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/ log / 28th Sep, 2007 /

I {heart} Pixels

Wandering around in my archives recently, I stumbled across a few pixel avatars. Here’s a sample:

30 pixelated mini avatars

A crazy way for a designer to spend time, perhaps, but there was something challenging about trying to bring pixels alive and give them character and detail at such a small size.

CSRF, the character

This year, those little “avs” and The IT Crowd inspired a few pixel characters created for Chris Shiflett to add some fun to web app security presentations.

This is “CSRF”, (pronounced Sea-surf).You might meet “XSS” and “2 point oh” in one of Chris’ presentations but I’m reluctant to show them off before Chris has chance to. Please be gentle with them, like all Web villains, they’re really just looking for recognition and a cuddle.

The little avs were created for one of the original 2–D graphical chat sites, OnChat which started in 1997 and, at its height, hosted thousands of visitors in hundreds of different rooms.

The avatars were mobile on top of a static room background with speech or thought bubbles that appeared when users typed. It would pale against Second Life or today, but it was created by a couple of guys, and revolutionary at the time.

Looking back, part of the success was the simplicity. There was no requirement to join, users merely opened a Java applet in the browser. Before they knew it, they were immersed in a seemingly chaotic and infinite space, with little pixel avs all around them speaking and throwing thoughts to each other. Joining in was as simple as typing and using the mouse to move.

The avatar creators of 1997 have no doubt grown up, moved on and got a proper job, but finding these again reminded me that the things we do for fun are often the most educational. The lessons and skills stay with us. Something I try and bear in mind when my sons and I are playing Robin Hood versus the Robber Sheriff and the eldest wants to shoot him with his “arrow barrow” after tying him up with a grappling hook.


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  1. 1. By Ejaz Asi on 29th Sep ’07 at 23:59pm

    Ah, loved your avatars and even more interesting was the backstage story and information. You're so very right that the things we do for fun become more educational and instrumental for us to grow and experiment more. Thanks for a sunday morning inspiration :)

  2. Jon 陳’s profile 2. By Jon 陳 on 1st Oct ’07 at 00:10am

    Thanks Ejaz. Lego and pixels – great fun! :)

  3. 3. By Trish on 18th Mar ’08 at 19:30pm

    Those pixel avatars were actually first created for another visual chat application called The Palace, that was popular around the same time as OnChat, which is why avatars from The Palace migrated there. The More You Know! ==-*

  4. Jon 陳’s profile 4. By Jon 陳 on 19th Mar ’08 at 04:14am

    Interesting you say that Trish, because I drew these particular pixel avatars by hand—you’re right to say that avatars like this were used in The Palace, but that’s not where mine migrated from. :)

  5. 5. By ygs sınav tarihi on 3rd Oct ’09 at 05:42am

    very nice pixel examples. do you have editable psd files? thanks

  6. 6. By Mario on 16th Feb ’10 at 08:13am

    Nice avatars. Are there any limitations for use?

  7. 7. By Sam Orchard on 3rd May ’11 at 14:06pm

    Pixel art such as this is fantastic. It’s something that must require incredible patience.

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