GIFs, Cinemagraphs & Ballerinas

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The GIF turned 30 last year and yet this simplistic medium continues to evolve and amaze.

At first GIF's, relegated to flashy, pixelated pop-up ads that made your eyes bleed, were shunned by any sophisticated designer. Now, advancements in mobile, email and browser technology have transformed the GIF into a key piece of the modern conversation.

It’s recent adoption into the mainstream, through popular messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and apps like Boomerang, have left marketing execs everywhere exclaiming that the humble GIF is the next big thing.


But what makes the GIF so appealing?

“There’s almost a primal sort of prehistoric drive that calls up repetition instinctively in our minds. To a great extent, GIFs are effective in part because they’re ‘alive’ but also because we naturally have the drive to want to repeat, and it really scratches that itch.” 

Summed up Giphy COO, Adam Leibsohn, in a recent interview.

We love the loop and the repetition of a simple idea. It stops us in our tracks, and matches the need we have to roll things over and over in our minds. Even after several views, you still feel like there’s more to see and something new to focus on with every repeat.

As for 'alive' it's perhaps also the GIF's ability to convey emotion that has led to this recent burst in popularity, with emoticons too stiff and restrained for modern expression.


The Cinemagraph

The newest iteration of the GIF, the Cinemagraph, although conceptually and (often) technologically identical, tells a surprisingly diverse story. If a GIF is characterised by repetition then Cinemagraph's are defined by contrast.

While a GIF would traditionally feature a fully animated sequence, Cinemagraph creators isolate delicate areas of movement against stillness, creating a cross between photography and moving image.

Photographer Jamie Beck who coined the term ‘Cinemagraph’ with web developer Kevin Burg calls them “a captured moment in time”, a living photo that can simultaneously exist outside the fraction of a second the shutter captures.

It’s this surreal feeling of timelessness that can elevate a concept from good to extraordinary and has several sources calling the Cinemagraph an art form in its own right.


The ‘living photo’ that first sparked my interest several years ago (above) is still one of my favourites. The movement is so delicate, it’s easy to miss at a glance, but once spotted, you’re captivated. This ultimate juxtaposition of stillness and movement is striking.

It’s the feeling of timelessness, of reliving a moment, again and again, that inspired me to use the ‘Cinemagraphic’ style for COBA Europe’s trade show concept and the first known use of Cinemagraphs in the Health & Safety environment.


Featuring a range of burly labourers feeling ‘Light as a Feather’ once they stepped on COBA’s range of Anti-Fatigue mats and into a tutu, the animated elements took the campaign to whole other level.

Shown on a three-metre-high touchscreen, which also showcased COBA’s new Product Selector app, the concept was met with a fantastic response. First at the A+A Health and Safety Expo in Dusseldorf and then Preventica in Strasbourg. Appearing in several key German trade publications such as EDE and Nordwest, the project was also spotlighted right here on Creativepool.

Now set for a third appearance at SAWO in Poznan (Poland) this April, this campaign highlights the opportunity for creativity and exploration of new and exciting mediums within every industry.


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