Three-part Harmony

The three young partners at Vivid Publishing, creators of TypeView software, credit accidents for both the formation of their company and the development of their NeXT product. It was not by mistake, however, that they ended up where they did: just north of Silicon Valley, sharing a live-and-work space that has a great view of the mountains.

"It's inspirational," suggests Nathan Shedroff, the group's designer and an area native. "It's with-out the industrial sprawl of the Valley," management and marketing man Sterling Hutto adds in a Georgia drawl, finishing his colleague's thought, as these three tend to do. "It fits our small-town up-bringing," concludes Ken Fromm, the programmer in the group.

Their conversational style and their harmony about the location make it clear they get along. "Our skills balance out, our personalities mesh," says Shedroff.

The Vivid partners started out far afield of each other, however. Shedroff studied automobile and interface design and then worked on a unique information-design approach to books at The Understanding Business (TUB) in San Francisco; Hutto was trained in electrical engineering and physics, and then studied psychology and teaching; Fromm was on the board of the Bay Area NeXT Users Group and the principal author of Adobe's Programming the Display Post-Script System with NeXT-STEP, which members of the NeXT community commonly refer to as "The Purple Book."

When the trio decided to create a book together, they had no idea it would mean setting up a whole company or moving beyond traditional books to hypermedia and software. "Publishing books is a lot like publishing software," explains Shed- roff. "We help people understand information, give them more access, awareness, and empowerment." The development of TypeView as a NeXT product occurred in the process of building the font-access-and-choosing utility for internal use in their publishing business.

It turned out they weren't the only ones in need of it. "Fonts are emotions in type," says Hutto, offering a rationale for providing graphic artists and nondesigners alike with help in managing and applying their font collections.

So far, Vivid has had several successes. Its first book design project, Danny Goodman's Macintosh Handbook, used a unique visual presentation that mimicked that platform's familiar iconic interface. Then came their own title, Understanding Computers, which reflected and advanced the innovative style Shedroff had developed at TUB while working with information-design guru Richard Wurman.

Like many book publishers, the Vivid partners haven't yet moved to using the NeXT themselves for desktop publishing; the company has produced all its books with PageMaker on the Macintosh. The team is anxious to switch, but won't do so until NeXT ships a notebook machine.

"We're not a platform-specific company," says Shedroff. "We're [developing] on the NeXT because of its capabilities."

Shedroff believes the concurrent imaging model of Display PostScript could make NeXT the electronic-publishing platform of choice in the near future. Meanwhile, Vivid has plans to put out a series of "Understanding" books, including one about CD-ROM, and software tied to information products such as Map View, a personal geographic-information system to access maps on the NeXT.

As long as it means learning something new. Says Hutto: "If we can't grow by doing it, we're not interested."

by Stuart Silverstone