h/t chris aldrich

I gotta say before I start that this woman's genes / moisturizer / whatever are formidable because I was going to start like "I dunno if I just remember this because I'm older but" and then I realized that she's been killing it in tech design longer than I have been able to use a terminal. Respect.

At first when you think about why we love washi tape, you imagine it's the cute/pretty designs paired with its tactile appeal. Just the right amount of stickiness! Easy to tear or cut!

That's a way of looking at it that doesn't really capture how it's used, though.

Look at how people use washi tape on Instagram.

It can take a simple, utilitarian planner and make it elegant.

It can structurally combine different elements to set off one's own creative work.

It can be an ingredient in something more transformative.

What's the closest thing to that we have digitally?

Well, in the digital art space there are too many options to count (hello old DeviantArt "Resources" section). Proper design tools probably have their own versions and I'm not going to touch on that.

In the web space, I think the closest is something that has been a minor obsession of mine because I remember loving it intensely as a child and then it just... disappeared.

From pixelse:

そざい or 素材 “Sozai” - material
Usually in reference to “web material.” It’s a general term that describes graphics that can be used to decorate websites. For example: banners, backgrounds, stock illustrations, fonts, icons, etc.

I think "assets" is probably the best translation for this use.

Let me show you what I mean. You see how above I put a boring horizontal line to split up the sections of what I'm writing? The website hot choco has cute images like this one that can be used instead:

ugly static version of a cute pixel border

(this version isn't animated, but the original is)

The era of <table></table> based HTML is over, but I'm sad we left sozai behind. Artists would share these assets to be used to give flavor to anyone's boring text content (with careful requirements around attribution and hotlinking!). The original websites for a lot of these artists are gone, so now you find them on aggregating tumblrs.

They made it more approachable for people (the people were mostly women from what I can tell) to express themselves on the web without a huge barrier to entry. Have you just put up a single HTML document on Geocities with the three autobiographical details you could think of? Throw a welcome banner image in that shit, match your colors and now it's Something. Want to warn (or advertise?) that a link is NSFW? Say it with sparkling pink.

Anyway, I have a lot of feelings about this. Can we bring back sozai? Can we bring back the web that allowed it?