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Vaquita transforming into a Hawaiian Crow on “In Pieces” (all GIFs by the author for Hyperallergic)

Designer Bryan James was inspired to create the online project “In Pieces” as a “reminder of the beauty we are on the verge of losing as every moment passes,” he writes on the site. A cycle of 30 endangered species formed from 30 animated pieces are paired with statistics about their rapid disappearance.

“In Pieces,” released this month as an “interactive exhibition turned study into 30 of the world’s most interesting but unfortunately endangered species,” is a beautiful use of web-based interaction to raise awareness about environmental issues. It’s also incredibly impressive in that the Amsterdam-based designer made it with just CSS animation as a personal passion project over five months. James discussed the tech behind it in detail in an interview with Motiongrapher, and explains on the site how each animal is formed from CSS polygons moved and morphed according to distinct coordinates for each species. “No tricks or tools have been used to get the illustrated results, code-wise or graphically,” he writes.

Golden Lion Tamarin transforming into a Golden Poison Frog on “In Pieces”

James has created other stunning online experiences exploring the possibilities of interactive digital tools, such as Hashima Island which used Chrome filters and Google Street View to explore a Japanese ghost island. Similar to Maya Lin’s “What Is Missing?,” an online memorial that highlights conservation initiatives, “In Pieces” has video content and links to organizations involved in protecting the featured species. After you read about the Hawaiian crow, for example, which has vanished in the wild, you can watch the sleek black birds in footage from one of the two controlled breeding facilities focused on their survival. Some of the animals James selected are familiar, like the okapi or African penguin, while others are more obscure and fragile, like the long-beaked echidna which has suffered an 80% reduction in its population over the past 35 to 40 years because of hunting and loss of habitat. The gorgeous Wallace’s birdwing butterfly in Maluku, Indonesia, threatened by logging and insecticides, flaps its wings gently on the screen, and the flightless kakapo bird in New Zealand, hunted to the brink of disappearance, raises its wings before a hovering cloud.

A poster of all 30 animals, united by their “fragmented” existence, is available on Society 6 with the proceeds supporting the conservation initiative Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered. “In Pieces” may, at its core, be a clever use of triangles moving around on a screen (which looks amazing on both desktop and mobile), but it’s a skilled demonstration of web interactions empowering a connection with the fleeting biodiversity of the planet.

Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth on “In Pieces”

African Penguin on “In Pieces”

Greek Red Damsel on “In Pieces”

View “In Pieces” by Bryan James online.

h/t World Wide Fund for Nature

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...