The Week of Too Many Things
Because I am a bowl of cold pudding.
Because I am a bowl of cold pudding.
Autopilot no control.
Or, why not to be famous.
And the world of Elden Ring.
And the best new way to manage your fonts.
Or, I hate arrows on websites.
Or a rant about the stack.
A request, not a demand.
And a fine, deckle edge.
And holding your blog real close.
Or the place that all websites go.
An illustrated essay.
And your least rambly self.
We type like hell, and hope that the typing will make us heroes.
Half Life redesigned and reimagined.
Copy and paste all compliments.
And endless thanks.
And the work of Alisa Burzic.
Violins and pianos all the way.
Complain to your mother.
Rutherford Craze breaks down the last two years of his type foundry.
A handsome comic book in marble.
What your design system is and isn’t
“...a powerful engine; a powerful argument; a powerful light; a powerful vessel”
“The destination is the dictionary.”
Sweet, I must say, Christ.
I am on track. Success. Eggs!
Tell the stars I’m coming.
Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in.
It’s one of the many things I love about C.
And Nicholas Rougeaux’s extraordinary work.
And a family of bubblists.
Writing every day is an apple.
Open source software, at least.
For a new year.
This was the best year for CSS yet.
And the problem with NFTs.
How do you make a website great?
And how it haunts our industry.
I really, really like this.
And a book about browsers.
George Saunders and how to avoid writing like anyone else.
And the design behind Retail.
And their ever-so-good font catalogue.
What the absolute what.
If you want to save a species…
A curious type family by Andy Clymer.
Or a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
And some notes on the Web History podcast.
What signals would we need to see a design system clearly?
When the whole system begins to make sense in your mind.
Anarchy in the UK.
👀 👀 👀
And empty mansions on the shore.
A new type family from Occupant Fonts.
And the design of MD Nichrome.
Wrote a little thing for the CSS-Tricks newsletter.
Or, how to sample ghosts.
Words fail to make sense without them.
Look at the array of dots and dashes!
Momentum and the cursed rewrite.
“...a humiliating, slow-motion slide down a hill into a puddle of filth.”
And why they’re not so experimental.
What you see here isn’t me
And a mid-life crisis.
Alberto Manguel on loss.
Spreadsheets and publishing.
New fonts, new essay.
What the who.
How do I make my life messier?
And when the organizing happens in earnest.
Marcin summons FFT.
New books, new friends.
A great lil podcast.
A quick note about hyperlinks.
And the moment you feel trapped in.
Lucas Pope is blogging about his latest game and hell yes it is good.
Oh what a beautiful thing.
Or how blogging is an act of stewardship.
A damn fine typeface by Mass-Driver.
Nick Sherman’s neat flickr group.
And a particularly dumb video.
A sundial that works without the sun.
And the future loss of all those images.
Astro was harder to work with than I first thought.
Ethan on design systems and stress.
It most certainly does not.
Nicky Case on the potential of RSS.
And the boy of boys.
Sorry in advance.
Make the computer meet me where I am.
Let’s talk about the measure.
Delete the CSS.
Why is my jaw clamping up like this?
A novel about Deep Time by the geologist Marcia Bjornerud.
A link for a newsletter.
A few more thoughts on Astro and the web.
I need a new project.
Robinson Meyer and the problem with how folks see technology.
On moving to our first home.
How can we love the people who hurt us the most?
Hardcover books suck. There, I said it.
Chris Coyier on turning 40.
And the color of that blue.
A wondrous album by Emily Hopkins.
Gah, so good.
And trying to escape the algorithm.
And why we must unionize.
And memories of desk rummaging.
“Respect is in order, no matter what any of us come to for an answer.”
An exciting update to Sentry.
And the praise of a search engine deity.
A typeface designed by Charles Mazé.
How do I prevent future problems?
And at just the right moment he looks at the camera.
Pretend it isn’t there
And figuring out the web.
Neat new fonts from Bold Monday.
“The only means of fighting a plague is common decency.”
And how to set up an alert to shout at you.
Blogging as easy as email.
An upright italic? Huh, okay. Sure.
Or, the guilt of being worthy.
Sentence by sentence.
A shockingly beautiful thing by Jason Farago.
And the good days.
The lost play of Sophocles.
A lightweight puzzle game.
And being late to the party.
An experimental newsletter.
A fabulous piece about videogame box design.
And the market for magic.
And yet, and yet.
...only to make someone you love smile.
Oh to be called a bastard by a writer you admire whilst hovering over drinks in a dimly lit bar.
A fancy new parent selector that might be coming to CSS (eventually, maybe)
We’re looking for a UI engineer.
Heck yeah software.
1% better every day.
James Acaster’s latest standup.
I love RSS because of how it focuses my attention...
And a government to be proud of.
Here’s a picture of LA...
Constant improvement and momentum.
Lucy and I chat about websites, writing, online dating, and Miss Piggy.
All he saw was a pyramid and his own place within it.
“The only viable option is total moral rejection”
And the biggest threat to great design.
A woodblock illustration made by Albrecht Dürer in 1515.
Donny Trương asks about the future of his website.
Point at things, say whoa, and elaborate.
Lewis Mcguffie on type design and scale.
RSS and the Sexy Mystery Distance.
And an unexpected email.
John Boardley on the history of posters and illustration.
Merging books with the web.
Always blame the boss.
Just wake up earlier, you poor idiots.
The Society of the Double Dagger returns!
And the half-finished, excitable huhs.
Am I writing in service of my reader?
Here’s one for your RSS feeds.
Contrapoints and the orbital laser cannon.
Equal parts remarkable and horrifying.
His voice is gone and the world is better for it.
