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“Pretty Loaded” is composed of nearly 50 “preloaders,” animated graphics that show how much of a website has loaded. Big Spaceship, a Brooklyn-based creative agency, collected the preloaders on exhibit and created the application used to present them. These preloaders were originally produced by agencies (including Big Spaceship) and independent designers for websites primarily promoting films, television shows, and consumer products. Preloaders were initially intended to fill time while visitors waited for websites to load; in “Pretty Loaded,” they comprise the entire experience itself. Viewed one after another, they create a never-ending cycle, directing attention to the preloader as its own creative space and to the inventive ways in which designers communicate the simple idea of progress from 0 to 100 percent.
Preloaders were pervasive in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when image- and video-heavy websites created in Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash) were delivered over home Internet connections with speeds limited to 56 kbps. Originally, preloaders were utilitarian, employing progress bars, pie charts, or text, but designers soon started working inside the form’s constraints to create playful, engaging, and even suspenseful graphics that hinted at what lay beyond the preloader. The wide availability of broadband Internet and the waning use of Flash have rendered the preloader largely an artifact of the past.