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Snowfall: a new design term everyone needs to know

As the BBC takes 'snowfall' design into the mainstream, time to find out what it means.

The term comes from an interactive New York Times article from December 2012

Snowfall is the latest buzzword to hit the world of design - and if you've not yet heard people using it, you probably will soon.

It's essentially a new way of presenting longform journalism through art-directed web design. Snowfall draws on the best traditions of editorial layout and combines them with the exciting possibilities offered by multimedia, including parallax scrolling and web video.

Where it comes from

The term is named after The New York Times 'Snow Fall' article, about the horror of an avalance at Tunnel Creek, which was published online in December 2012.

Using its own bespoke coding, the newspaper presented the Pulitzer-winning article in an innovative way that grabbed the design community's attention worldwide.

The text cleverly intermingles with still and moving images as you scroll

It begins with a full-screen cinemagraph of the side of the mountain, then as you scroll down the page the text cleverly intermingles with videos and annotated images.

A range of other publications have done similar things, some of our favourites being Pitchfork's Bat for Lashes interview and The Telegraph's 'Automatic for the People' feature on US gun control. And now comes it's most mainstream use yet, in an article on BBC News entitled The Reykjavik Confessions.

BBC backing

The BBC has got on board with Snowfall design

Written by Simon Cox, the article explores the mystery of why six people admitted roles in two murders - when they couldn't remember anything about the crimes. It follows the trend in making imaginative use of full screen video and parallax scrolling in combination with magazine-style layout.

The presentation makes great use of white space and makes a large amount of text, which might seem intimidating in a more traditional web news context, a pleasure to navigate.

We're intrigued to see whether this is just a one-off experiment or if more BBC articles (and those of other TV channels' web outlets), follow suit. Watch this space!

Have you seen a great example of the Snowfall trend? Let us know in the comments below!

Words: Tom May

Tom May is associate editor at Creative Bloq.

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