Animated GIFs: Have They Matured From Annoying to Artsy?

Back in the early days of the internet, animated GIFs were the bane of just about everyone. Their annoying, jarring graphics and often painfully bright colors were enough to make anyone crazy. Particularly irritating was when they were used as avatars in chat rooms or forums, and we’d have to watch their stupid dancing polar bear dancing or sneezing kitten a thousand times before finally just leaving the page in frustration. Some people still use the unfortunately annoying animated GIFs, but there’s a whole new crop of artists who are using this long-maligned vehicle to express their creativity.

The above GIFs, from artist David Ope (also known online as dvdp) are markedly more mature than those that we raised in the 80s and 90s remember. Their existence doesn’t seem to center on the desire to draw attention or to frustrate; rather, they are simply beautiful, mesmerizing pieces of art.

There’s a certain amount of nostalgia in these pieces; it seems to suggest that the creators grew up in the era where the animated GIF was an ever-present Web element. And although it’s largely fallen out of favor in Web design (thankfully) this new, more mature generation of the animated GIF is taking it in an entirely new, extremely creative direction.

That’s a common theme in this new generation of animated GIFs: they are more art than novelty. Anyone who has seen a tiled animation used as a background for a web page knows that the constant looping motion can quickly become intolerable. But the animated GIFs being created today are more of an underground art movement than a momentary distraction. The above animations from Sweet GIFs come from several different contributors, indicating that there is a thriving community of artists and designers dedicated to preserving and promoting the image format.

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See more in Digital Design or under Technology. January, 2010.
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