Alberto Manguel on the volatility of the Web.
Adventures is back, baby!
A remarkable little app.
A nifty newsletter about the web.
A scrolly map thing by J. R. Carpenter
Katy Decorah’s book review system.
Jon Lovett’s commencement speech
Frameworks on top of frameworks.
Yes and No.
A new typefamily from Mark Simonson.
Bury you heroes because they will disappoint you.
What is your favorite book to sit next to a fire with?
Alberto Manguel on “the idea of Homer.”
A library and a puddle.
And all the music that must be set free.
Tom Scott on advertising and the web.
A life, a story, a map.
When the loneliness kicks and bites.
Tolerate your self-hatred.
And that one delirious summer.
Some things I’ve written for CSS-Tricks lately.
Eddie Glaude’s excellent book about James Baldwin and who we really are.
The twist about to be turned.
And what to do next.
And why it’s devastating.
And a few small website fixes.
Abandon the academic style.
A newsletter by Robinson Meyer.
A list, a tragedy, an apology.
And shouting at friends until they blog.
And my beautiful horse, Sebastian.
And the legend of the 6 foot tall puddle.
And how I might help.
A virtual event from Sentry.
And why do I always have to be the hero?
And a nifty Sentry tip.
And the art of being obnoxious.
You are not your job.
Mandy Brown and the Thought of Thoughts, the Thing of Things.
And the promise made.
And avoiding the rabbit holes.
And building a Web for us all.
Just never let go.
Reagan Ray’s lettering work is lovely.
And the art of writing a newsletter.
A cute and simple blogging platform.
And keeping that machine well-oiled.
Who are “We the People”?
Advice for everything.
Here’s a weird bug.
And what most writing has become.
And avoiding cynicism like hell.
An archive of everything I’m working on.
The latest album from Baths.
How do we destroy it?
And the art of doing small things.
And dealing with grief.
A pile of safety and kindness.
I need something new.
And the work of design.
Lucy Bellwood’s hotline.
And a micro-rant about styling on the web.
And deliberate technology choices.
Okay, so maybe I’m not over it yet.
Design crits, fucking up, and the iPad Pro.
Henning Lederer’s fabulous animated covers
And extraordinary luck.
And the false utopia.
There is far too much work to do.
Context-switching and design.
A remarkable website.
Faffing about with cards on the web.
Jesse Ragan’s latest monospace.
Clint Smith’s journey to Talbot County, Maryland.
Matt Webb’s notes and The OmniBlog.
And the myth of the GOP.
President Obama’s eulogy for John Lewis.
I wonder if I can make a similar effect with SVG filters...
John Lewis’s final speech.
The virus has found other forms of weakness.
And how to fight the modern web.
Jon Lovett on the passing of John McCain.
Richard Rothstein’s book on segregation.
Am I cut out for this gig?
A typefamily from the Letterform Archive.
Dora Chan on conducting user interviews.
A new feature from Sentry.
And a bit of typography advice.
A walk, a rant, a website.
Jonnie Hallman’s idea for improving RSS entries.
Anne Trubek’s newsletter is a grand little thing.
The consequences of the federal aid program.
An audio ramble about vulnerability and writing.
And seeing far too much of yourself in the work.
A short note about mmhmm.
Robin Sloan and the fine art of the webvella.
A display face by Mass-Driver.
A beautifully typeset version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter.
Mandy Michael’s work in this area is so great.
Derecka Purnell on why she changed her mind.
Chris Hedges writes about the myth of war.
Ignoring our mistakes will only make things worse.
And how to work on a design systems project.
HAIM’s latest album is so damn good it’s embarrassing.
Senongo Akpem on cultural norms and diversity.
Would those replies be kind?
Steven Soderbergh’s edit of Raiders of the Lost Arc
Rutger Bregman’s notes on a kinder future.
Is this a good idea?
Yet another vitally important critique of the Kindle.
Ijeoma Oluo’s ever-so-excellent book.
Ellen Ullman and the giant cosmic Frisbee.
You are the master of your destiny.
I just miss it all like hell.
This album by Labi Siffre is wonderful.
I have no idea what this is but I love it all the same.
And having failed to make contact.
Or, the Überstrahlung.
And being patient with yourself.
Dave Chappelle and the murder of George Floyd.
Why are people worried about being weird on the Internet?
And starting therapy again.
And the end of the police.
And the Fire Next Time.
A heartbreaking live performance by Living Colour.
What I’m learning during the quarantine
Audre Lorde and why silence doesn’t work.
The other-thing that I one day hope to see.
Counting the lives of 100,000 people.
I have nothing to type in this field, go away.
Jonathan Hoefler on the art of type design and pangrams.
A website dedicated to Herb Lubalin.
What if we combined multiple type families together?
Did this work?
I am growing and learning, okay?
And how to forget about border-radius.
“Is that guy going to apologize again?”
“Seattle is not trying to be contented. It’s doing this other, crazier thing. It’s trying to impress Tokyo.”
A variable font family from Bernd Volmer.
It’s the kindest thing to do.
The latest album from Calibre.
“And the world is forever changed.”
You have been warned.
I am growing and learning.
And treating music like a job.
In the words of Luigi, “wowie zowie!”
Neil Gaiman’s collection of short stories.
“Absolutely halcyon days. Perfect.”
A newsletter from JB.
Dammit, I can’t focus.
Eff the footer, and eff the clicks.
Ask me one about fonts.
And what we can learn from websites past.
Warren Ellis’s latest comic-book-shaped thing.
Robin Sloan, and each and every kind of writing.
Stephen King is a jerk.
Kicks Condor has made a new tool to read the web.
I am late to the party.
