The .gif that keeps on giving

by Jamie Moore

Originally devised in 1987, the gif became a very popular tool for bringing small snippets of animation to the web. During the early days of the web, these small pieces of animated content could be found in all forms, from construction banners to dancing skeletons. Digital Designer Cameron Askin has created an archive of these animations (Cameron’s World) to prevent these relics of the web being lost forever.

  • Since its creation, the gif has risen and fallen from popularity, thanks to Flash briefly taking over the animation duties for the web. Recently, animated gifs have seen a boom in popularity and exhibitions showcasing gifs have been hosted at The Museum of the Moving Image, 15Folds in London and many other galleries.

  • The gif has become a very popular form of microcontent thanks to its support on all browsers and devices. Twitter and Tumblr are massively popular for sharing animated gifs (Facebook and Instagram do not allow gif uploads despite user demands) and have been utilised by brands and artists alike. Samsung utilise gifs on Twitter extremely well, using them to showcase product features in small, shareable chunks.

  • One of my personal favourite gif artists is Al Boardman. Al has created tiny snippets of animation for some of the world’s biggest companies such as Microsoft, Instagram, IBM and Twitter. He originally started as a motion graphics designed in 2005 and thanks to his bold, cartoony style, his popularity has continued to grow.

  • Al is also the co-founder of one of my favourite projects – 9 Squares. The project has a very structured framework – 9 designers are given a 350px square each and the same 4-colour palette to do what they want with. The results are beautiful collaborations showcasing very different styles that, due to their matching colour schemes, all feel natural together.

  • 9 Squares // Square 1

    A video posted by 9 Squares (@9squaresproject) on

  • The ease of shareability and the wide-range of content found within animated gifs could be the reason for their surge in popularity. Being a Motion Designer, a short, animated looping piece of animation is very alluring to me. They’re fun to make, fun to watch and fun to share and really bring content to life. I hope that more brands utilise gifs to bring their tweets and blog posts to life. I hope the gif is here to stay. Long live the gif.

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