient world Camp 2 lives in.
Camp 2: The beauty of the interactive multimedia online experience is the capacity it has for creating new and interesting ways of interacting with and experiencing people and information. This isn't the 1970s, this isn't GOPHER, and if I wanted plaintext I'd read usenet. What a colorless world Camp 1 lives in.

And never the twain shall meet...
posted by ChasFile at 11:24 AM on December 3, 2004


while i agree that these sites are all very pretty to look at, i don't quite understand what qualifies them as "organic" per se. to me calling something "organic" means a lot more than just looks, designed entropy, quirkyness and graphical references to the realworld. a lot of those sites listed just look and feel too uniform.

an organism is an intricate and often very complex system that can take many shapes and forms (as seen in nature too). so i'd define sites exploring complex structures from a content and interactive POV a lot more "organic" than the examples given. only because the graphic style is less cluttered, less noisy and more abstract shouldn't mean less organic.

to go even further, i also think flash is not necessarily the right tool for producing "organic" work, as it isn't well suited to deal with even mildly complex setups/information properly. to an extend organisms are also aware of the outside world. tools like Director or Processing are a lot better prepared to react and interfere with the realworld than flash is. IMO life is about reaction, adaption, evolution, communication, interference, emergence, regardless of it looks - it's more about defining rules of behaviour than actually fully designing an organic system. maybe there should be a new thread about all those sites... ;)
posted by toxi at 11:33 AM on December 3, 2004


Wow. I was going to say nice link (though I can't fully explore it at work...)

but I have to say that I get really annoyed at the sound thing with Flash.

That said, it's installed on both IE and Firefox at home. I mean, English has some nasty attributes (counter-intuitive spelling system, to name one), but I still use it.
posted by Busithoth at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2004


I also don't like the power that it gives to the Macromedia corperation.

Ugh. I don't like the power Adobe is given with all their entire creative suite (really just Photoshop and InDesign), but the point is, they do it better than anyone else. They're not practicing anti-competitive behavior to keep their "monopoly", they're just the best at what they do. Until someone comes along with something better, smaller, and/or quicker (good luck), Macromedia fully deserves the kudos they so often receive.

Also, there are many various hacks to get back-button usability in Flash. If you'd like an appropriate analogy, there are many various hacks to get page positioning to work cross-browser, too.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2004


The Gopher Manifesto
posted by inksyndicate at 12:20 PM on December 3, 2004


They're not practicing anti-competitive behavior to keep their "monopoly", they're just the best at what they do.

Please note that I am not accusing Macromedia of having an unfair monopoly. I don't like it when people use this argument against Microsoft (although it does tend to ring a bit truer in their case), and I wouldn't dream of using it against Macromedia.

The fact is this - HTML by itself is not a very good multimedia platform. And I say this as a web developer who winces every time I need to do a full-page refresh just to make the UI respond to a user's actions. There have been a couple (in my opinion) failed attempts to solve this problem, such as Javascript and Flash, and there are a few attempts that are (in my opinion) doomed to fail, such as MS Avalon. Simply put, what I refer to as The Client Problem remains unsolved.

That said, if given the choice, I would much rather see this task in the hands of an independent standards-making body than a private corporation. I just think that the end result would be better.
posted by afroblanca at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2004


Which is why I look forward so much to the maturity and wide-spread support of SVG.

But until that long-prophesied day, the stuff people like Dommermuth and Ramin are accomplishing with Flash is really remarkable, I think. REASON: The Truth is What You Believe remains, for me, the closest thing to a spiritual experience you'll find in binary.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:45 PM on December 3, 2004


jef has been taking notes.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2004


I really, really hate these guys for being so good.

(thanks for ruining my life)
posted by lumpenprole at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2004


While it certainly isn't an "open source" file format, the Flash (SWF) format spec is freely available [pdf].
posted by gwint at 2:03 PM on December 3, 2004


I refuse to install Flash on a permanent basis on any of my machines. Occasionally, I must install it in order to get some sort of information from a site that doesn't provide a non-flash version (b*stards!), but I always have uninstall_flash_player.exe (or Add-In Manager on my XP box) standing by for when I'm done.

Some would call it a ridiculous waste of time, or a bizarre form of technological puritanism, but thank G*d you and your computers remain (mostly) untainted by the moral corruption of Flash!

Hey, why not do this with Windows too? Install it only when you absolutely must use MS Word or IE, then wipe it and reinstall it again next time.