And how to use that delete key.
The problem is often hard to spot.
How to make a list of your favorites from Feedbin.
Dorain Taylor on software development.
An honest look at Craig’s paid membership program.
This place is not in favor of you.
Paul Robert Lloyd on improving the software building process.
Spoilers! It’s because of the way in which companies are organized.
And how to make a blog.
Eric Meyer and the joke that got him in big trouble.
And how to care for the community.
And the infrastructure we cannot see.
The only writing tip worth paying attention to.
Anil Dash on hyperlinks and social networks.
And making a thing for no reason at all.
What does success really look like?
Robert McFarlane and the dangers of radioactive waste.
Rachel Andrew on learning the language.
And how to improve things bit by bit.
A collection of thoughts from the CSS-Tricks community.
What the fuck am I doing?
And the small wonder of OpenType fonts.
An Alfred workflow to help me blog faster.
And why our attention is precious.
And how you can help your design system today.
And how to be a terrible writer.
Or, why good product design is impossible.
And why data can go to hell.
And how science really works.
Scott Galloway’s secret to a happy life
And why a design system is not a product.
Or maybe don’t?
And the art of fucking things up.
And the mystery of Jake’s height.
And why you can’t measure a design system.
And why maybe you haven’t experienced it either.
And how to keep someone with you forever.
Paul Ford on becoming a manager.
Tim Maly on the devil we fear versus the one we face.
And learning to think inside it.
Dave Rupert on the art of kindness.
Making a new home for Adventures.
Performance and accessibility are not features.
A question, a rant.
And how to build an effective org.
Performance is not a feature.
And the result of 3 years of refactoring.
And the inability to say yes.
I am a tough and confident boy.
The new type family by OhNo Type Co.
Software development is all wrong.
A story about empathy in software design.
To find Agnes Parrott in Angoon, Alaska...
And how to build common layouts with CSS.
The surveillance economy and the environment
When you work on a big product, people are going to continuously replace your work.
Where did it all go?
I want a new kind of work.
Ethan Marcotte’s talk at New Adventures is wonderful.
This Memorial weekend I updated this very website to use the static site generator Eleventy and Netlify as the publishing process. Oh boy was it a dream.
“I’ve made a mistake, a lifelong one, correlating advancements in technology with progress.”
Measuring people is a really bad idea.
Anna Wiener on Twitter and the legacy of Jack.
Boris Strugatsky’s afterword to his perfect sci-fi novel.
And fighting for the middle ground.
“The history of web design can be seen as a set of tensions...”
It’s perhaps the most underrated aspect of design systems work I’ve read about.
Don’t be sorry. Be angry.
Punctuation and grammar be damned.
And the oldest murder mystery on the planet.
What would happen if every website was lightning fast?
Huh? Where am I?
There, I said it.
Kelly Sutton’s argument against following the latest trends is a damn good one.
And the civil war that rages in the codebase.
And gathering momentum.
A few notes on how we built the UI Kit at Gusto.
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s weird and wonderful novel.
And how to see the inferno.
And how to build things the right way.
And a note on drop shadows.
The distinction between “a designed system” and “design systems” is an important one to make.
And the work of monsters.
Especially when it comes to blogs.
Tim Carmody’s newsletter is as charming and brilliant as you might expect.
And some half-assed thoughts on Apex Legends.
And learning how difficult this job truly is.
He wants his dang CDs back.
And those big blue eyes.
Talking down instead of talking up.
And a good reckon.
And a nation of kindness.
Design systems and making things 1% better every day.
And how English deserves our love but not our worry.
And a note about the weather.
Patience and discipline and coffee.
And the growing rift in the field of web design.
And all the loves mismanaged.
This place is in favor of me.
The art of writing software in a group is underrated.
My first book of 2019 is a damn fine start to the year.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Fiction via email can be a wondrous thing.
An app for tracking your finances that actually makes a difference.
Fighting against a Chromium-only world.
Some notes on Brexit.
An exciting idea for a new type of search engine.
Andy Baio’s thoughts on Quora.
One browser to rule them all.
Hey. Maybe this job is just, like, super easy or whatever.
How the telegraph changed the world.
I think I finally figured out what upsets me when people talk about front-end development.
Okay so I have an idea for a book.
Surprise! I blogged about CSS again. Sorry.
In his newsletter, Nick Cave writes about tragedy and wonder.
Hannu Rajaniemi’s latest novel is really something special.
It’s an everlasting, punk-rock feeling that I hope will never really go away.
Jez just announced his Kickstarter campaign for his new book called And Introducing.
“Design is not about learning to think outside the box, it’s about finding the right box to think inside of.”
Eric Meyer on what makes a good front-end developer.
Nesting classes in Sass is maybe not such a great idea. There, I said it!
It’s just the right amount of time for you to admire the romance of flight and the wonder that is unaccosted flight through American airspace without coming to the conclusion that you’re stuck in a floating metal sky prison.
You don’t have to put a dent in the universe. You can just be kind. And put things back where you found them. And make a few people laugh along the way.
My favorite writing app has just been updated.
Pretty much everything I’ve ever published and every line of code I’ve ever written has been typed whilst listening to this playlist.
In this game there a lot of rules.
“If a legendary quest has no substantial challenge, if it asks nothing of you except that you jump through the hoops it so carefully lays out for you, then the very legend is unworthy of being told, and retold.”
My favorite book from the Boss Fight Books collection so far.
Jez’s new project is going to be great so you ought to sign up for the newsletter immediately.
This little newsletter reminds me that the web is an exciting, wondrous, unfinished place.
“We’re taking the planks from masters, and building our own ships. We are making ships in our own image, in our own languages, in our own accents.”
