Conveying Drama with Flash

    March 31, 2006

I still maintain the vast majority of Flash implementations on the web are awful.

They take too long to load, they inhibit your ability to get to the information that brought you to the website in the first place, and they add nothing to the information the site conveys. But there are exceptions.

I ran across this elegant animation reading my feeds today. Beginning on March 20, 2003, it shows chronologically the casualties incurred on troops fighting in Iraq. As the calendar zips from day to day, month to month, year to year, the dots continue to spread, conveying in heart-aching clarity the real toll the conflict has taken.The animation runs at 10 frames per second, one frame representing a day. A single black dot indicates the location where a military fatality occurred. An accompanying “tick” sound represents a single casualty.

The map is interactive-you can deselect countries and add location names to the map. Credit for the project goes to designer Tim Klimowicz, who has some other impressive efforts under his belt.

I don’t show this example to make any political point whatsoever, but rather as an example of how Flash can be put to good use to convey quantitative information visually using the dimensions of time and space. It shouldn’t be a great stretch to figure out how to use this approach to represent iPod sales over time and by region-or any other dramatic incursion of a thing or meme into geographic regions.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.