When Craig Kanarick, co-founder of New York digital design and development firm Razorfish, which just sold a hefty minority stake to the Omnicom group, created an online art gallery, he says he didn't want to make it easy for people. So, he hung the work in a diagonal line, forcing people to scroll down and to the right. "I wanted people to have to work for their art," Kanarick explains of the layout he created in Blue Dot, the firm's art forum Web site. "You don't go to a museum and sit down in the middle of the room and spin around and look at art, which is what a lot of these Web pages are like."
Arresting experiences are the main ingredient in the interactive marketing that year-and-a-half-old Razorfish (www.razorfish.com) cooks up for its clients, which encompass ad agencies grappling for technical support and a tony roster of companies that have included Bankers Trust, Viacom, Microsoft, Disney and Prodigy.
After freelancing for places like Modem Media and recognizing the potential of the medium, Media Lab grad Kanarick teamed up with his Minneapolis childhood buddy and multimedia producer Jeff Dachis-they're both 28-and chose a name randomly from the dictionary. Things really took off a few months later when they debuted Blue Dot, a hot site rigged with Macromedia's beta Shockwave software-it opens with a black scene on which a cobalt blue dot floats and revolves. Along with art galleries are poetry and a satirical section entitled U.S. Postal Stamps You'll Never See, which includes a stamp of delta bluesman Robert Johnson holding his guitar and dangling a cigarette from his mouth, plumes of smoke rising from it.
The gallery sections have recently been expanded to include the comix-style paintings of Robert Williams, which joins renovated sites devoted to the photographs of Jill Greenberg, Spencer Tunick and James Worrell. While Dachis claims Blue Dot is "for our souls," and an escape from the burdensome constraints of clients, their commercial work isn't devoid of creativity. A site for Sony's Digital Handycam, for example, pictures the camera against a black and gray screen; as viewers click to compare models, the screen flashes like a camera flash, with information popping up quickly in easy to read lists.
Multimedia marketing seems the logical culmination of the principals' varied backgrounds. Dachis, who has an MBA in entertainment business from NYU, was freelancing for a record company when he ran into Kanarick, who introduced him to the Mosaic Web browser, which seemed to integrate all the forms of media that he'd touched upon.
Kanarick has worked with computer installations at MIT, where he focused on "designing information," such as discovering the underlying threads that linked a collection of photos, instead of merely programming them to appear like a slideshow on a digital screen.
It was this training that convinced him what a specialized discipline interactive new media could be. "Steven Spielberg makes great movies, but his TV shows don't do so well," Kanarick says, by way of explanation. Looking at the computer vis-a-vis the television, "you would think that it's a box, it's got