“For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent, as our story did not fit with the narrative of greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself.”
Chris is smart and he writes smart things.
I need to try harder with this stuff. A lot harder.
You can see the climate crisis everywhere, in everything.
It asks that we look deep into the heart of this ugly moment in time, so that we may never make the same mistakes again.
Thinking about the Internet can be frightening – what with its sheer vastness and globe-trotting scale – but it’s also a miracle.
“This very special key opens a very special door...”
“Eventually humans will be living in a sustainable way.”
Mitt Romney isn’t blue or red.
There, I said it.
The honest answer? Probably not that long.
Not a chef, barely even a cook, but a damn fine writer.
Zadie Smith’s book, to me, is all about England.
A strange, even dangerous, relationship with alcohol.
Please make me stop.
A note on frameworks and AMP.
A note from the CSS-Tricks newsletter.
I reckon analytics are bad for writers and here’s why.
A new CSS property that looks pretty handy.
Design criticism from a different point of view.
“...he is a man of no mystery, overexposed...”
Last week I went on a solo road trip and it was unforgettably beautiful.
“Facebook turns a necessary labor of love into a profitable business.”
It’s a lovely, wondrous, and utterly frustrating thing.
David Foster Wallace on the campaign trail.
And a place you won’t ever want to leave.
Karin Tidbeck’s collection of stories is a haunting and eerie delight.
Liu Cixin’s book all about contacting an alien civilization is outstanding and weird as all hell.
It’s a lovely book, go read it.
A new motorcycle, a new me.
“I am going to a commune in Vermont and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season.”
Whether you’re just starting out building a complicated front-end, or if you’re getting ready to build a style guide at a large organization then hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes.
“A lawless and mistrustful world where self-interest is the only principle and paranoia is the only source of safety is a not a paradise but a crypto-medieval hellhole.”
There are no heroes or parades for you in this line of work.
“It’s over. The notion of having to do the heavy-lifting is gone. Everything is shrinkwrapped.”
A beautiful typeface, or a beautiful book, or a beautiful anything, isn’t a lucky accident. It’s the product of many hours, it’s the success of many days, and I like to keep that in mind whenever I find myself losing concentration.
Jellyfish question everything that we know about life; how they move, how they see, how they eat, how they process information. Everything about them is alien and beyond comprehension and sci-fi as all hell.
All of the parts fit; the graphic design was outstanding, the music was lovely. But most importantly, the characters all had motivations and narrative arcs and all the things that I crave from a film.
Last night I watched the new documentary about Garry Shandling by Judd Apatow and I hadn’t quite expected to fall in love with it as much as I did. Quite frankly, it swept me off my feet.
“Old-timers might remember when Flash ruled the web, and people made simple games or interactive art pieces that would then get shared on blogs or other media sites. Except for the occasional SoundCloud song on someone’s Tumblr, it’s a grim landscape for anyone that can imagine a web where bits and pieces of different sites are combined together like Legos.”
Words fail to do the sound justice.
“...exaggerated speeches that concealed mediocre affections”
The lake was the darkest of greens.
“The stars align in my garden.”
“Rhythm itself is a kind of form and, regardless of whether it's poetry or prose, it becomes a kind of dwelling place for us. ”
“A guy (Stan) constructs a model railroad town in his basement. Stan acquires a small hobo, places him under a plastic railroad bridge, near that fake campfire, then notices he’s arranged his hobo into a certain posture – the hobo seems to be gazing back at the town. Why is he looking over there?”
“Is a word academic jargon? Is it the sort of thing you only see in a Pope or Blake poem? What about Doctor Who fanfic? Is this word a slur? Or is this word boring and everywhere, the Wonder Bread of words, remarkable only because it is wholly unremarkable?”
...our current tools encourage me to design the finished product first. They beg me to mess with rounded corners, colors, typefaces and stroke styles.
I’ve read this piece about design by Dean Allen multiple times and yet I can’t appear to shake it. Every time I read it I find something new that perfectly summarizes that moment in my career.
A love letter to RSS the community and RSS the technology.
Robin Sloan on machine learning.
Talking with Jules about design systems and how to incentivize good systems work across an organization.
And the little email service that could.
And the private emails of Alan Kay.
Beyond any work or any technical skills that I’d like to improve this coming year though, I’d like to focus on activism.
A note from Jeremy Keith on under/over engineering.
“Nazism has nothing to do with race and nationality. It appeals to a certain type of mind.”
“And for me, voice is the thing. In a novel, I will forgive any flaw, overlook any omission, if the voice on the page has that sizzling Tesla-coil energy.”
“You don’t want to come face-to-face with your god, because it’s frightening to think that you might see a pimple on his chin.”
“I think of the angels of the Paradiso, who when asked by Dante for the secret of their happiness, say: ‘We long for what we have.’”
As she moves on from Gusto I’ll be sure to miss Dora dearly but if she has a motto that I can take to heart and apply to my work without her then it ought to be this: care for, and question, everything.
“Investments like these build a fair, thriving society…and I think it’s worth it.”
“English teaching at school is unfortunately, obsessed with what a poet thought, as though that were of any interest to anyone.”
A new post for CSS-Tricks all about making a CSS-only responsive spreadsheet UI.
An old technique for setting type on the web.
Two million nature illustrations, now available from the BHL.
“It is a feeling thing, to be a painter of things: cause every thing, even an imagined or gone thing or creature or person has essence: paint a rose or a coin or a duck or a brick and you’ll feel it as sure as if a coin had a mouth and told you what it was like to be a coin...”
“Tell me about a complicated man.”
How do I become a great designer without becoming a giant asshole?
