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Breaking the mold: 9 impressive Flash portfolios

Sun, Oct 12, 2008

design, portfolio

Breaking the mold: 9 impressive Flash portfolios

To Flash or not to Flash? It’s a question that has led to a debate that has been running for longer than most care to remember. The Html/Css purist firmly believe that accessibility, usability and valid code are the only way forward. The Flash fanatics (and a lot of full service agencies in my experience) on the other hand feel that the web needs to be more creative and that the limitations of Html and Css are standing in their way.

I’m not going to go to deep into the “Is Flash bad?” debate, it’s been done to death. Suffice to say that in my view both Xhtml/Css and Flash have their time and place. I also feel that Flash’s good name has been spoiled mostly by designers who love making pretty sites but know or care nothing about usable, user centered web design. If you know your ActionScript and pick your battles you can make excellent non-obtrusive Flash sites.

So, if the validity of Flash is not today’s topic then what is? It’s something that makes a designer’s heart beat faster – Portfolios that are breaking the mold. We’re going to look at sites which feature a novel, experimental or simply out of the ordinary way to display their portfolio pieces.

Since we’re looking at experimental and different techniques I’ve limited myself to viewing only full Flash sites since it’s easier to find “out of the box” experiments this way. If you guys want a similar post to see what’s possible with Xhtml/Css, Javascript and Ajax just let me know in the comments and I’ll get to writing one.

Enough talk let’s see those sites

Below are nine sites which feature a novel or unique in way to display the work. I’ve written down some comments for every site featured, as always if you agree, disagree or think I’m talking pure nonsense you’re welcome to leave a comment so we can discuss it!

Lee Towndrow
Lee Towndrow

Lee Towndrow’s photography portfolio is an exercise in clean, simple yet appealing web design. The site looks great with very few design elements.

Lee presents his images full screen - meaning that they fill the full browser view. Impressive as it is this is nothing new of course. What is interesting is the slide effect when you switch from thumbnails to full size image and back. A subtle effect that fits the site and leaves a positive impression.

What I like:
Less is more and this site is a perfect example of that. It opens up with Lee’s portfolio and from that point the work is just one click away. The slide effect is subtle, fits the clean design and adds flavor to the site.

What could be better:
As far as the presentation of the work goes I’m a believer - job well done. I am curious why the site go into full screen mode when I click the first image? I want to see a photo, not have my browser hijacked! Also some hover-over-image effects would have been nicer than the whole row lighting up. It feels like you’re selecting a set instead of the loose image that loads after a click.

Joshua Stearns
Joshua Stearns

Great looking site that reminds me very much of Lee towndrow’s site. Johshua’s site is less compact though and looks a bit more cluttered.

Joshua has the same slide effect that Lee Towndrow’s site has. Notable changes are that the navigation stays in place and that the images don’t load full width. The site looks less clean because of this but we could argue that the it is more usable due to the navigation being always visible.

What I like:
The slide effect is great, a very clear and good looking transition effect so the user knows what’s going on.

What could be better:
It would’ve been better to slide to the image after it’s loaded. Right now the slide effect happens and you see the photo you previously browsed while the new one loaded. This is slightly confusing. I also feel that the site could have been more compact and user centered.

Joshua Stearns
Sugarrhyme

Sugarrhyme is the eccentric portfolio of Designer Karol Kolodzinski. It looks awesome and has a unique rotation wheel for browsing images.

What I like:
The design is out of the box and simply kicks ass. It’s a visual masterpiece. The image navigation looks great and is unique.

What could be better:
The image navigation looks great but doesn’t function that well. It’s very hard to select the image you want, and for all the graphical splendor I can’t blame you if you ask yourself “what the hell is going on here” the first time you try to navigate the images.

Eva Padberg
Eva Padberg

German photographer Eva Padberg has a fine looking site with image navigation that will make your head spin!

What I like:
I love the opening page and the general look and feel of the site. The photo-wheel, for lack of a better name, looks great and sophisticated.

What could be better:
The photo wheel looks sophisticated and handles, well, harder than you’d like your average portfolio navigation to do. Click an image or two and I guarantee you you’ll have no clue to whether you’re at the beginning or end of the gallery. A typical example of a great looker with usability as an afterthought.

Eva Padberg
I’m Jonas

Jonas’s site is a clean looking one page portfolio with no pretense. All it is is images and the minimum needed information. It has one unique ploy though, it’s a horizontal scrolling site instead of a vertical one.

What I like:
I like the horizontal scrolling, I feel that vertical is slightly more intuitive, but as long as the mouse-wheel works for scrolling horizontal shouldn’t be a problem. And since all other one page ports scroll vertically it’s an easy way to set yourself apart. The mouse-wheel works just fine, so Jonas pulls this one off effortlessly.

