Interest in Adobe Flash has seen a steep decline in recent years, but when used for the right purpose it can be a very effective design tool for creating projects with rich animation, sound, and user interaction.
Of course, Flash is not a good option for building responsive websites. The .SWF export format is not the industry standard for commercial content published on the web today. Also, Flash content doesn't index well for search engines, and Steve Jobs’ famous refusal to support the .SWF format on it's iOS platform, made Flash unavailable to millions of iPhone/iPad users, and unpopular with the Digerati.
So what DOES Flash have to offer?
One clear benefit is it’s single interface for design. Flash has all the tools for drawing, animation, and interactivity integrated into one environment. You can open up the application and build a fully interactive experience in one tool. This makes for a simple workflow.
Don’t get me wrong, using Web Standards is the best way to build up-to-date commercial websites, and they are the foundation of our WNM program. I’m just saying that Flash can be a viable alternative in some situations.
For example, Flash has proven to be a useful platform for some of our WNM Graduate students whose projects are story/illustration based, or which rely heavily on interactive sound and video.
Check out this timeless Flash project by WNM Graduate Alum Peter Infelise (MFA, 2011) called “Route 66” -- view the project here: “http://www.il66roadtrip.com/main.html”. Go to the main page and click on the “1950s” map icon to see some classic 20th Century road-side Americana. Peter’s Flash project is an example of an interactive experience that delivers plenty of animation, sound, and user feedback. There is also some basic game logic built in for leveling.
Another knock against Flash is (the perception) that you can’t make up-to-date projects with it. That's only partly true.
For mobile apps, there are export settings that allow you to package and export a native application from Flash for both iOS and Android. Here is another Adobe help page: Packaging applications for AIR for iOS (http://helpx.adobe.com/flash/using/packaging-applications-air-ios.html).
Here are some things you can do with Flash:
- Generative art: Flash was the original tool for this. It's hard to compete with it in this arena. You can draw elements by hand and with code. It can generate art with pixels and vectors. You can also output the final results to PDF.
- Prototyping: Mocking up mobile and software interactions.
- Interactive video: While HTML5 has made great strides with video, Flash does it better. You can layer vector and bitmap animation on top of video and control the playback of video through interaction.
- Native Device Functions: Flash has camera and microphone integration. Think about adding that to your interactive projecs.
Remember: what you do as a designer (and artist) is often more important than the specific tool you use. Think about that for a moment… As a creative person in the industry you will be tasked with makig projects in collaboration with groups of people. It will be your job to make something beautiful and functional using the best tool for any given project. And in some cases that tool can be Adobe Flash.
It’s easy to get caught up in the mantra of "industry standards". But you shouldn’t let a single point of view get in the away of your design.
Plenty of brilliant people are working with (arguably) outdated tools to create amazing experiences. Take a look at what Facebook developers have done with Quartz Composer (https://facebook.github.io/origami/). They have leveraged this aging technology into a new tool called Origami that helps Facebook designers create rich animated experiemces for the iPhone (http://scotthurff.com/qc/). The extension of Quartz Composer into a new prototyping tool is an example of designers taking something old and making it new and inspiring.
Mitch Hudson, WNM Tech Lead, Contributing Writer