There was this sense of history or something, the way that one writer had been influenced by the other. It was funny because each of us came from halfway across the world to find ourselves in this little bar excitedly talking about bundles of paper and how we were all trying to do the same thing, really, even if our work was wildly different.
Helena Fitzgerald on the color green.
To treat that “What’s Happening” input as a free and open text editor, to just pour all your energy into it, seems like a waste of time.
If a single intelligible and kind word can be wrenched out of me as I write that particular week’s letter than that’s a good enough of an adventure for me.
We can’t afford to see books as art if we want to make a contribution, whatever size that might be, to the world of bookmaking. Rather, we must see books as work instead.
Mandy Brown on reading and writing.
Robin Sloan’s new book is a precious thing.
Rambling notes on the collection of essays by James Baldwin
“The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand—the war is over for them, not for us.”
In my apartment I’ve positioned my desk by the window facing the tower towards the west. In fact I only picked this apartment because of the tower and how it looms above Twin Peaks right next door — as soon as I saw this place I knew that this is where I would write, by this very window. I knew that I would think of the city spinning as I write a million words over the years and that Tower would be my writing compatriot, my audience, and the stick that holds it all together.
“Whenever you look at data — as a spreadsheet or database view or a visualization, you are looking at an artifact of such a system. What this diagram doesn’t capture is the immense branching of choice that happens at each step along the way”
What’s your favorite website? Which is the one above all the others that you think about from time to time?
“Ad quality needs to improve and advertisers must abandon any attempt to hijack our attention with disruptive audio, flashing animation, or screen takeovers. But this alone will not win back the trust of users alienated by an ad system run amok.”
A train. A tunnel. Oakland.
“In purpose-built data centers like Facebook’s, it’s for a general public that uses but maybe does not love Facebook. Facebook’s desire to be loved and trusted has always struck me as sort of overcompensating. ”
Nirvanna the Band the Show is my favorite thing.
‘I gave a fifty minute concert in two halves. They poured me a drink in the middle. Dunya asked how I found them. I said I just walked past. She smiled and said, “That’s how I want it.”’
“Engineering is great, but it’s not the answer to all problems. Sometimes you have to play politics, too — consult stakeholders, line up allies, compromise with rivals.”
Go take a look at your bookshelf: most books are seas of text without pictures. When a book does have imagery, they are marooned onto their own page, or the text tiptoes alongside the image, reticent and scared of contact. Even this little post is guilty. Images and text are frequently described as natural partners, but there is very little intimacy in how they are treated. Like an old married couple, they sleep in separate beds.
“I’m familiar with the re-write. This was more like starting a new book every four months or so. The number of plotlines and their interactions meant a kind of exponential multiplication of possibility. I’d made a maze in my own mind and I kept getting lost in it. The book was smarter than I was.”
Rebecca Solnit on the difference between conversationists and environmentalists.
I’ve been reading a lot of great things on the web lately and just wanted to quickly jot everything down as best I could. I hope you enjoy reading this lot as much as I did.
Considering I’m from the UK there were a few peculiar obstacles I had to circumnavigate before I could get back to riding a motorcycle, hence I thought it might be helpful for others if I jotted that whole process down. At the beginning it was pretty complicated and strange because I simply couldn’t find any info out there for me. So hopefully this guide is of use to you, fellow motorcycle enthusiast.
We try pretty hard to make sure there’s something interesting going on and even though we talk about the latest news we hope to deliver something more than just a bundle of links each week. There are stories about how the team has messed up and what we’re working on next.
I think about pain by separating it into two categories; High and Low.
...in typing there’s a form of escape that doesn’t require me to leave.
How do I see my website? Well, it’s complicated.
I’ve been a big fan of David Jonathan Ross’ Gimlet for the past couple of months and from time to time I find myself picking a character at random and poking at it. Look at that capital Q! Or the & symbol! Gimlet tempts us to sit back and zoom in, with each and every character begging to be used in large sizes.
The scene opens onto a gloriously dark and grimy café where my father and I have taken refuge from the storm that hovers above; clouds snap and crackle, a gale shudders along the windows whilst trees distort themselves into torturous yoga poses across the street. Inside the café, we’re welcomed with bad coffee and sweaty toast in what must be the guiltiest of Great British pleasures.
And my greatest failure as a designer.
I’m moving to San Francisco. After months of waiting, hoping, with fingers-crossed, the stars in the constellation of American bureaucracy aligned themselves this morning as I stood in the queue at the u.s. Embassy in London. But there was no certificate or handshake once my visa was approved, there were no balloons, and there was certainly not any triumphant, patriotic music to celebrate the affair.
On maps and England.
From Switzerland to the Netherlands to Kenya to Silicon Valley, a mixture of insecurity and curiosity are driving interest in basic income, but its dominant ideology — and appeal — is utopian. The core existential struggle lurking in the debates over basic income centers on what meaning work holds in our lives. Straub, the Swiss referendum organizer, remembers his great-grandfather working 10 hours per day, six days per week. That kind of toil is no longer necessary, nor desirable. The dream of a world where we produce more than we need has come true.
We start off knowing a lot about a little and gradually, as we shake ourselves through the world we begin to make all these connections; we find resources, we find other people and most importantly we learn about how little we knew when we started.
A web font, just like any other visual stimulus, has work to accomplish and it has a value and a position in the designer’s toolkit which is one of the most effective ways to display the intent of the text. Perhaps we need to spend more time thinking about web fonts as web designers, we need to think about their goals, about their shortcomings.
A new project for the XOXO folks.
A quick write up of my favourite CSS properties.
Paul Ford describes the early days of the web...
