Chris Milk & Arcade Fire’s ‘Summer Into Dust’ Experience Continues Online

If you were at Coachella last month for Arcade Fire’s Saturday night performance you watched as hundreds of large beach balls cascaded down from the top of the stage. The beach balls bounced throughout the crowd changing colour in time with the music, and if you were really lucky you walked or drive away that night with one of them.

The experience is a collaborative between director Chris Milk and Arcade Fire (they had previously collaborated on the ground-breaking browser video ‘The Wilderness Downtown’). The beach balls were equipped with LEDs and IR transmitter technology provided by ESKI and Moment Factory. It turns out that the Coachella performance that night was only the beginning of an interactive experience entitled ‘Summer Into Dust’. Those who managed to get their glowing beach balls home are asked to share pictures and videos, as well as discover new ways to interact with them.

The experience is part of the Creators Project, a partnership between Intel and Vice celebrating art and creativity using digital technologies.

Sun Media Launches Bold Redesign of News Websites

Toronto Sun RedesignSun Publications has launched a bold new redesign of their newspaper websites in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary. The sites were launched this week and designed by the UX and Creative team at Qubecor Media owned Nurun.

The default view for the new home page features a large eye-catching photo in the top banner. The top news stories are presented in a vertical mosaic of photos that are easy to scan as you scroll. Each image features a link to a ‘Quick View’ option of the story showing a picture, headline and a few paragraphs of the story in a popup view that can be closed without leaving the home page underneath. The number of comments made on a story is also viewable on the image, as is the link to go to the full story.

The home page can actually be viewed in two ways, as the mosaic view or as a list featuring a headline and thumbnail. The list view can be further filtered by news section.

The photo mosaic design is repeated on the home pages of each news section with the subsections presented in well separated groupings of featured stories.

The main navigation features a large dropdown of secondary navigation areas as well as hot topics, featured and latest stories. This combined with the mosaic view allows the majority of top news stories across all news sections to be a single click away.

I find the site very easy to navigate, and the ability to visually scan the top stories is the great product of the redesign.

What are your thoughts on the redesign?

Instagram’s Success Lures Brands into the Picture

Instagram: NPR, Starbucks, Levi's BraziliPhone app Instagram is one of the hottest tech properties out there right now despite its lack of a traditional web presence. It does display a page images shared by its users on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. Virtually all the interaction takes place in the iOS-only app, where users stylize their own photos and follow the stream of others.

The application was launched in the early fall of 2010 by Kevin Systrom of Burbn, Inc. and became an instant hit gaining over 100,000 users in just it’s first week. In late December that user number grew to 1 million, and by last week (Feb 14) that figure has doubled to 2 million users.

Instagram is a simple application, you take a picture using the camera phone or select an existing one from your library. Next, you select one of its 12 retro-look  filters, then share it to your Instagram followers as well as to Twitter or Facebook if you choose. You can follow the shared images of other Instragram users, adding likes and comments as you go.

Here are examples of how brands and news services have started to explore ways to use Instagram to enhance their own photo sharing, or to solicit photos from users for contests.

  • Levi’s Brasil are sharing imagery of their new products line.
  • NH Hotels are hosting a contest asking consumers to share Instragram images on Twitter with the hashtag #WakeUpPics.
  • CNN iReport and NPR are supplementing their existing news with Instagram and are getting comments and dozens and ‘likes’ on each photo they share.
  • Starbucks is sharing images of products and asking followers opinions of new store signage ideas.
  • Brisk is crowdsourcing an Instagram photo shared with the hashtag #briskpics to appear on a new can to be introduced at SXSW.

So,what are these brands and organizations hoping to achieve by using Instagram? In most cases they are simply dipping their toes and testing the waters by sharing a few photos here and there. However, NPR and CNN have built up large followings of 13,000 and 8000 respectively, and images frequently receive dozens of comments and likes. UPDATE: On February 24, Instagram announced a new real-time API that would allow developers to create new web applications and services from its user’s uploaded content.

It will interesting where Instagram goes from here. Similar apps like PicPlz and Hipstamatic are providing some competition plus a rumour is making the rounds that Facebook may add their own ‘retro-look’  filters to user’s photo albums. With big brands experimenting and a user base of 2 million and growing, the only way is forward. One hopes that Instragram will be able to maintain its simplicity as it grows.

As our digital cameras get more sophisticated, the more popular it becomes to make them look like they were taken in another era.