Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith

Intro / Career

I sort of fell in to animating for the web when I took a casual job making flash banner ads for an advertising agency. I fell in love with the design and technical challenge of communicating with motion, first with ActionScript and Flash and then with JavaScript and CSS. Joining Active Theory 18 months ago has been a highlight of my career as I’ve been able to work on some incredible interactive projects.

I've always viewed front-end development and design as a way to create art, and working in the advertising industry provides an opportunity to work on projects that blur the line between a website and a multimedia experience.

Projects / Workflow

At Active Theory we begin the creative process by thinking about animation and interaction first. We very rarely design projects using static states or layouts without thinking about the transitions between those states. We rely very heavily on using prototypes to communicate with our clients how the end product may function. Often, we're coming up with a solution that is technically advanced and pushing the browser to its limit so we have to do a lot of testing with prototypes before we can even begin building the project.

We build our animation prototypes right in the browser using JavaScript rather than some other program like After Effects. That way we can see the actual performance in the browser and also reuse prototype code in production.

Tips / Tricks / Tools

When people ask me what they should do to become a web animator I always tell them to learn JavaScript, and learn it well. Whether you're animating using CSS, SVG, Canvas or WebGL, if you can write your own JavaScript the web animation world is your oyster! Also, understanding how the browser works and renders your animations is essential to creating high performance, complex work. After you’ve conquered the technology just practice, practice, practice and soon motion design will become second nature.


CodePen is my favourite place to hang out on the web because it is an endless supply of inspiration. As developers, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that our code has to be practical or useful but so many people are making things on CodePen just for fun. I love the potential for artistic expression that coding in the browser provides.

Life / Work / Balance

I think the most crucial part of producing quality creative work is taking care of your mental and physical health. Exercise and eating well is extremely important to me. I am blessed enough to live on the beach and spending time outside in the sun with the people I care about is just as important as any of the work I do online.

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