January 9, 2021
By Jason Weamer


On December 31st, 2020, a painful pandemic driven year ended, but something else died as well. Flash, the multimedia software which powered millions of websites also died.

Flash was revolutionary. The 90s websites were driven by rudimentary html and basic browsers, and website design was still in its infancy. HTML websites like AOL and Yahoo, while news and search aggregators, were boring and lacked imagination. Not Flash. It was everything that HTML wasn’t. Flash was dynamic, it was animation, it was sound, and it was engaging. It was not without its faults though as it was based on a single design flaw: it required a plug-in. Those of us who remember will cringe when we recall the “Please install Flash Player” alerts that we were constantly bombarded with in our browsers. But I will come back to that in a minute.

In the mid-90s while going to school, I was working as a Marketing Coordinator for REMAX South County, which at the time was one of the largest real estate offices in the country. Agents would ask me to help them setup their home offices and networks, they would ask me to design PowerPoint or Publisher templates to handle their “Just Listed” and “Just Sold” postcards and marketing materials, and eventually would ask me to build them websites. Thus, my start of website design and the beginning of Visual Identity Group was born. Learning HTML at the time wasn’t easy and there weren’t many books or sources for information available. The best way to learn was to read and study the source of live public sites, sometimes copy the code and tweak it locally to learn how and why web developers did things the way they did and learn how to do cool event actions like JavaScript rollovers.

I remember specifically the site that blew my mind and changed me forever: Gabo Corp and later Eye4U. These were some of the first interactive companies that truly understood Flash, how to use motion and sound, and tie it together in a beautiful engaging way. These sites would assemble on screen with an awe-inspiring combination of motion and sound, and when a button was clicked, would trigger a transition animation from page to page with volume changes in sound that rose and fell to create drama. It really was special and I knew in those early moments that I was going to build Flash sites.

I set off to learn this new tech using the techniques that I already had acquired and whatever sources I could scrape together. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and I realized I needed a teacher and real clients to work with. Real estate was not going to cut it. That lead me to Sherri Cuono, of Cuono Interactive. Their site was built in flash, had all the cool animations and motion of Gabo Corp and Eye4U, and best yet: they were based right here in Orange County! I had to work for them. I picked up the phone and somehow was able to arrange a lunch meeting. I met with Sherri and remember hitting it off, so we left lunch early and headed to her office where I started working right there on the spot. It was wonderful! It was exciting! I was going to be a flash developer working with real clients! My first project was for a CD-ROM called “Contagion: Infectant”. My credits were even on the jacket sleeve! I was stoked.

My work at Cuono Interactive led me to Mike Carran of Macro Communications, a creative agency in Irvine with some great people and clients. It was there that I worked with clients like Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai, Mazda, Pacific Life and many more. Over those couple of years, I developed my portfolio and expanded my understanding of what was becoming the new web experience until Visual Identity Group was able to support me full time and grow into the creative digital agency that it has become today.

I will always be grateful to Sherri, Mike, and Flash. It was a wonderful time that I hold special in my heart and truly was the catalyst for my career and where I am at today. It is the reason I still look at commercials and animations today, examining them for their creativity and think of the strategy used for the idea and why they chose that direction.

We can credit Steve Jobs for Flash’s death because he (rightfully) declared the web should be plug-in-less and stopped supporting Flash in mobile versions of Safari in 2010. That kicked off a timeline for the inevitable: Flash would eventually die. I had hoped that later versions of Flash would solve the plug-in requirement and become a new tool reminiscent of the past. Even though there were attempts of this by Adobe, they weren’t successful but more importantly, I believe the world may no longer have the appetite for these rich animated media experiences. The web is older now and we have matured and become impatient in our consumption of endless website data and news feeds that we just want it now and move on. Regardless, I will always look back fondly of this time and my experiences with Flash and will hope one day for its return.