Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design
7 comments | Posted: 4 June 07 in Books, by Yannick Lyn Fatt
Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design is written by internationally recognized speaker, designer and Web Standards Project member, Andy Clarke. I’ve always admired his work and enjoyed reading his blog, so needless to say, when I first heard he was writing a book I was pretty excited. Now that I’ve finished reading his book, I can definitely say I am happy that I picked it up.
This book is broken down into four (4) main sections, Discovery, Process, Inspiration and Transcendence and each contains a wealth of information that is beneficial to anyone who does design and XHTML/CSS. The book certainly encourages you to think outside the box at a new way of doing things (that was my experience at least). Below is a bit of what you might find in each section.
You should always start writing a document by first using only structural elements such as headers, paragraphs, lists and quotations. You should then work out in circles, a little like an onionskin, adding any divisions only to group related areas of content into meaningful containers.
Andy then goes on to give examples of good, semantic markup by using scenarios from various photos in a quiz-like fashion.
This section extends on the content-out approach and you will get a fresh look at the design and development process. Andy takes you step by step through the process of turning a design into a prototype for an example website called ‘Cookr!’. I found the process described rather interesting as I would normally have just gone straight to Adobe Photoshop/Fireworks to whip up the static design without first considering the content or doing wireframes.
Here you are introduced to the wonderful world of grid-based design. I’ve always heard people mention it but never really grasped it or tried to use it. Now I’m hooked and certainly plan to use it more in my work. It’s quite interesting how helpful it can be. Andy says it rather nicely:
Designers often think working with grids can be restrictive rather than a creative process. They think basing a design on a series of columns and fields will limit their ability to make designs that break out of the literal box; in reality, the opposite is true.
He goes on to give you a few of his personal favourite sites that use grid-based designs and even shows how newspapers use grids.
Lastly, I’m sure we have all had times when we were seeking inspiration when designing a new website. Andy shares a few of his techniques for getting inspiration from unexpected places and keeping a collection of design inspiration for later use.
This section brings together all that you have learnt from the previous sections. Andy works through a few more examples to illustrate Transcendent CSS techniques and also demonstrates various positioning and layout techniques. He then delves into a few of the modules that are present in the CSS 3 specification. There is no doubt that there are quite a few things to look forward to and the creative opportunities each will offer.
Though I didn’t mention it earlier, the book is very beautiful and has stunning imagery from various photos found on Flickr. Andy uses these photos in his examples and they really helped to make this book come alive. The overlay of code on some of the screenshots and photos also helped to get the message across about which elements are most appropriate for certain pieces of content. With that said, there is so much to like about this book and so much to learn. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly recommend Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design.
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