The Gif That Keeps On Giving


16 years ago, at the very start of my web design career I was tasked with making an animated gif. An animated what? I’d never even heard of one before. I quickly found out that they offered what seemed to be a rudimentary level of animation for web pages. Good enough for me.

196 handcrafted frames later and my animation was complete. A couple of pills dropping into a glass of water never looked so beautiful. I’d animated every little bubble, the splash of the water and the pills bobbing around as they dissolved into nothingness. I’d really done myself proud, or so I thought. It turned out that I’d used around 190 frames too many. My resulting graphic was far too heavy for for dial up internet users (this was 16 years ago remember!). In the end my creation was edited down to just 4 or 5 frames and almost all my hard work was never used.

Gifs go into hiding

Animated gifs were awkward things, they promised so much and delivered so little. They were hugely abused and misused, anyone that used MySpace in the mid to late 2000s will testify to that. There was always that glimmer of hope though. In the end I turned to Macromedia’s Flash to satisfy my animation lust and the humble animated gif was lost to me for many years.

Return Of The Gif

Over the past few years though animated gifs have made a comeback that even Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri would be proud of. They’ve never been more popular. Shorter attention spans, faster internet access and the growth of social media have given animated gifs a lease of life that they’ve never had before. They’re absolutely everywhere, search engines specifically for animated gifs have appeared and even Facebook are finally getting in on the act.

Claudio Ranieri Animated Gif

Hollywood techniques

The techniques for producing gifs have become much more sophisticated. These days I use motion graphics software After Effects to produce my animated gifs. At first this seemed a little bit ridiculous, After Effects is used in Hollywood movies like Iron Man 3 – and there’s me making a 42kb image to be used on a social media account. It felt a little bit like overkill but the results can be amazing.

I’m a huge fan of Fraser Davidson of Cub Studio’s work. Some of the animated gifs that he creates are stunning and well worth a look if you’re not already familiar with his creations. Dribbble is also really good if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on the animated gif front.

Here’s to the animated gif, the renaissance graphic of the internet.

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