Tending my own garden

I stumbled across The Zen of CSS Design by Dave Shea and Molly E. Holzschlag at the library a couple of days ago. I'd heard of the CSS Zen Garden, and the book as well, but while I develop web applications for a living, I've never really gotten deep into the layout and design side. I checked it out on a whim, thinking it would be interesting to leaf through.

Boy, am I ever glad that I did. The best phrase I can think of to describe this book is "a music appreciation course for web design". That, or "the first computer-related coffee table book".

The CSS Zen Garden is a showcase for what web styling can do. It starts with a simple HTML page; all designs have to use it, without modifications. What can be modified is the stylesheet, and it's all about how far each edge of the envelope can be pushed—or not pushed, as the case may be. There are currently 653 different designs, which should be proof enough that the envelope is very, very stretchy.

What I love about the book is that it's not just a portfolio of different designs. It's a primer on the basics of web design, and graphic design in general to some extent. For instance, there's a whole section on color—how to choose an effective color palette (depending on the desired effect), how different colors have different cultural and psychological impacts, and so on. It's probably all Graphic Design 101 stuff, but for those of us who never studied graphic design, yet find ourselves embroiled in it professionally, it's a great read.

And the designs are, well, inspiring. I'm partially responsible for several other websites, and I'm getting fired up about redesigning them. The static HTML for the CSS Zen Garden is valuable on its own as an example of HTML that is flexible enough to be stretched many different directions. That's where I think I'll start.

More weeks, more books

My plan to read 52 books in 52 weeks ran off the rails, so to speak. I certainly haven't been keeping track very well of what I've been reading and when.

I just returned to the library The Enemy by Lee Child, and Hide & Seek by Ian Rankin. I'm currently leafing through The Zen of CSS Design, which deserves a post of its own. I have four more books waiting at the library. And, of course, the new Harry Potter is waiting to be picked up from Borders.