For the last year I’ve been trying to get my freelance business off the ground and thanks to Cushion it’s been an awful lot less stressful and terrifying than it might have been otherwise.
Listening is a masochist endeavor. To do it right you have to put everything down. Not just your phone, even pen and paper. There is nothing to hold on to when you just listen. You have to use your full attention, registering everything that you see and hear. You have to slow down your self-perception and focus on the outside, on what you do not understand. Compared to how we usually operate, listening means focusing on pain, diving into boredom. In order to see the other in slow motion, you need to stop the camera of self-perception that makes you the star, and speed up the camera that records the outside.
I’ve been listening to the interviews on Longform over the past week—in between cleaning, working, heading to the gym—and they’ve been so consistently insightful. Here are my favourites so far...
I think there’s huge potential for a new variable font format to become a key part of the designer’s tool belt. It would greatly improve the reading experience of general users of the web, too. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the many problems and hurdles that we have to overcome to get a draft spec agreed upon.
Micah Lee on his work regarding the Snowden revelations.
Several years ago the consensus on font loading in the community was that, as a website loads, all fonts should be hidden until the correct resources have been downloaded. Many designers and developers argued that the default font loading method called the “Flash of Unstyled Text”, or FOUT, was an annoyance to users. This is when the fallback web font, say Georgia, is shown on screen first then replaced by a custom font when it loaded. They argued that it would make for a more cohesive browsing experience if users simply waited for everything to download instead of experiencing this flash from one typeface to another.
This year’s Ampersand was a perfect cavalcade of typographic misadventures which has left me buzzing with ideas.
All I know is the more I read digitally, the more this feeling — the strange joy of adding to the corpus6 and seeing where it takes us — grows inside me, and I can't be the only one to feel this. Adding to the corpus — making things pointable — has become habitual, and aspects of it are becoming more and more passive. These habits and expectations aren't going anywhere.
And the machine that can hold you.
It serves me well by reminding me that mass anything is political. If one person is hungry, who knows, but if 50,000 people are hungry, what’s happening is necessarily a question of policy, of how we live together, of “who gets what, when, how”.
And learning how to delete.
A love story by Borges about books.
When an alcoholic describes their inexorable lust I realise it's precisely how I would describe my relationship with Food.
I was on a podcast.
It’s the final day of XOXO and I’m sat under a canopy watching the prolonged withdrawal of a beautiful evening — shadows flitter their way across skin left bare by shorts and dresses as everyone has now gathered outside after the talks. They slowly form clusters and talk giddily amongst friends at the open bar. Others can be found on the outer rim of the grounds, huddling around the embers of a little fire whilst the food trucks nearby begin to hunker down, ready for a night of well-earned slumber.
A now defunct newsletter that shortly became Adventures in Typography.
My excitement for a holiday to NYC was of paramount importance then: as someone that comes from a rural area, would I enjoy it? Would I want to emigrate to New York? What would my girlfriend and I find there? Would she move in with me once we came back or would we just throw caution to the wind and move to America and work together?
I’ve been obsessed with blend modes over the past couple of weeks.
Working on a project with a styleguide for the first time is encouraging me to document my code a lot more than I usually do. It’s also surprising to reveal how little I truly understand about the complexities of CSS and writing code for other developers to work with.
mix-blend-mode, working with the team at Kind and a new 4K screen
This week I was recovering from a fever/cold/nightmare illness that left me with an awful lot of email and unfinished tasks ready for next week so unfortunately nothing much happened of note.
The reason why a styleguide is an invaluable asset is that it immediately sets up the team’s expectations. The designer must make compromises for the sake of normalising the system programmatically whilst developers are forced to acknowledge that their shitty code just won’t cut it anymore. They have to think beyond whacky hacks and short-term tricks.
What is it about these letters that overpowers my senses, that makes me stare at each of them longingly? Is it in the flick of the lowercase ‘e’? Or perhaps I’m drawn to the restraint of the design or to the barely perceptible quirks that appear like hushed giggles on the screen. But then why are these large apertures, with their inscriptional characteristics, so attractive to me?
You have to draw a line at one point or another around your audience and their technical prowess. Do you have to explain how inline images work? Or the peculiarities of the DOM? Where do you begin?
This week I’ve been messing around with a few side projects after a month of heavy freelance work and subsequently I’ve been trying to play catch up with the backlog of articles, talks and posts about front-end development that I’ve let slip by.
Within the code of the game itself lies a world-ending glitch that drives the design team to the brink of insanity; our protagonist must find the glitch before the game ships and save their creation from the quirks and eccentricities of the designer that came before them. It’s a video game murder mystery!
I shouldn’t feel exhausted all the time and I shouldn’t feel as if, to impress one person, I have to let another down — this small-stakes emotional Ponzi scheme has to end one way or another.
“Typography hits us on two different levels: by the look of it, telling us if this is something we may like or should be interested in, and by the necessity to read it. If we have to read this time table, contract or assembling instruction we will do so regardless of its looks.”
“This was not a day of success, it was the success of many days, the pay-off of effort.”
On the train out of Devon the carriages are crowded, yet as you watch the countryside pass you by you’ll get the distinct impression of warming your toes in a bath. Foliage and hills glide past the window as if you were being swept across the country in a hot tub that was attached to a magic carpet, but travelling back towards Plymouth the carriages will spew their insides; these journeys are always dark, they are always cold and they are always very lonely.
This is the beginning of a new side project in which every Friday evening I’ll write for thirty minutes about what I’ve been working on over the past seven days. For a while I’ve been stashing these notes in private but I’ve finally decided to start publishing them because I want to recognise what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve screwed up and what I can do better come Monday morning.