Come to think of it, why not do it with your telephone? Those new-fangled talkboxes are a blight on civilization. Everyone should be happy to communicate by writing letters. But if you have to make a call, you can have your local telco come out and install a phone. Then they can come and take it away when you're done.

Heck, screw this electricity business! If I really must use an electric light, I'll call the power company and... etc.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:23 PM on December 3, 2004


while i agree that these sites are all very pretty to look at, i don't quite understand what qualifies them as "organic" per se. to me calling something "organic" means a lot more than just looks, designed entropy, quirkyness and graphical references to the realworld. a lot of those sites listed just look and feel too uniform.

Agreed. This stuff is not "organic" art -- it's pseudo-organic digital art. Actual organic art would be made in a non-digital medium. If "naturalness" or "authenticity" is the criterion we're judging it by, then "Organic Flash" is doubly fake, for trying so hard to disguise its artificiality.

(That's not to say it's bad. Fake ? bad, in my book.)

"Authentic artifice is better than fake reality." --Stephen Merritt
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:29 PM on December 3, 2004


That said "Fake ('not equal to' sign) bad" in preview.

MeFi no like HTML entity #8800?
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:42 PM on December 3, 2004


seems like a complicated attempt to obscure the obvious. time to go out and play methinks. what did that mcluhan fella say again?
posted by lucksmonday at 3:02 PM on December 3, 2004


On a marginally related note:
Using Flash to expand font choices in HTML
A very cool transparent use of Flash to allow for downloadable fonts in HTML.
via Monkeyfilter
posted by TimeFactor at 3:34 PM on December 3, 2004


I'm just starting to learn Flash. Thanks for this.
posted by joelf at 4:24 PM on December 3, 2004


Thanks for that. I just spent a long time in the Streatham Cemetery. I don't think I have ever before found myself using my cursor to try to extend my eye through touch. Just now I found myself lovingly tracing the outlines of a headstone.
posted by idest at 4:41 PM on December 3, 2004


Using Flash to expand font choices in HTML

You do know that you can already do this with straight PHP and HTML, right?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2004


C_D, yes, I was aware of the general idea of on-the-fly image replacement although I wasn't aware of this particular implementation. They're both very clever ways around an HTML shortcoming. The PHP approach is better in that it'll work in more browsers (only JS and CSS are required), and it's a little more straightforward. The Flash version is more flexible (if I understand correctly the PHP version will replace all instances of a given tag whereas with the Flash version individual instances can be replaced or not), some text behavior is retained (e.g. copy), and the server overhead is much less (all of the work is done by the Flash plugin).
posted by TimeFactor at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2004


And jefgodesky, thanks for a great post.
posted by TimeFactor at 6:18 PM on December 3, 2004


Wow!!

OK, Thanks for raising the bar!!

Now the FPP that I've been thinking of will pale in comparison!

Lemmie re-work this....

Thanks for this wonderful post!!
posted by Balisong at 7:56 PM on December 3, 2004


"organic" flash site that's one of my faves: oculart. (caveat: unreasonably huge load times if you're already opposed to contentless flash design to begin with)
posted by juv3nal at 8:37 PM on December 3, 2004


Some would call it a ridiculous waste of time, or a bizarre form of technological puritanism, but thank G*d you and your computers remain (mostly) untainted by the moral corruption of Flash!

Hey, why not do this with Windows too? Install it only when you absolutely must use MS Word or IE, then wipe it and reinstall it again next time.


Actually, I do sort of the equivalent. I run FreeBSD on one HDD and have win2k on another one in case I want to play a game. I prefer running FreeBSD for many reasons, but Windows still has its purposes, mostly to play games. Incidentally, it is possible to install the client side Flash player on FreeBSD, but you have to enable Linux support in the kernel, and it currently only supports version 6 with no sound (which is fine most of the time, but not for some stuff like this). All else aside, I do like creative uses of Flash, particularly when it's more about the art than the marketing ... which is what website design really is about, which is why I don't do that anymore ...
posted by krinklyfig at 3:28 AM on December 4, 2004


Nobody else had trouble getting past the model on the bed who responds to clicks?
posted by bingo at 10:05 AM on December 4, 2004


a few attempts that are (in my opinion) doomed to fail, such as MS Avalon.

Uhm, you know MS Avalon is basically the same thing as Mozilla's XAML, right? It's what you build OS level widgets with. So it'd be more for making browsers than web pages. Yes, you could make a client application like the Mozilla Amazon Browser, but it'd be Windows + .NET only.
posted by yerfatma at 12:50 PM on December 4, 2004


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