30 Jun 2008 10 am eastern

What happened here

It’s been a month for milestones.

On May 31, my site turned 13 years old.

On June 7, making the previous milestone and all others possible, I had 15 years without a drink or drug.

On Saturday June 28, Carrie and I celebrated five years of marriage by hiring a babysitter, eating a meal, and bumming around the east village.

Between these landmarks came a flight to Pittsburgh and back-to-back train trips from New York to Washington DC, and Boston.

In the last-named burg we put on a two-day design conference for people who make websites.

At home during this same period, our daughter outgrew last month’s clothes, began swimming, got a big-girl bed, attended and graduated summer camp, stopped being even slightly afraid of school, hung out with her grandma, and advanced so much intellectually and emotionally that it would qualify as science fiction if it weren’t the lived experience of ’most everyone who has kids.

Between all that came the usual tumult of client meetings, client projects, and potential new business, giddily intermingled with the publication of two A List Apart issues. Make that three issues as of tomorrow.

Been busy.

If I had to pick an image to symbolize the month, it would be me on a rerouted slow Amtrak train from Boston to New York, using an iPhone and one finger to peck out a strategic response to an 80 page RFP.

That would have been the image, but now there’s a new one. For now there’s today.

On the calendar it is Happy Cog New York’s moving day. Today I pack up what for 18 years was either my apartment or Happy Cog’s New York City headquarters (and was most often both).

I hit bottom in this place. Ended a short-lived, tragically wrong first marriage. Rebuilt my life one cell at a time. Found self. Found love. Became a web designer. Found the love of my life. Married well, had a magical child. Wrote two books. Made money and lost it a couple of times over. Founded a magazine. Co-founded a movement. Worked for others. Freelanced. Founded an agency. Grew it.

It all happened here.

This gently declining space that has been nothing but an office since December and will soon be nothing at all to me, this place I will empty and vacate in the next few hours, has seen everything from drug withdrawal to the first stirrings of childbirth. Happiness, anguish, farting and honeymoons. Everything. Everything but death.

Even after our family moved, the place was never empty. The heiress to an American fine art legacy came here, to this dump, to talk about a potential project. Two gentlemen who make an extraordinary food product came here many times to discuss how their website redesign was going.

When I wasn’t meeting someone for lunch, I went downstairs to this wonderful little place to take away a small soup and a sandwich, which I ate at my desk while reading nytimes.com. Helming the take-away lunch place are three Indian women who are just the sweetest, nicest people ever. The new studio is just far enough away that I will rarely see these ladies any more. I will miss them.

I will miss Josef, the super here, with his big black brush mustache and gruff, gently-East-European-accented voice. He will miss me, too. He just told me so, while we were arranging for the freight elevator. We were kind to him after his heart attack and he has been kind to us since he arrived—the last in a long series of supers caught between an aging building and a rental agent that prefers not to invest in keeping the place up. The doormen and porters, here, too, some of whom I’ve known for nearly twenty years, my God. Can’t think about that.

I will miss being able to hit the gym whenever I feel like it and shower right in my workplace.

And that is all.

This is the death of something but it is the birth of something more. We take everything with us, all our experiences (until age robs us of them one by one, and even then, they are somewhere—during the worst of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she reacted, however subtly, to Sinatra). We take everything with us. The stink and glory of this place will stay on me even when we are set up in our slick new space. It will be with me long after the landlord’s collection letters have stopped. This place, what happened here, will live until my head cracks like a coconut, and then some.

And now I pre-pack. Adieu, adieu.

[tags]happycog, moves, moving, newyork, NYC, design, webdesign, alistapart, wedding, anniversary, zeldman, zeldman.com, 5years, 13years, 15years[/tags]

Filed under: 13 years, A List Apart, An Event Apart, Boston, business, Career, cities, conferences, Design, dreams, eric meyer, events, experience, family, glamorous, Happy Cog™, parenting, people, Philadelphia, Publications, Publishing, Web Design, Zeldman, zeldman.com

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25 Jun 2008 9 am eastern

AEA Boston 2008 session notes

Early, initial linkage and reviews. Let us know what we missed!

Functioning Form – An Event Apart: Understanding Web Design

Luke Wroblewski: “Jeffrey Zeldman’s Understanding Web Design talk at An Event Apart Boston 2008 highlighted factors that made it challenging to explain the value and perspective of Web designers but still managed to offer a way to describe the field.”

Functioning Form – An Event Apart: The Lessons of CSS Frameworks

Luke Wroblewski: “At An Event Apart Boston 2008, Eric Meyer walked through common characteristics of several Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) frameworks and outlined lessons that can be learned from their structure.”

Functioning Form – An Event Apart: Good Design Ain’t Easy

Luke Wroblewski: “Jason Santa Maria’s Good Design Ain’t Easy talk at An Event Apart 2008 argued for deeper graphic resonance in the presentation of content online.”

KarlynMorissette.com: An Event Apart: Day one schedule

Karyln is an educator who attended An Event Apart Boston 2008, sat in the front row, and took fabulous notes. This summary post links to her individual notes from each session of day one.