“A common refrain in this new age of self-publishing is that there are too many books. The outflow of new material has been likened to all sorts of natural disasters spewing forth and flooding the land.”
Salman Rushdie’s musical opus, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, is one of a few select books that I want to slip into my friends’ backpacks, or hide in their bookshelf, or scatter copies under their beds until they must eventually concede.
Make a note of your favourite writers. Now, read their first names aloud.
For a while now I’ve been toying with a story. It’s a quick thought that stretched into an idea which might, maybe, perhaps, possibly turn into a BIG thing. This idea isn’t so much an elaborate story with an intricate, winding plot – nor is it a sequential tale with a standard beginning, middle and end. Instead this idea is simply a person I made up.
“Do you mind if I tell you, while I have your ear? All of this, the funeral, the family, the sudden reminder that life ends, it makes me realize how ignorant I am. I'm so sure I'm clever and sophisticated, a smug little agnostic, but put me face forward with death, and I don't know my right from my north...”
Somehow I’ve found myself in a room bustling with all the languages of Europe—they’re mixing out in the dusty air around me; Dutch and German, Greek and French, others are arguing in Romanian (or perhaps Italian) whilst they nudge past their elderly counterparts, tourists speaking English. Although they all share their incompatible language with a neighbour, everyone around me can somehow communicate quite easily.
“In 2006, I was drawn back into video games when Nintendo introduced a new system with intuitive motion controls and a quirky name, Wii. Nintendo projected the message that this new console was for everyone. Commercials featuring the tagline “Wii would like to play” showed families and friends of all ages.”
“...there are very few medieval scenes in which someone is reading but not writing – where books are present but pens are not. In part, this has to do with medieval study practices. Readers would usually have a pen nearby even when they were just reading. After all, remarks and critiques needed to be added to the margin at the spur of the moment.”
“Writers do not necessarily cherish their translators, and I occasionally had the feeling that Calvino would have preferred to translate his books himself...”
“...you might begin to long for its mountains and rivers, its flowers and trees, the astonishing array of life forms that roam its rainforests and seas. You might see a network of light sparkling on its dark side, and realise that its nodes were cities, where millions of lives are coming into collision.”
“If you’re not sure how to finish a sentence, abandon it halfway through. If you want to write extensively about one particular idea but your mind’s moving too quickly to flesh it all out, paraphrase for now and move on to the next big point.”
“It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. It’s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family.”
“Years ago, I asked one of my mentors what he thought was the hardest part of designing a typeface. I was expecting “the cap S” or “the italic lowercase” or something like that. But he answered without hesitation: the name.”
“Television has millions of inbound arrows—viewers watching the screen—and no outbound arrows at all. You can see Oprah; Oprah can’t see you. On the Web, by contrast, the arrows of attention are all potentially reciprocal; anyone can point to anyone else, regardless of geography, infrastructure, or other limits.”
“The boundaries can be drawn wider or narrower, and with more or less care. But the starting points of those boundaries are necessarily accidents of history, and history is pretty messed up.”
Unlike the title suggests however, the book is not in any way didactic or scientific, instead it overflows with questions and ideas, each illustrated in a way that lets the reader hover over the pages with glee. I’d rather not spoil the fun, since his book is endlessly quotable in every which way...
Finishing a book in this environment feels so much more of an accomplishment than wrapping up a physical book, although it made for interesting reading because it was not written for upcoming graphic designers or art students (like the majority of typographic resources out there), instead this book’s aim had been calibrated specifically towards writers.
But that’s the thing about travelling – in these foreign places you have to make yourself welcome. You have to slide through the airport and navigate bus timetables and crazy southern dialects as if you have all the papers at the ready.
Nicole Fenton has posted her notes of an excellent talk she gave on how to improve copywriting for interfaces. Sadly though I often tend to neglect lots of this advice...
Over the weekend I read this great collection of advice for writers by Anne Lammot called Bird by Bird. The goal of this short little book is to help young writers learn more about the design and publication of fiction but, aside from the self-help format, what really caught my attention is this extract about encouraging other writers to join a community of like-minded folks.
“...for years, we’ve neglected the disciplines of stewardship—the invisible and unglamorous work of collecting, restoring, safekeeping, and preservation. Maybe the answer isn’t to post more, to add more and more streams. Let’s return to our existing content and make it more durable and useful.”
Reading is designed to alleviate our curiosity. We all want to know what’s in our neighbors’ pockets, how they style their hair, how much time they spent on the rusty machine in their garage, or how long and serious their last relationship was. So once in a while, if we're lucky, a good novel might begin to soothe our penchant for mischief.
Whilst you’re writing it’s entirely possible to throw everything away and start again if you don’t like how things are working out. If the tone is too harsh or your voice is too light, a quick adjustment can tighten the bolts. Likewise most of those cheesy phrases or clichés are likely to be cast off during the review process whilst, for those awkward rhymes and alliterative phrases that pass you by without notice, a friendly editor is often there to help tidy your thoughts.
I wanted to impress Chloe because thinking that she might be on the other end of a long series of tubes and wires acknowledging my work and pointing me in the right direction, that’s nothing short of inspiring. Her presence encouraged me to write more eloquently, to sharpen my focus, and to try to return the favour.
Today I leave Erskine – this small band of designers and developers pushed my latent skills in writing, programming and design but they also challenged my tendencies to avoid humiliation at all costs.
“Michel Butor says that to travel is to write, because to travel is to read. This can be developed further: To write is to travel, to write is to read, to read is to write, and to read is to travel. But George Steiner says that to translate is also to read, and to translate is to write, as to write is to translate and to read is to translate...”
