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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 17:49 GMT
Web wizards test technology
Daniel Brown's Butterflies - his aim is to make the user forget the technology when they look at the image
The designers draw inspiration from video games
By BBC News Online's Kate Goldberg

Most design on the internet is "dreary at best", says a large placard introducing Web Wizards, the new exhibition at the Design Museum.

Millions of people now use the internet every day, it says, but little attention has been paid to the visual images that surround us on the screen.

Most of the young designers featured in the exhibition draw their inspiration from video games.

They see the web not so much as a medium for imparting information, but as a way of exploring computer-assisted design.

They argue that the web is rarely used to its full potential as most websites continue to resemble magazines or brochures.

Timeline
1964: Mouse invented
1972: First home video game
1975: Microsoft founded
1977: First home computers
1984: Term cyberspace coined
Their work - which uses technologies such as Flash 4 and Shockwave - are often beautiful, animated displays that allow the user to interact with the design to create something new.

Computer terminals equipped with headphones and groovy Apple Mac mouses allow visitors to the museum to explore at their own pace.

It is a strangely solitary experience, although in one corner large cushions are arranged in front of a wall projection, displaying endless patterns like a kaleidoscope synchronised to music.

For techno nerds and games addicts, there is a display of computers and video games through the ages.

A timeline draws together some surprising facts in the evolution of computers: the mouse was invented as far back as 1964, and the first home video game came out in 1972.

Joshua Davis, one of the self-taught pioneers of web design, describes how there was nothing to use as a reference - no books or tutorials.

Blob by Yugo Nakamura can be found on his website
Nakamura's work was live
"The disadvantages were that it took forever and you made mistakes but from those mistakes come accidents, and in those accidents you found things," he says.

Yugo Nakamura's work is cerebral and amusing. He uses the medium to play with concepts like time and space: in Industrious Clock, the viewer watches each second being literally "drawn" as it ticks by.

Unlike the other designers, whose work was downloaded onto CD-Rom, his work was live, giving the user the genuine internet experience.

However, even the computers in the design museum were not able to cope with all the Flash script in his work.

This seems to be the problem with displaying cutting edge web design: the technology is still unable to keep up.

Daniel Brown's stated goal is to "elicit an instinctive response from the user by making them forget the technology".

Three-dimensional

That is difficult when you are constantly told that you need the latest version of Flash or Shockwave before you can access the site.

I had been looking forward to seeing Daniel Brown's new work - Bits and Pieces - which is described in the exhibition as having harnessed new technology to imbue it with light, texture and the illusion of three-dimensionality.

But it was nowhere to be seen. I asked the head curator where I could view it.

"We didn't include it, but you can see it on the internet," he said.

Well - you try. I have included the internet links on the right-hand side of this story (Bit and Pieces can be found in Noodlebox). Good luck!

The Web Wizards: Designers Who Define the Web, is on at the Design Museum, London, from 20 November 2001 until 21 April 2002.

See also:

30 Nov 01 | Reviews
Web Wizards: Your views
30 Nov 01 | New Media
Web wizards spin design show
09 Nov 01 | Reviews
Design of the times
12 Nov 01 | England
Cable design wins contest
17 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Web connects design students
Internet links:


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