Hillman Curtis, a Pioneer in Internet Design, Dies at 51

Hillman Curtis, a Pioneer in Internet Design, Dies at 51

Hillman Curtis, a former rock musician who turned a distinguished first-generation Internet designer and a visionary determine within the Web’s evolution from a predominantly text-based medium to the multimedia platform it’s right this moment, died on Wednesday at his house in Brooklyn. He was 51.

The trigger was colon most cancers, his spouse, Christina, stated.

Mr. Curtis was the artwork director of a San Francisco software program firm in 1996 when he designed the primary Website formatted for a brand new expertise known as Flash Participant, a browser plug-in that could possibly be used to prove high-quality animated imagery rapidly. Earlier than then the method would take a whole bunch of hours.

His mastery of the expertise, which had been developed for a number of years earlier than however by no means absolutely deployed in a approach that unveiled its inventive potential, made Mr. Curtis a revered determine within the rising world of Internet design.

His Flash Participant design approach set the groundwork for a format that later advanced exponentially to accommodate on-line commercials, Fb functions and video websites like YouTube.

Richard Shupe, who teaches Internet design on the Faculty of Visible Arts in Manhattan, stated Mr. Curtis’s Flash Participant design was a milestone that “introduced Internet design to life.” His capability to show different Internet designers, he added, helped “jump-start a strategy of Internet democratization that continues right this moment.”

In 2000, Mr. Curtis printed a preferred how-to ebook, “Flash Internet Design,” which bought greater than 100,000 copies and stays an ordinary on-line design textual content. Heading his personal agency, HillmanCurtis, which he began in Brooklyn in 1998, he produced Internet designs for business shoppers together with Yahoo, Dash, Adobe, Rolling Stone journal, Fox Searchlight Photos and the Metropolitan Opera.

His mystique within the design world solely deepened when, on the peak of his profession, he gave up Internet work to study to make films with a handheld video digital camera.

For Mr. Curtis, who known as himself a serial self-reinventor, it was the beginning of a 3rd profession. A nephew of Chris Hillman, an authentic member of the Byrds, he had performed in a rock band within the Nineteen Eighties and early ’90s earlier than instructing himself Internet design.

He was starting to realize wider discover in his final years for his movies, together with a 2008 collection of quick documentaries about designers and artists like Milton Glaser, Paula Scher and Stefan Sagmeister, and a 2010 feature-length movie, “Trip, Rise, Roar,” chronicling a live performance tour by David Byrne and Brian Eno.

He as soon as defined his penchant for reinventing himself in an interview. “I initially went to high school for inventive writing and movie,” he stated. “I then spent 10 years pursuing music, and, after failing at that, I did numerous random jobs. I bought into design out of desperation — I didn’t wish to wait tables or pound nails.”

David Hillman Curtis was born on Feb. 24, 1961, within the La Jolla part of San Diego. He and two sisters had been raised by his mom and stepfather, Susan and Paul Zimmerman, each highschool lecturers.

As a pupil at San Francisco State College, Mr. Curtis fashioned a rock group, later referred to as the Inexperienced Issues, which toured for nearly a decade and produced one album for MCA Information earlier than disbanding.

Mr. Curtis discovered about artwork and design drawing posters and fliers for his band. After it broke up he took night time courses in Photoshop, he informed interviewers.

By then, already in his 30s, he had landed a number of part-time design jobs earlier than being employed for a low-level place at Macromedia, the place he labored his approach as much as artwork director.

In addition to his spouse and mom, Mr. Curtis is survived by a son, Jasper, a daughter, Tess, and his sisters, Madeleine Curtis and Rebecca Curtis-Cassacia.

Lengthy after designing his final Website, Mr. Curtis remained an vital presence within the creativeness of Internet designers. {And professional} on-line journals, which referred to him as “the Michael Jordan of Internet design” and “the Grandmaster of Flash,” remained fascinated by his resolution to provide all of it up.

“It looks like you had it made,” an interviewer stated just lately on the Internet journal the 99%. “Why did you progress on?”

Mr. Curtis answered that he had all the time wished to make movies and had completed his objectives as a designer. He detailed these objectives in a 2002 interview: “The explanation for designing new media is easy — to subtly and quietly change the world.”

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