Smash and grab a design experience

Think Electric has come up with imaginative delights that kick the life back into CD-Rom.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
CD-Rom review:

Few designers have really captured the possibilities of CD-Rom design. Most take graphic stills and learn how to move them around the screen, contributing little to the format and cluttering up a good interface with tired, desperately quirky tricks. But Think Electric is one of the few outfits trying to formulate a new design language especially tailored to CD-Roms.According to Think Electric's founder, Andrew Sutton, their new CD-Rom, IT, is meant to be "the ideal antidote to the majority of text-laden, futuristic, silvery- ball tosh currently boring the multimedia public".

Enough said. So, what is IT?

IT is an experience in design. Opening with a heady series of words smashing on to the screen and a shuddering reverb on the soundtrack, you enter a space where you are urged to "see IT, breathe IT, have IT, smash IT". IT does not pretend to be anything other than a truly enjoyable CD-Rom. Simply executed - but with considerable skill - IT has a beautifully designed pop-art-style title page containing icons leading to further screens. There are also plenty of hotspots, but I won't reveal those here as it will only spoil them for you.

Unlike similar products, the delights beyond are not on one theme, or even for one particular audience. Some are no more than something to look at and muse on. The guitar interface seems to do nothing until you move the mouse and find that you're creating a pattern yourself with a wash of pale-coloured plectrums.

Another screen has plump babies zooming across the background with an incongruous deep-sea diver appearing at intervals. It takes a while to work out that clicking on a baby takes you into another dimension altogether. The music throughout ranges from ambient house to plinkety-plonk seaside organ tunes.

My favourite section was the guide to Camden Town by the rock group Gaye Bykers On Acid's lead male singer, Mary Byers. This is, to quote Byers, "not intended for the weekender" and is his own personal testimony to this part of London where everyone pretends it's still 1966.

Click on various numbered segments on a road map and Byers points out his haunts, from the best dry-cleaners, fish and chip shops and pubs in the area. Insider knowledge indeed.

Think Electric has previously designed CD-Roms, web sites and corporate videos for such disparate clients as Benetton, Sony and Air Brunei and IT combines both the company's commercial nous, design training and its love of the underground music scene. At times merely visually stimulating, at other times a little weird (like the Southend on Sea picture postcard interface that sits strangely with the rest of the CD-Rom).

When playing IT, it feels as if Think Electric came up with the concept while recovering from a very heavy drinking session with a brain-compressing hangover. No less entertaining for that and well worth keeping in your CD-Rom collection to while away those spare hours when work gets too much to bear.

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