Hillman Curtis, 1961-2012

Remembering one of digital design's first true luminaries, who passed away yesterday

Hillman Curtis, designer, author and filmmaker, died yesterday aged 51 after a long battle with colon cancer.

Starting out as a musician, Curtis reinvented himself time after time, moving from music to graphic design to digital design to filmmaking over an impressively varied career. He began his design career at Macromedia, becoming art director and embracing interactive Flash design at its inception. He went on to form hillmancurtis, inc., working on projects for clients including Yahoo, Adobe, Paramount and The Metropolitan Opera.

As an author, Curtis published books on design and filmmaking, and became an accomplished filmmaker in his own right, with the critically celebrated Artist Series, which saw him interviewing the likes of Milton Glaser and Paula Scher, as well as the feature-length Ride, Rise, Roar documentary about David Byrne and Brian Eno. More recently he worked on The Happy Film with Stefan Sagmeister.

Tom Dennis, former Deputy Editor of Computer Arts, interviewed Curtis a number of times over the years, most recently for us in 2009.

"Hillman Curtis was one of digital design’s first true luminaries," recalls Tom, "He broke rules. Experimented. Discarded formula in favour of freethinking. He did all of this whether making an experimental series of films or building a website for a multinational client.

"Curtis was a real multidisciplinary, pioneering motion graphic and Flash web work back in the late 90’s, and writing several brilliantly inspirational books, before returning to filmmaking.

"We should remember his background, too – how he came from the skate and punk music scene of the 1980’s to become design director at Macromedia, a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award nominee and the ‘Michael Jordan of web design’.

"Computer Arts was lucky enough to meet him several times, and talk with and interview him. He was one of design’s nice guys – quick with a smile and friendly anecdote, and always unfalteringly polite. He will be sorely missed by the many he has influenced and inspired."

"The world is changed by many hands all working at once. I think some of my work has influenced some of those hands." Hillmann Curtis, 2009