A few details about the forthcoming collaboration between Molly and me.
“The Zen of CSS Design” was officially announced over a week ago at WE04 in Sydney. I expected that word would leak, so a quick mention on my Update got the message out to everyone else. Molly made mention of it as well, and filled in a few details in her comments.
But we haven’t spent much time talking about the book yet, and now that I’m back (good to be home) and with connection (which I didn’t miss nearly as much as I thought I would) I figure it’s a good time to share what the book is, and isn’t.
Those who caught the Keynote in Sydney (slides available) caught a preview, but only of the first 30 or 40 pages. Both were written concurrently, and the first chapter covers the same major points that were touched on in the keynote — the early web and slow adoption of CSS, the inspiration and building of the Zen Garden, what the site teaches, and what the site has taught me.
But this is just the first chapter; we weren’t going to spend the whole book talking about something I did a year and a half ago obviously, so what we did was take 36 designs from the Zen Garden and pull out core concepts demonstrated in each. The concepts are roughly grouped into 6 chapters focusing on major design and CSS issues: Design, Layout, Imagery, Typography, Special Effects, and ?. (The last chapter is still undergoing some refinement, so I’ll hold off on talking about it for now.)
The focus is about using CSS as a design tool. Some chapters are even largely code-free, for that matter. This is a web design book first and foremost, and a CSS book second. We’re not writing an in-depth tech manual — Eric has already written a great one. That means that if you’re expecting an advanced CSS book, this probably isn’t the one for you. Most readers of this site will find familiar material, although Molly and I are both writing everything from scratch. Some concepts are new, and will hopefully prove beneficial to even the most experienced — I’m particularly fond of some of the typography segments, myself.
Where did all this come from? By way of explanation, here’s a story. I started out doing web design because of one particular book I picked up sometime in the late 90’s. I was doing a bunch of programming at the time, but I found I liked building the graphics for the programs more than writing the code. That book showed me a great way to combine the two practices, while focusing more on the visuals. The author of the book was, you guessed it, Molly E. Holzschlag.
She was the one that got me started with all of this, and late last year we thought it would be really cool to collaborate on a book. The ideas we had at the time didn’t mesh (though who knows what will happen to them later). Things were put on hold until sometime in April. After returning from a publishing industry conference, it was obvious to Molly that a book about the Zen Garden was a hot idea. We decided to go for it, we submitted a proposal for something completely different than what we were originally thinking, and 5 months later here we are.
There are still a few months until it ships, and you can expect to hear even less out of me over the next while as we finish up. We’re more than half way done at this point, so it’s been tough to keep so quiet about it since June. Shaun Inman has been doing an excellent job as our technical editor, and a big thanks to all the designers we’ve tapped into for keeping things under wraps.