Volume 6, Number 4, 1997

Print is dead
(or is it?)

Is the printed piece on its way out?

Jason Lucas, AS '95, a digital designer with the Broadway Interactive Group in New York City, says it's a question of when-not if.

"I sort of have to believe print is dead in some sense to do what I do," Lucas says. "I think it's funny that all these Internet magazines come out. It sort of defeats the purpose. By the time they reach the racks, everything in them is already out of date. They're oxymorons in themselves."

Lucas, a visual communications major at Delaware who approaches all design work-regardless of the medium-from a photographic perspective, recently worked on a 13-week pilot for a comedy show on The Microsoft Network. Broadcast live from Catch A Rising Star in New York, the show featured the work of comedy writers from Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

"I was brought in to create a cohesive feel for the show. I worked on the logos and 'interstitial bumpers' (15 seconds of animation that tell you what's coming up). I created sort of an emergency broadcast feel. It's in your face with animation and sound."

The spontaneous sense of "anything goes" that characterizes much on the World Wide Web helped Lucas make the initial leap in 1996 from working for a print-oriented design firm in Wilmington, Del., to MTV Interactive in New York.

At MTV, Lucas was responsible for designing the Music Video Awards web site, a major project that entailed producing more than 30 pages in different categories. He worked closely with the on-air creative team, which developed the categories for the television broadcast. The theme was loosely tied to "mysteries of the unknown." For example, photo-illustrations depicted alien contact, the Bermuda Triangle and the Loch Ness monster.

"One of the more interesting things about MTV is that things are updated constantly," he says. "I would spend a month working on something. It would be up for two weeks, then be replaced with something new."

That's also true of web work in general. "I've designed for the last year, but very little is still 'live' on the web today," Lucas says. "The work turns over so quickly that you can never get bored with a given project because you move to another one sometimes in the same week. It also makes you respond faster to design problems because you are constantly being tested."

As part of a new generation of online designers, Lucas finds himself in the right place at the right time. Billing itself as "Silicon Alley," Manhattan is aiming to become the center of the web, he says. "The slant is that New York has all the content; we want to keep it here. Everyone used to think because it was digital and involved computers, you needed to send it to Silicon Valley in California. Now, all that has changed."

Before diving into online design work, Lucas got his feet wet working mainly in print at River Bend Communications in Wilmington. He also worked as a digital designer with Dean Digital Imaging in Wilmington.

"As far as design, there is no difference in the sense of the imagery I'm creating," Lucas says. "There is still a concept behind it. I'm going for visual impact and communication. There are different layout constraints. The bonus is that I get to use as much color as I want.

"I'm looking at modem specs as opposed to paper constraints. I'm worrying about file sizes vs. printing prices. But to me, it's always been about the idea you're working on," he says.

Lucas hopes to strike out on his own some day soon. He already runs a font company, Disappearing Inc., as a side-business with Jeff Prybolsky, AS '95, who is also a web designer, and Al McElrath, AS '97, their programmer.

"All communication, no matter what, comes down to getting your message effectively to your audience," Lucas says. "I prefer to do it with strong visuals."

-Robert DiGiacomo, AS '88