The Generous Man – Remembering Hillman Curtis
I first met Hillman in 1998 during a Macromedia conference being held in Paris. I'd wondered into one of the sessions not really knowing anything about Hillman's work but anyone with the name Hillman Curtis surely had to be cool? I wasn't disappointed; Hillman was creating really intelligent, considered work with this new tool called Flash and it blew me away. The more he talked and the more he showed – including references to the work of Saul Bass – the more I realised that this guy was something special. So after the session, after waiting patiently in-line to speak to him, I mumbled something on how I'd just done a site about Saul Bass and I'd love to know what he thought about it. I pretty much expected never to hear from him again.
A few weeks later I get an email from Hillman saying some lovely things about the site and most importantly making some suggestions on how I could make it better. Over time we regularly chatted via email, discussing motion title sequences, film and all things design related.
Then in 2000 an email landed from Hillman. Just like that he asked me if I wanted to join him on stage in Seattle for a talk he was giving at another Macromedia event. Sorry? What? This is a joke right? Here was this guy I'd met in person only once yet was now asking me to share the stage with him. Within a second I said yes. Forget how I could afford to get there – I could figure that out later – the first thing I had to do was say "yes, thank you".
That trip changed my life; Hillman introduced me to his publisher who I would then go on to write several Input for; he introduced me to people organising a conference called Flashforward and he introduced me to his friend Todd Purgason from Juxt Interactive who was another hero of mine.
After getting back from that trip my world view had been completely altered forever all thanks to Hillman. A few weeks later I would be back on stage with him, this time at Flashforward in New York, sharing a room with Todd, which Hillman suggested I do because he knew I was broke after the Seattle trip. In the years that followed I would go and work for Hillman for a time, writing bits of code on various Hillman Curtis design and even editing the Flash 5 remix of his classic book Flash Web Design. He even flew me and my wife up to New York to meet him one time when we were holidaying in Florida. Even the first Cosmopolitan I ever drank (and probably the first cocktail) was thanks to Hillman.
On April 17 2012 Hillman Curtis passed away aged 51 after fighting a battle with colon cancer. Hillman was the most generous individual I ever met; a truly gifted artist who left his unique mark on whatever he touched. I owe him so much and I wish I could call him up right now and say "thanks H." The world is now a duller place without Hillman Curtis. Luckily he leaves behind a wonderful body of work that will continue to inspire.
Mine and Lisa's thoughts are with Christina and the family.
Bye Hillman. We all miss you.