Hillman Curtis began his career in the San Francisco new wave group Mrs. Green, served as Macromedia’s design director, founded the design firm hillmancurtis, Inc., wrote manuals on new media, and shot short documentaries. He accomplished much of note across the design professions before his untimely passing last month, and these projects reveal his great affinity for like-mindedly multidisciplinary and aesthetically inclined creators. He won a great deal of his internet fame examining just such people in the Artist Series, a cycle of five-to-ten minute profiles of, broadly speaking, his colleagues. These include Milton Glaser, the man behind the look of the immortal I Love New York campaign; David Carson, art director of the nineties’ cultishly coveted rock magazine Ray Gun; and Mark Romanek, director of striking commercials and feature films like One Hour Photo.
At the top of this post, you’ll find Curtis’ Artist Series short on Daniel Libeskind, the architect overseeing the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. It examines the architect’s buildings, his sketches, his meetings, and his ideas about the built environment as a tool for liberation rather than a “neutral world that confirms all our ideas.” Ultimately, Libeskind asks this of his craft, his profession, and his worldview: “How will it carry people into a world that is good?” Directly above is Curtis’ profile of graphic designer Paula Scher, who talks about the speed with which she sketched the Citibank logo. The client seems to have balked at this, assuming that anything so quickly created couldn’t possibly warrant the cost. Scher argues that, while it appeared to take her only a second, it really took her “a second and 34 years,” “a second and every experience and every movie and every thing of my life that’s in my head.” Neither she nor anyone else in the Artist Series sees divisions between their work, their life, and the rest of humanity. Hillman Curtis, by all accounts, lived the same way.