At the end of 2016 we welcomed Gianfranco Chicco from the Webby Awards team to Amsterdam and hosted a Webby Talk for our Talent. Not sure if you noticed but as awesome as some of the work was last year, it’s all starting to look the same. It’s the hipster bar syndrome, really. “Most websites can be classified as one layout or the other, agency sites are all looking the same way, blue is the most popular colour and AI behind The Grid designs your site to fit your purpose, by itself,” lists Gianfranco. “ Five years ago companies would have magnificent offices but provide a terrible digital service. Now it is the other way round. Digital services look splendid everywhere, but most have lost their originality.”
The Webby Awards are famous not only for celebrating the weird, wild and wacky on the web but also for their recipient acceptance speeches. Five words. No more, no less. Some of the gems from 2016 prove that some creatives thrive under constraints. Such as the people from Spotify: "Algorithms are made of people” (how very soylent green) and the Goats of Anarchy: “Goats just wanna have fun” (do they now). But not all constraints inspire. What started out as new and refreshing has been adopted by just about everyone. Gianfanco: “Everybody borrowed from everybody else. We are using the same building blocks.” Some 25% of the web is powered by WordPress, Everyone uses Shopify for their webshops. Uber is an implementation of Twilio and PokemonGo and Zombies Everywhere are great AR-overlays on a Google API. Facebook’s slideshow features are borrowed from the Moments app.
Wanna break from the mundane? Here are some examples to inspire and tips to keep your work fresh:
- CREATE EXPERIENCE
What you can bring to make the digital world better is excellence in experience. But be careful, “what was excellent three years ago is now baseline”. Stuff that’s good according to the Webby’s? Netflix Socks that pause the show when you fall asleep. Mellon Educate’s powerful video entitled What the F**K Have You Done? that lets you watch sand, hot girls and puppy’s and feel guilty about not building a school in Africa. Also good: learning Spanish with Narcos from Babbel.com. “¿Plato o Plomo?” Makes an interesting change from “¿Dos servezas por favor?
- BE USEFUL
Usefulness is another reason people come back to an online experience. Take Photomath, it scans math problems and explains them; ideal for parents with kids with math homework. Quartz uses our short attention spans and sends us very brief news messages throughout the day. Volvo Roam delivers products to people’s connected cars, rather than their homes; allowing access is easier and safer. Inkhunter lets you try out a tattoo on your body on screen first, before you have it truly inked. Go exploring with rangers in the Hidden Worlds of National Parks without breaking anything and immerse yourself in 3D audio. For fans of South Park, we are just going to leave the Nosulus Rift here.
- CLEVER STUFF
The new differentiators, according to Gianfranco, are algorithms and machine learning. They take the digital to new highs and lows. Spambot Waldo Spammerson “lives on twitter” and takes only two hours to convince people to click on malware links. It’s click rate is 30 per cent, apparently. @SmileVector is a bot that adds or removes smiles from people’s photographs. It looks creepy now, but for how long? Cognitoys are children’ toys powered by IBM Watson. Dino will learn from your kid but it can teach, also. Parents can steer and manage through a dashboard feature. Google’s neural network Quick, Draw! is using the Internet to learn how to draw. You draw, it guesses. “And we teach it for free.”
- AT WORK
So what does this mean for you, at your everyday work? Gianfranco: “There are great building blocks available, you don’t have to build from scratch. But make something new, make new combinations.”
- Make something new with what’s already there (see Getty Endless).
- Immersion and machine learning are the new differentiators
- Aim high or risk being overlooked
Feeling feel inspired and ready for 2017? Then submit your best work to the Aquent 2017 Talent Awards. You have until 31st January to enter and we can’t wait to see what you’ve got to show us!