L to R: Justin Marcucci C'00, CEO of Nickelfish, with Seth Clifford, CIO, and Dave Vioreanu, CTO.

Justin Marcucci’s interactive design and marketing firm has global clients and Drew roots.

Justin Marcucci C’00 stood out as an MVP catcher for the Drew Rangers, but he also made his mark at Drew as an artist, creating the large mural of the campus’ arches and grounds that has graced the University Center since 1999.

The Fine Arts major took his artistry online after graduation.  A decade later, Marcucci’s freelance graphic design gig has transformed into an interactive design and marketing firm that attracts global corporate clients and employs 20 people.

Marcucci developed his business sense at Drew and he says his art professors helped shape his success.  Professor Michael Peglau “taught me to stick to my guns creatively. For art to work, it needs to be pure,’’ the 31-year-old said.

Before Marcucci ever imagined himself running a business, Professor Livio Saganic spotted his gift of persuasion. “When I was making presentations, I’d get excited about a concept. He told me, ‘you’ll wind up in business, in sales,’ ” Marcucci said.

While a sophomore, Marcucci and Tripp Fischer, a teammate and fellow artist, started a mural arts venture. They named it Nickelfish, a blend of Marcucci’s middle name, Nicholas, and Fischer’s last. Drew commissioned them to do several murals, including the one in the UC. That and other mural work helped the two friends pay for college.

Two years after graduation, Marcucci took Nickelfish in a new direction, recognizing the Internet was becoming the new canvas for commercial art. [Tripp had moved back to Connecticut, where he is now art director for Mass Mutual].

The demand for services soon expanded beyond web design. As Nickelfish grew, “we made sure to grow our technical capabilities to create energetic interactive experiences for clients,’’ he said. Clients include Benjamin Moore, McCann Worldgroup, Wolters Kluwer, AT&T, Mediabrands and Wyndham Hotels.

Some of Nickelfish’s apps for cell phones and other mobile devices have made a splash. In 2008, BMW hired Nickelfish to create an iPhone app for a game, Mini Liquid Assets, that promotes its Mini Cooper and encourage buyers to finance their purchase. The game has been downloaded more than 400,000 times and its popularity led to versions in four other languages.

The son of an art professor, Marcucci grew up in Haddon Heights and was painting and drawing before he could talk. Drew recruited him to play baseball, but Marcucci said he chose Drew for the fantastic education.  Marcucci’s former roommate at Drew, Brian Niemiec C ’00, is now chief financial officer of Nickelfish, which is headquartered in an 1815 building in downtown Mendham.

Marcucci lives close by, in Mendham Township, with his wife, Sasha Clifford C’02 and their 3-year-old son, Declan. (A daughter will join the family any day now).—Margaret McHugh

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Posted: March 2, 2011