BOOK REVIEW

Flash Web Design by Hillman Curtis, published by New Riders (ISBN 0735708967)

Marketing is, of course, fundamentally about communication, which in turn is fundamentally about design. Whether this is the design of a logo, an advertisement, a brochure, or just the design of a sentence, it is the selection, layout and positioning of the individual components of a message that governs its effectiveness.

This basic tenet has become increasingly apparent as messages have begun to be positioned online. Macromedia's Flash standard is increasingly used to add bandwidth-efficient multimedia to websites. Through a fairly simple interface and language, a designer can create an amalgam of sound, video, text, animation and even interaction, all packed into a small file which can automatically run as the viewer accesses a webpage. Unfortunately, the technology has been adopted by many as a licence to stream ill-thought-out cavalcades of content that mistake movement for message.

This book is not just for programmers and designers, it is for anyone looking at how to communicate online. Curtis and his agency have created Flash-based sites, as well as ads and messages, for a range of clients, from large corporates through to artists. This case study-based account of those projects focuses on the technology and its appropriate use; but more fundamentally, it lays down some object lessons in communicating in a medium where graphics can move, can combine with sound, and can be interacted with… but which don't have to be.

What runs through this sober yet inspiring tour of a professional communicator's work are some simple golden rules. The focus is on knowing your audience and their reading practices, the medium that they are using (not the one that you are creating in), and the careful creation of messages where content and form work together rather than compete with each other.

You may never have to programme a Flash animation. You may never even need this book as a primer in order to be able to adequately brief one, but if only for Curtis' mature attitude to communicating messages, it is worth a tour of the book or its website www.hillmancurtis.com/book.