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Flash Approaches

directionsWhether designing an entertaining splash page or a sophisticated simulation, many options are available for information focus, organization and presentation. This page explores some of the techniques that can be applied.

Use the following links to access the approaches highlighted on this page.



try itTry It!
Explore Conservation Central (Smithsonian's National Zoo), African Voices (Smithsonian National Museum of American History), and Within These Walls (Smithsonian National Museum of American History). Examine the Flash activities and find the animation, interaction, and multimedia elements. Can you identify the purpose or focus of the project? How are the informational elements organized? How is information presented on the screen? Are interactive text, illustrations, maps, slideshows, timelines, or tools incorporated into the project? Is the project easy to use? Are adequate directions and help provided?


Information Focus

It's helpful if you have a focus for your information. Some projects examine a concrete topic while others are more abstract. Projects may focus on one idea in-depth, a range of ideas, a process, or some combination of ideas. Here are some ideas:

  • Action Focus
  • Artifact Focus
  • Art and Architecture Focus
  • Autobiographical Focus
  • Custom Focus
  • Document Focus
  • Event or Experience Focus
  • Issue Focus
  • Life Focus
  • Literature Focus
  • Myth and Misconceptions Focus
  • News and Information Focus
  • Person or People Focus
  • Place Focus
  • Quote Focus
  • Song Focus
  • Symbols, Signs, and Marker Focus
  • Theory Focus
  • Value Focus
  • Word Focus

For specific examples and topic ideas, go to escrapbooking


try itTry It!
Examine the following Flash projects: Einstein's Big Idea, Nathaniel Hawthorne, San Francisco Symphony, Name that Bug, Women of Our Time, and Kids Collecting. What's their informational focus? Can you think of other topics that could be explored using this focus?

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Information Organization

Data is unlikely to be used effectively unless it is presented in a way that users can understand. Experts are able to see patterns in data and make connections with existing information. When designing Flash projects, consider the needs and interests of your audience. It's likely that they are not experts. As such, you'll need to organize information in a way to their facilitate critical and creative thinking about your topic.

Consider the following approaches that can be taken to information organization. Within a single Flash project, you may use many of these approaches.

  • Alphabetical
  • Analogy
  • Cause/Effect
  • Change
  • Chronology
  • Comparison - then/now; before/after; if/then
  • Connection
  • Criticism
  • Debate
  • Geographical or Regional
  • Hierarchy
  • In-depth
  • Inquiry
  • Linkages - show metacognitive processes
  • Movement
  • Mystery
  • Perspectives
  • Prediction
  • Procedure - steps
  • Process - cycles
  • Product
  • Reflection
  • Storytelling
  • Relationships - characters in book, historical figures, family members
  • Thematic - historical, literature genre, topic
  • Trace or Track
  • Wonder

For additional ideas, go to escrapbooking.

try itTry It!
Compare the different techniques used in each of the following Anatomy of... projects.
Anatomy of the Concorde
Anatomy of a Croc
Anatomy of a Firework
Anatomy of a Glacier
Anatomy of a Jetliner
Anatomy of Katrina
Anatomy of Nyiragongo
Anatomy of Photo 50
Anatomy of a Rover
Anatomy of Yamato

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Information Presentation

Elements most often incorporated in Flash projects include animation, interaction, and multimedia. These elements can be applied in different ways to create interesting, informative projects.

Use the following links on this page to explore ways that animation, interaction, and multimedia elements can be used to build effective information presentations:

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AIM Text

Although most often associated with glitzy visuals, Flash is also useful for text-rich projects. One of the advantages of using Flash rather than other tools is the ability to control the font types and styles viewed by the end user. Some well-known examples include children's electronic books and interactive glossaries. Ideas include:

  • Digital Storytelling
  • Electronic books
  • Hypertext
  • Living books/interactive books
  • Language choices (English/Spanish) for ebooks
  • Pop-up glossary
  • Interactive glossary
  • Data collection and sharing - polls, surveys, Q&A

try itTry It!
Explore Flash projects containing text: CBeebies Stories, A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans & the US Constitution, Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land, Newton's Dark Secrets, and HiLite Online. What elements such as sound, photos, and interactive features can facilitate reading in a Flash environment?