What could be better:
No complaints from me, the site looks good, is simple and works just fine.

DVEIN
DVEIN

Barcelona based motion and interactive studio DVEIN has a site that for some reason feels very futuristic and experimental to me. The site’s a great looker and nicely compact. For image navigation they use a circular navigation wheel with thumbnails you can hover over.

What I like:
The futuristic and sophisticated look is sure to win a lot of people over. The navigation wheel looks great when you hover over the thumbs.

What could be better:
The image navigation looks great, but my kind words end there. It’s very hard to judge what a certain thumbnail leads to. When you click something you often get multiple layers of moving imagery. Looks great but confuses the hell out of me.

If the DVEIN site just had the visual navigation the portfolio would be extremely hard to navigate, fortunately the site also has the text navigation in the middle which corresponds to the thumbnail that is currently being hovered over. It’s not a great solution as far as I’m concerned though.

Illustplosion
Illustplosion

Bruno Fujii’s Illustplosion is a excellent designed, urban looking horizontal scrolling site. It has an about me page, but for practical purposes you could call this one a one page portfolio. The unique navigation comes in the form of horizontal scrolling that doesn’t work with a scroll-bar or scroll-wheel but simply by pressing next and previous.

What I like:
Illustplosion is designed excellent and extremely simple in use. Your grandma could browse this site with no effort. The horizontal scrolling is very linear but works well. The only time I see this being a problem is if you want to display a lot of images.

What could be better:
No complaints, looks great and works simple and effective.

Vanio Luanou
Vanio Luanou

The portfolio site of Vanio’s Luanou has a graphic design feel while still looking like a modern website. Vanio’s way of navigating images is similar to Illustplosion in that it’s a horizontal linear scrolling experience that requires a click to go from “A” to “B”.

The difference is that Vanio has made it so that you can see just a glimpse of the next or previous piece. If you hover over the image it moves into view a bit more giving the feeling that you’re “reeling it in”.

What I like:
I love the “reeling it in” effect, you’re not doing anything more than clicking but for some reason it feels more interactive. Other than that the design looks great and in touch with the portfolio pieces.

What could be better:
Some portfolio pieces have multiple images that you can select below them. This in combination with the numbers below the portfolio pieces can make the whole experience a bit confusing at times. I feel Vanio did a bit too much with this site.

Silencio
Silencio

To enter the site you have to click the flying hippo. Yes you heard me, click the flying hippo and it will float down to show it’s colory insides. Then click the big “Shsss” that pops up above its head and you enter the portfolio section. Terrible usability? No doubt, but it’s so silly, crazy and wrong that it actually works. When you combine your entrance to the site with the giraffe head you’ll see popping up later on Atila Meireles can sleep at night knowing he’s created a site nobody will forget for a long time.

What I like:
Silencio is actually a bit of long shot for this list, once you’re in the portfolio it’s your typical vertical scrolling one page portfolio really. I’ve added it to the list for the simple reason that once you see this site you’ll never forget it again - and I do mean that in a positive way.

What could be better:
The auto scrolling is a pain in the ass in general, is too slow and takes control away from the user for a task that’s personal (scroll speed, distance and the like).

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This post was written by:

Youri - who has written 51 posts on designfeedr.

I'm a Web designer, blogger, import magazine addict, Junko Mizuno fan(hence the avatar!) and hardcore gamer turned casual. Other than blogging on Designfeedr I also run Tutorials we heart - the site that collects the best tutorials from all over the web.

9 Comments For This Post

  1. defaulterror Says:

    Hi, cool list. A few of them have been around for a while now tho.

    Oh, and its a hippopotamus not a rhino ;)

  2. Youri Says:

    @defaulterror: Shees I feel silly calling the hippo a rhino. Maybe I need more sleep?

  3. Tom Says:

    Definitely liked all the sites but I really like Dvein’s especially the wheel way of displaying his work was very interesting easy to use and creative, that sight definitely stuck out to me more than any other

  4. Youri Says:

    @Tom: The wheel does look great but I don’t agree it’s that easy to use, might just be me though;)

  5. liam Says:

    I think portfolio’s are one of the few times where I actually don’t mind a completely flash website. These are some really kick ass examples, really love ‘em!

  6. Ricardo Says:

    Aeee Atila!!!! Awesome

  7. www.engel-bedeutung.de Says:

    Hello I like your post “” so well that I like to ask you whether I should translate into German and linking back. Greetings Engel

  8. mark Says:

    isn’t eva padberg that supermodel in *front* of the camera? anyway, nice collection :)

  9. aSKer Says:

    I am always searching online for resources that can help me. Thank you

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