By Laura Rich
Last week, Razorfish creative director Craig Kanarick was mulling over the aftermath of a company party thrown the week before in its New York SoHo loft. The bash, which featured belly dancers and transvestites serving White Castle burgers, provoked some new media colleagues to show their distaste in cyberspace. They posted messages in newsgroups bearing the subject 'Razorfish, live nude girls?' (which there weren't) and sniped that the 2,000-attendee gathering was for 'Trendy/Beautiful-People-In-Technology' (which it might have been).
'People get offended, but the thing about the new media industry is that it involves taking chances,' replies the 30-year-old Kanarick. The event marked the launch of the Razorfish Subnetwork, a collection of artistic sites assembled by Kanarick and freelance designer Peter Mattei. RSUB is meant to showcase Web work that pushes technology to creativity's edge. Among its current features are a satirical news site, Disinformation, and cybersoap This Girl. Says Kanarick, 'This is the best portfolio we could hope for.'
Some rivals in Silicon Alley wonder if the 30-employee Razorfish is much more than its avant-garde portfolio and image. The shop 'is not known so much for its client work; it's known for its publicity,' observes Peter Seidler, president of Avalanche Systems.
On the other hand, Omnicom Group found enough real business at Razorfish to add it to its Communicade new media portfolio. And Razorfish does boast client sites, for the likes of IBM's RS/6000 workstation, Bankers Trust and America Online's Web home page.
All of Razorfish's work is driven by Kanarick's emphasis on 'creative solutions with a strong technological base.' As a student at MIT, Kanarick was encouraged to skip past software boundaries. 'If you use the tools as they're designed, you're not going to get very far,' he says.
His experiments produced what has become, through several incarnations, HotWired's chat technology, Talk.com. He's best known for the Blue Dot, a site featuring a bouncing blue dot that was one of the earliest examples of animation with the Netscape browser.
To some critics, Kanarick's work often makes for fat files that are slow to download. Yet that cutting-edge style is distinctive, notes Jonathan Nelson, Organic Online's chief executive. Razorfish 'has a very artistic approach,' he says. 'That's its whole scene.' Burgers, anyone?
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