Surprising Web Design, Sans Flash…Sort of*

Isn’t it funny to reminisce about the infancy of the internet? Sure you could say we’re still in toddler-hood, but way back when in aught-2, Flash dominated the web and your junk mail consisted of AOL coasters startup CDs…Man, those were the days.

2002-2003 was right about the time when I started job hunting which meant clicking through one graphic design firm’s website after another, twiddling my thumbs watching delicately crafted pre-loaders process while the bulky Flash site loaded behind them. And finally once “inside” the site, having to process and absorb yet another almost completely obtuse navigation. I even taught myself the program and churned out a couple entirely-Flash sites early in my career which, needless to say, were practically outdated before they launched.

Even as Flash is going the way of the Dodo, there are the occasional websites that demonstrate a modern take on all those bells and whistles that were more prevalent in the heydays of the big F. I like to call them “storybook sites” because there’s a certain flow or narrative that takes you through the content without feeling intrusive or letting you get lost. And even more impressively, these storybook sites use no Flash whatsoever but instead rely on a Javascript genius who has the ability to write that functionality from scratch. * Which is pretty bad*ss if you ask me.

Here’s a handful of examples.

There is a lot to take in on this site for a branding firm from the Netherlands.. Colors fade in the background, collapsing navigation in the header and footer, left/right sliding imagery, and images on the home page shuffle around and change in scale. Yet the whole thing feels cohesive and still corporate without being stuffy. I also like that the main navigation cues remain static so orienting yourself is simple.

Also Design
Also is Matt Lamothe, Julia Rothman and Jenny Volvovski and they are a force, having won a slew of awards for their illustration & animation/web design. Their site is certainly nothing to sneeze at either, with a playful road/map theme that scrolls vertically through your browser. Nice use of sound as well, oftentimes all use of background music is more annoying than anything, but this fits within the context of the illustrations so it feels more natural. is a conceptual site that is trying to sell the idea of a button-free web experience. You literally aren’t allowed to click in this site; all navigation happens by mousing and hovering over an area. It’s a little unnatural at first, but the sheer wow factor is worth a visit alone. The way the information scales as you hover over it forces you to read it, but it happens so smoothly and effortlessly that it’s actually really fun. Though, watch out, if you DO click by accident there is another surprise awaiting you.

This Japanese interior design firm has beautiful work and a colorful grid of photos that scales and warps dramatically like nothing I’ve ever seen on the web before. Very slick! Minus a few points for some use of Flash, also the popping noises get a little repetitious for me. Still, the unique presentation of work makes this a memorable site indeed.

Irreverent is a word I’d use to describe these wacky dudes, they’re definitely are not your average-joe designers, no siree bob. Their About section is worth particular notice, it sounds like something Journey & Napoleon Dynamite might make. I think it is a pretty funny approach for telling the story behind a company.

Anyone else have any suggestions for cool sites they’ve seen lately?

*Edited: Okay, okay so maybe I got a wee bit too excited about the non-Flash aspect of the sites. I did look at the source code as I was doing my research, not sure how exactly I managed to miss it in there, but it happened. Sorry! Thanks for the head’s up guys, I really appreciate your suggested sites too! Very very cool.

Author: PitchDesign
Margot Harrington is a graphic designer, art junkie, and all-around collaborator captivated by all forms of making and doing. Her friends include oldstyle numerals, antique books and dusty suitcases, bike rides and old wacky electronics. When not designing, she does odd jobs and documents art & design on the internet at