It’s impossible to know just what to expect when clicking on a tab that reads "Universe Panorama." You just do it because, well, of course you do it. In this instance, within Jongmin Kim’s web-based funhouse, what you see is the surprisingly mucus-like, star-flecked tendrils of the celestial heavens. It’s a beautiful mess, and with a flick of a cursor, you can watch it all spin around in great circular depth—as though your computer was a portal to a physical world far beyond the borders of your screen.
We’re in the early stages of exploring digital experiences made possible by HTML5. On the edge of this exploration is designer Kim, whose new project gives the technology’s capabilities a workout. Form Follows Function is a series of 20 interactive experiences (as of January 16th, only 13 of which are available) that are as addictive as they are illuminating.
"Web interaction was developed with Adobe Flash for the last 12 years, but now many people are using HTML5 because of how it works with tablet and mobile devices," Kim says. "I think the technology (whether Flash or HTML5) is not so important, though. Technology always changes so fast; the important thing is design and interaction."
The interaction begins immediately upon entering Form Follows Function. Users are greeted with a color wheel they can spin to select tabs with intriguing titles like the aforementioned "Universe Panorama," "Wiper Typography," and "Ripples on the Green." While tantalizing, the titles are vague enough that you never know what you’re going to get. (Well, "Campbells Soup 3D" is probably about what you’d expect.) "Wiper Typography," for instance, sends a torrential downpour of the letters making up the word "typography" in white, against a blue backdrop, with a wiper the user controls keeping them from splashing against the ground.
"This project isn’t just a collection of interactive experiences; it’s also a collection of my favorite things," Kim says. "I love Vincent van Gogh, Rene Magritte, Andy Warhol, Minimal Design, and Typography. I got inspired by these things. For example, I used Van Gogh’s drawing for the "Color Pixelated" section. [Which basically turn the artist’s paintings into pointillist works.] I felt a loud and strong color in his drawing, so I thought it would be fun to make something that uses the colors in his paintings. And "Plant Trees" was inspired by Rene Magritte’s "Empire of Light." The drawing is single paradoxical combination of day and night. The trees in my project are dark at daylight, but bright at night."
While the various experiences on Form Follows Function—and those that will be revealed in the coming days—present a compelling case for the latest technology in web development, its creator is quick to point out (again) that the tech itself will only take a person so far.
"If you want to be an HTML master, just study HTML5," Kim says. "But if you want to be a person who makes interesting interactive things, please improve your sense of design and interaction."