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AIM Illustrations

Many of the most popular Flash projects rely heavily on graphics including charts and graphics, concept maps, line drawings, scanned documents, and photographs. Animated, interative illustrations often show processes and relationships. Ideas include:

  • Analogy - beehive to show corporate organization, hospital to show library offerings, zoo to show parts of the school
  • Anatomy of... - type of transportation; cell structure; uniform; layers of rainforest, earth
  • Collage
  • Comparison
  • Concept map - character relationships in book
  • Cycle - life, water, rock
  • How Stuff Works - circuits, electricity
  • Lab experiment simulations
  • Mural
  • Process - inquiry, science, photosynthesis, art color mixing, erosion, gene mutations , meandering river
  • Sketchbook
  • Trajectories in time and space
  • Visualize motion, vocabulary, math (angles and geometry; symmetry)

try itTry It!
Explore ways that illustrations are used in Flash projects. Compare the way visuals are used in each of the following projects. How do other features such as audio and interactivity add to the experience?
How Caves Form
Resonance in Strings
My Journey Home
Sense of Scale
How the Body Works

Volcano Under the City

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AIM Maps

Animated, interactive maps are common Flash applications. They allow users to explore a visual, make choices, and read information. Ideas include:

  • Changes and Predictions - growth of urban and rural areas, Mississippi River predicted path, hurricane's path, endangered animals
  • Locations - countries, governments, natural resources, land forms, biomes, axis/allies WWII
  • Movement of plague, people, animals, glaciers, volcano, hurricane, tornado, migration patterns, troop movement in Civil War, travel logs

try itTry It!
Explore examples that incorporate maps.
America on the Move

Anatomy of Nyiragongo
Biodiversity Spectrum of Life: Cladogram
Dogs Around the World
Exploration Map
Explore the Scablands
Horatio's Drive
Imaging with Radar
Mapping Attitudes: Correct English
Mystery of a Megaflood
Theban Mapping Project
Viking Deception: A Map in Question
War in Iraq

Notice how the maps are presented. Create a list of the many ways that users interact and use the maps in each project.

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AIM Slide Show

Slide shows are one of the most common presentation formats. They may incorporate illustrations, photos, maps, timelines, or other elements. Users are presented with a series of buttons, options, or navigation arrows to explore information.

try itTry It!
Explore examples that incorporate slide shows.
Build a Rice Patty
Deciphering Buddha Imagery
Glacier Lodges, Canyon Tour, Pacific Tour, Grand Lodges
Gallery of Auroras
Pillars of Creation
A Sense of Scale
Smashing Pictures

Compare the methods used for navigation in the different slide shows. Also compare the placement of visual elements on the screen.

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AIM Timelines

Timelines are used across content areas to help users visualize the history of a topic. Ideas include:

  • Short Term - day-in-the-life, diet diary, disasters (earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, blizzard, famine, disease)
  • Years - personal history, geneaology, movement (Civil Rights), events (transcontinental railroad, construction)
  • Centuries/Eras - topical histories (wars, fashion), dinosaurs
  • Topics - books, reports

try itTry It!
Explore examples of timelines in Flash projects.
A Brush with History
Caravan Kingdoms
How Is Sex Determined?
On Time
Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
Military Medicine through Time
Whistler Interactive

Brainstorm different visual techniques to express timelines.

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AIM Tools

Flash can be used to create a variety of utilities, calculators, and other tools. These resources are often used as part of a larger tutorial or simulation environment. Ideas include:

  • Calculator - cost of insurance, buying a house, owning a car, budgeting, buying carpet
  • Palette - art tools, music composition tools, writing tools, construction tools
  • Simulator - piece of equipment, (thermometer, micrometer, cash register, DVD player), environment (weather, classroom, sports setting)

try itTry It!
Explore how tools are incorporated into Flash projects.
Artist's Toolkit
Design a Parachute
The Drake Equation
Forces Lab
Let's Make a Microbe
Loads Lab
Infinite Secrets: Pi
Making Vaccines
Materials Lab

Read Write Think Student Materials
Room Planner
Thumb Piano Tunes
Invention at Play: Cloud Dreamer, Puzzle Blocks, Tinker Ball, Word Play

Are the tools easy to use? Are the directions clear? Is there a way to save or print the results? How does the tool contribute to the goal of the Flash project? How would you redesign or modify the tool so it is more effective?

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