Animated Gifs, some Math, and a bit of Web Animation History.

September 2nd, 2014  |  No Comments

Colorful animated gif

David Whyte uses an open-source programming language called Processing to build animated gifs. What makes these gifs unique is that they are done with math, not a timeline. (see some of his work at the bottom of this post). Whyte, from Dublin Ireland is a PhD candidate studying the physics of foam. Yes, that’s right. You can check out his Tumblr called Bees & Bombs, as well as his Dribbble account to see more of his work. David is also available for freelance work.

This kind of sophistication with animated gifs got us to thinking about animation on desktop and mobile…

Back in the early days of the web, people would experiment with ways to animate the desktop. In the late 90’s there were Java Applet animations (check out this article from 1996) and animated gifs. Eventually animated gifs were killed off by a company called Macromedia, which came from a merger of Authorware Inc. and MacroMind-Paracomp.

Macromedia Flash (eventually owned by Adobe) became the defacto standard for animations on the web with it’s timeline and the ability to move pixels around the screen, until one fateful letter from Steve Jobs in the spring of 2010. Flash, through nearly ubiquitous across the desktop, was essentially forced to move in to more niche areas (gaming) once mobile (iPhone) came onto the site. Flash was just too cumbersome for mobile. Apple decided to strategically end that run.

But now, animated gifs have been making a strong comeback for the last few years. Why?

Generally speaking, animated gifts are less processor intensive, small in size, simple and allow designers to communicate (and animate) ideas that don’t require a plugin or any specific browser requirements. Brands are also starting to use animated Gifs within HTML emails but this does remind us of days where Flash just became too much for people. Flash’s demise was partially caused by overuse, often taken on for the sake of animation, versus having a specific purpose.

As an agency, we love animation. When executed correctly it helps us:

  • Get people’s attention.
  • Help communicate a thought or process.
  • Adhere to the notion that 65% of consumers are visual learners (Source: Webdam)
  • Create a ‘cool factor’.


What we’re not sure of yet, is the future of the animated gif?  Used properly it can be very effective, but time will tell.

even horizon




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