For the longest time I’ve taken the sidelines in most arguments, both online and in daily conversations with strangers. I believed that trying to correct the facts or convince people of my own argument was futile and, in some ways, kind of self righteous. It wasn’t a case of being quietly smug though, I just thought: who needs to hear another white guy shout about civil rights or oppression, institutionalised sexism or the freakishly calm barbarity of a racist slur?
“Every day, the New York Times carries a motto in a box on its front page. “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” it says. It’s been saying it for decades, day in and day out.”
Madness, Rack and Honey is a collection of lectures by the poet Mary Ruefle in which she contemplates the various struggles surrounding her art, and gosh darn it if this book isn’t *endlessly* quotable.
Lately I’ve finished reading a fabulous string of novels but it’s made me feel guilty about ignoring more science-oriented and fact-driven prose. Thanks to this guilt my first tentative steps into the field of physics is a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The weeks leading up to a speaking event my nerves will inevitably begin to shake; I bite my lip uncontrollably, my mood swings from ecstatic to horrified and back again, whilst sleep becomes entirely out of the question. Soothing these nerves just before I step onto the stage and find these strangers staring back at me is difficult work.
The book jackets flipped by, one after another, up on the projector in front of us. Pitch-perfect typographic settings and allusions to other graphic material presented themselves and struck the balance between describing the story of their contents whilst experimenting and drawing something new to the table.
Last week I wrote about a new method for setting type by using Sass maps. In summary I argued that font-size and line-height settings can be tied to specific fonts for ease of use when writing a lot of code.
Typographica has published their favourite typefaces from the past year and so I’ll be spending the next couple of days carefully bookmarking and reading each of them in turn. In his now familiar and charming way Stephen summarises the collection:
“Gutenberg considered the counter space, letter space, and line space. Every paragraph, whether written or printed, has these white spaces in it. But they don’t have to be thought of in isolation...”
“We dream of a library of literature created by everyone and belonging to no one, a library that is immortal and will mysteriously lend order to the universe, and yet we know that every orderly choice, every catalogued realm of the imagination, sets up a tyrannical exclusion.”
... a script occasionally proves to be more like a brand, or indeed like a prison tattoo, re-engraved on the brain with every letter written and every letter read.
In Six Memos for the Next Millennium Italo Calvino outlines all of the attributes and properties of great writing that he believed ought to thrive into the distant future of literature
Trying to keep the number of book recommendations to a minimum is difficult when I keep stumbling over novels by Ellen Ullman. This time it’s The Bug, a story about programming, information theory and obsession.
In moving to the next generation of consoles I’ve found that it’s somehow managed to fill me with a deep and bitter sadness. This is mostly thanks to the ‘Library’ menu which is hidden amongst the rest of the interface of the Playstation 4, yet it’s not the questionable typography or arrangement of its icon that bothers me about this feature though
I can’t stop thinking about this story from the latest issue of Codex magazine where an upcoming designer visits Herb Lubalin’s studio and began to wonder at all the facets and inner-workings of this celebrated graphic design agency in New York.
This time last year I was a pup. I had never used Sass before, I didn’t know what the shell was and the DOM was a ghostly, nightmarish thing that infiltrated my dreams.
These pages that hijack the scroll might look like slides from shiny keynote presentations but as websites they are the usability equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.
She spent her days ordering circles, squares and rectangles of color on a page. In her dreams however, in that alternate universe where she might become anything else at a moment’s notice, she believed that similar operations could be performed on breathing, heart-beating patients.
Whenever I watch a movie or a tv show set in the past I like to wonder how the same event might take place but under more technically advanced circumstances.
Here are some quick fire notes I’ve been making over and over again at speaking events and larger conferences. This isn’t a ‘I know better than you’ post – it’s simply a reminder for whenever I do my own talks.
This week I came across an interesting design problem: how do you make an SVG that’s being used as a background-image respond to the width of its container, yet also scale its height depending on the child elements within?
From cyborgs and toasters with personalities to community infrastructure and feeling the deep, moaning rumbles of an organ's infrasound – the talks were a delicate sequence of heart wrenching delight, mechanical whimsy and straight up nerd love.
This is a summary of my talk from our first Erskine Breakfast, a new kind of event where we invite two speakers round for a quick chat about web design and development. This week we discussed modularity, both in terms of designing components instead of pages and the best practices behind creating front-end interfaces.
During my holiday I went back to the town I grew up in and listened to the sirens from the Blitz that are still operational and are tested once a week.
I wanted to write a little bit about a new process I’ve been working on for developing sites and maintaining large Sass projects, but first I think it’s worth taking a look at how it all came together.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how we obsess over our tools instead of the general principles they’re built on top of. We pay for these things, we retweet posts about them, but most importantly we idolise them and I think this might hurt us all in the long run.
As a kid I ignored all of the computers around me, and opportunity after opportunity slipped by where I could have learned more about them. Yet most of my favourite things from my childhood came through those screens, were generated behind that imposing curtain of beige plastic.
A small review of Fred Smeijers’ typographic classic on the mostly forgotten and covert practice of punching typefaces. Due to the lack of primary sources he’s forced to take up the old tools and theorise as to how these craftsman performed their work.
After a few months of using Readmill as my primary go-to reading app, I wanted to break down all the reasons why this startup is nailing it in this often miserable and overcrowded space.
A short story of a room I loved as a kid; learning how to communicate and realising that I was going to spend my life in a perpetual state of overactive dream-sharing.
How much can web designers learn from the recorded history of old, underground print shops and forgotten typographers? A review of Robin Kinross’ delightful book about the history of typographic practice.
If we’re serious about designing progressively enhanced then we need to start designing websites without assumptions, starting with the overused argument that we should be thinking type-first.