Remembering Hillman Curtis

I found our through friends online that designer Hillman Curtis died yesterday. I confess I didn’t really follow his recent work much, but know of him from his earlier days as a designer.

His book, Flash Web Design: The Art of Motion Graphics, was one of the first books I ever purchased, back when I was a noob working with his educational version of Macromedia Flash 4.

To put things in context, this was in the early days of multimedia on the web. This was the age before YouTube, when folks were just starting to add audio and video to their websites.

Actually, this was a time when Flash hadn’t even started to support video. Designers like Hillman (and sites like EgoMedia) got around the challenge of video by breaking down clips into a series of small, vectorized still frames. When these small frames were played in sequence, voilá: the look of video with a fraction of its file size.

One of the chapters in his book talks about how to create a Flash multimedia ad that comes in under 20k. Again, this was back in the days before broadband was everywhere and when good Flash developers counted every kilobyte.

With Hillman’s book, not only were there descriptions of how he went about his Flash projects… he also included source files! At the time, this was a fantastic thing for me as a fledgling Flash guy. Here were real examples I could open up, deconstruct, experiment with.

Think of it like a chef sharing with you descriptions of how he makes his dishes, and also giving you copies of his recipes to boot.

It’s incredibly dated, but here is one of his older projects that really influenced me a lot: Christina Manning’s poem, 5ky, via

In the early days of Flash, I wanted to learn how to animate my own poetry. Hillman’s book was an incredibly strong influence on me, and I associate it very much with my early tech days… learning about motion, animation, and the Internet.

Since his time at Macromedia, Hillman Curtis has amassed an incredible body of work. While I can’t speak to anything recent, I felt the need to write down how much this one book of his influenced me.

This old, outdated book… that took an idle interest in technology, and turned it into something that would clothe and feed me for well over a decade.

Friends For Eight Years, Meeting For The First Time

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Looking for exactly that old poem in flash, I found out that HC died recently.
    This makes me very sad…

    RIP, Hillman Curtis

    Robert van Hall Reply

  2. Thanks too for his feedbacks in this great book
    R.i.p. Hillman Curtis, my first Mentor in Design ^^

    “We are commercial artists, with a responsibility to the brand and the product we have agreed to help promote. We try to keep in mind the equal responsibility we have as artists, to do what artists have always done; respond to, reflect upon and, hopefully, influence the world.”

    Astroneo Reply

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