chapter introductions
Website Graphics
the best of global site design
Bis / Thames & Hudson, 1997


Companies these days communicate very differently from the way they used to, say half a century ago. Then, it was enough to put your products on view and tell folks that they were the best money could buy. You can't do that anymore. It's not that people don't want to believe you, they want you to make them believe. Advertising is about giving the potential buyers the arguments with which they can justify their acquisition. And more and more it becomes a way of mirroring the people that already have bought your product. They don't have to be convinced anymore, they want to be confirmed.

Nowadays products are about identity, more than about functionality or anything else. So corporate communication is not in the first place concerned with spreading factual information on products and prices - that is something that comes later. First of all the company wants to be recognizable as a mirror for its market. The targeted public has to recognize itself in the image provided by the company. This is true to a growing extent for advertising of products and brands through television, posters and print - although in these media the product remains in the center of the image. On the web, image is all. What else can you do, knowing that your target is behind a screen, at home most likely.

Corporate websites try to fill in the gaps left by advertising through other media. There, you can't elaborate on your glorious past or the genius inventors that crowd your history. And you can only hint at the way your product fits into your market's lifestyle. On the web, you can be more specific - or more mysterious. The choice between such very divers ways of addressing your market is motivated by that same market: if you want to get your car under the attention of dynamic college kids, your site will look completely different from a site that confirms the average suburbian's arguments for not driving a Mercedes SEL. To be sure on both sides, Honda made both websites.

On some sites, the product is missing completely. All that the immersive environment tries to do here, with extensive use of every feasible multimedia trick, is to glue a brand name to a feeling. The images, the typefaces, the frames with photographs of distant countries or beautiful people, the sounds and moving images, all serve to entertain their viewers as old acquaintances. The brand is a good friend, someone to look out for.

max bruinsma