In the age of ever deeper and more interactive Web experiences, it takes a backwards sort of thinking to conceive a one-page site consisting of a single looped .GIF animation.
But that’s just what AKQA has created for its client MSN Messenger with “The Way News Spreads,” a weird digital art object that seeks to give the Microsoft app some youth appeal and personality.
The animated Web page, which is better seen than described, is a descendant of the album art for “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” with all the busy-ness and psychedelic oddity of that record’s cover.
Created by U.K. artist Will Sweeney, it depicts dozens of tiny, interconnected, uniformly bizarre drawings. Flying sharks, knights playing ping-pong, walking video cameras, banana cars, Mexican wrestlers and trees that eat remote control airplanes are among the digital mural’s subjects. The background music is a Filipino nursery rhyme.
And yet, for all its noise and movement, the only interactive element on the site is a single link pointing to the download page for MSN Messenger.
“It’s completely old school. There’s some magic in that,” said AKQA Executive Creative Director PJ Pereira, who added there’s some method to the madness.
He said the illustration’s central theme is interconnectedness, which is the value proposition of instant messaging. He pointed out there are no loose ends on the site.
“There’s a snake that jumps into a hole and jumps out of another hole in another place on the page,” he said. “We didn’t want to picture Messenger as the main part of the story. Messenger is just a way to talk to your friends, exchange ideas, share some thoughts. We wanted to explore, in a visual metaphor, how many ways you can [do that], and how that comes back to you.”
AKQA animated and tiled the illustration so the user can expand or shrink the size of their window to any dimension without reaching the end of the panoply. “If you have a gigantic monitor with huge resolution it will fill the whole thing,” said Pereira.
The site is designed to reward those who look closely. Extremely observant visitors may even notice tiny messages written in Braille and Chinese characters hidden on the page in plain site. Pereira declined to translate them, but in keeping with the rest of the illustration, he said they’re not extremely deep or meaningful.
“It doesn’t make sense on a rational level,” he said. “But if you see it, you get it.”
A banner campaign will support the site with placements across the MSN network and on properties like GameSpot, Shockwave.com and Evite.