Inspiration cannot be systematized, productized, canned, or sold. However, you can systematize everything that surrounds inspiration and all too often suffocates it. (For instance, communicating with clients, working toward a concept.) And you can nurture the spark of inspiration, feed it, and honor it. Do all that, and inspiration is far more likely to occur on its own, without Herculean pain and strain. And that’s what this book is about.
In MTIV (Making the Invisible Visible): The Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer, Hillman Curtis shares his own processes, techniques, and approaches for cultivating brilliance.
If you’re a new-media designer, you already know Hillman Curtis (or should). He wrote and designed the remarkable Flash Web Design, which has made it into the library of one out of every six Flash designers. He’s the founder and leader of Hillmancurtis, Inc., whose clients have included everyone from Adobe and Macromedia to MTV, not to mention many of the world’s top ad agencies.
For an example of Curtis’s work, visit the revamped adobe.com, which incorporates three main areas that work together seamlessly, including Adobe Studio, Adobe’s new online creative hub, and DesignTeam, a new Adobe online application where designers and clients can come together to review designs and manage projects. No mean accomplishment, this. In other words, when Curtis speaks, he’s worth listening to.
Now to this stunning, full-color book. What does Curtis mean by “making the invisible visible”? From the standpoint of the new media designer, it’s finding inspired ways to bring together the many disparate elements available in new media, using them to transcend literal meaning, and to communicate emotions and themes with newfound power. Curtis recalls the 1930s propaganda posters whose “designers spoke to a people’s pride and their need for answers in a most unstable time through nothing more than a typeface, an image, and a simple color scheme.”
But it’s more than that. As Curtis rushes to point out, “Often the most invisible aspect of any design job is your client’s desires. I have heard often from new media designers that their clients ‘don’t know what they want.’ In my experience that is never the case. It is simply not possible. Part of the process of making the invisible visible is pulling that often seemingly invisible desire out of the space between what the client says and what we hear.”
Curtis shows how to listen to any client, and tease out the story that’s hidden in any product and service: a story you can bootstrap into great work. He shows how to move towards the right concept through a process of sketching, storyboarding, and ongoing collaboration; and how to “eat the audience”: truly make it a part of you.
In Part II, Curtis turns to inspiration itself: “In my experience you don’t generate ideas -- you beg, borrow, and steal them. Sounds cynical. It isn’t.... By developing the ability to see inspiration everywhere and to use that inspiration, regardless of its source, to influence your own work, you make yet another “invisible” -- idea/inspiration -- visible.” So he presents a catalog of inspiration: truly breathtaking images and work from the filmmakers, poets, painters, and new media professionals that have inspired him.
Part III focuses on the nuts-and-bolts practice of new media design. Form follows function no less in new media than in Bauhaus furniture. Curtis (with help from other great designers) shares cutting-edge ideas on typography, color, layout, site architecture, XML, streaming media, and more -- all designed to help you create work that’s both wondrous to gaze upon and wondrously effective. Like this book. (Bill Camarda)
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.