Karlyn’s session notes are informative, opinionated, and fun to read, and include photos of speakers and presentations. Well worth your time!

KarlynMorissette.com: An Event Apart: Day two schedule

Karyln assesses day one and posts links to her individual notes from each session of day two (except for the last session, as “you had to be there” for the live critiques).

Idiot Banter: An Event Apart session notes

Notes from all sessions.

Slide sharing

Luke Wroblewski – An Event Apart: Web Application Hierarchy

“In my Web Application Hierarchy presentation at An Event Apart Boston 2008, I walked through the importance of visual hierarchy, visual principles for developing effective hierarchies, and utilizing applications of visual hierarchy to communicate central messages, guide actions, and present information. Download the slides from my presentation.”

Quirksmode: AEA Boston slides

From Peter-Paul Koch’s presentation on unobtrusive scripting.

[tags]aneventapart, design, webdesign, conference, aeaboston08, session notes, downloads[/tags]

Filed under: An Event Apart, art direction, Boston, Community, conferences, content, CSS, Design, development, eric meyer, events, experience, Happy Cog™, Ideas, industry, Jason Santa Maria, Layout, links, Standards, style, Travel, UX, Web Design, Zeldman

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25 Jun 2008 9 am eastern

So long, Boston. We’ll be back.

An Event Apart Boston 2008 is over but the memories and photos linger on.

Eric and I started An Event Apart because we saw the need for a live, concentrated, learning and sharing experience about best practices and inspiration for the standards-based web design community. Thanks to brilliant speakers, phenomenally dedicated and supremely competent staff, and an extraordinary and growing attendee base of passionate practitioners, the show is steadily becoming the thing of which we dreamed.

And the food was pretty good, too.

Thank you for the ideas, jokes, and kick-ass Keynote graphics, Luke, Jeff, Jared, Ethan, ppk, Chris, Andy, Kim, Jason, and Doug.

Thanks also to our wonderful sponsors, Adobe (who gave away six copies of Creative Suite 3), GoodBarry (who packed goodies for everyone), and (mt) Media Temple (who threw a party so good, many people who attended don’t remember having been there).

Most of all, our deep thanks to all who came. Without you, Eric and I would be two lonely crackpots with a theory that web design matters. It will sound insincere because I have a vested interested for saying and thinking this, but you are truly the smartest and coolest “audience” going, and I put audience in quotes because you are so much more than that. So, you know, thanks.

Thank you, Boston. We’ll be back in 2009. (And now, on to San Francisco and Chicago.)

Watch this space for AEA Boston session notes and download links, coming momentarily.

[tags]aneventapart, design, webdesign, conference, aeaboston08[/tags]

Filed under: An Event Apart, Design, Diversity, eric meyer, events, experience, Happy Cog™, industry, Jason Santa Maria, links, Standards, Travel, Web Design, work, Zeldman

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21 Jun 2008 8 am eastern

Video: Jeff Veen on Data Overload

Live onstage at An Event Apart New Orleans, Jeff Veen explains the magnitude of data we process every hour, and the responsibility of designers to help us make sense of it.

The next An Event Apart conference takes place next Monday and Tuesday in Boston.

[tags]jeffveen, data, google, aneventapart[/tags]

Filed under: An Event Apart, conferences, Design, development, events, industry, video, Web Design

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21 Jun 2008 7 am eastern

Dialog from life

“I want a baby sister.”

“We’ll have to work on that with mommy and daddy magic.”

“Make mommy and daddy magic now?”

“Not right now.”

“Christmas?”

“We’ll do it before Christmas.”

[tags]kidssaythedarndestthings[/tags]

Filed under: family, glamorous

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19 Jun 2008 5 am eastern

Art direction on the web?

On Tuesday morning, while Malarkey was furiously getting himself uninvited to Håkon Lie‘s Christmas parties, and oneself was busy publishing the latest issue of A List Apart, and the jungle drums spoke of nothing but Firefox 3, Jason Santa Maria quietly slipped a torpedo into the harbor.

Jason didn’t just redesign his website, he issued a call to arms. And what he called for was real art direction on the web.

Now, over the years, plenty of others have called for art direction on the web, and some have achieved it. Quite famously, starting in September 1996, Derek Powazek achieved it with the original {fray}, an independent, non-commercial, personal storytelling site featuring the finest writers and illustrators on the web, not a few of whom {fray} discovered and launched. Stories like Lance Arthur’s A Little Black Death, Molly Steenson’s Pulling a Geographic (now sadly stuck in a loop), and Rebecca Eisenberg’s Mugged weren’t just compellingly written; they were compellingly written and art directed. The drama of viewing and wondering what the next page held was part of the reading experience, as it is in visually leading print magazines like Seed and Wired.

{fray} was a magnificent achievement and still is, and if design officialdom didn’t recognize it at the time, and hasn’t recognized it since, the fault lies with officialdom.

But {fray} was not only a labor of love, it was also a labor of labor—each page lovingly hand crafted in the browser-centric HTML of the time. And today we are modern and streamlined, not only in our markup, but in our means of production. We’re all about blogs and zines, templates and CMS platforms. Nobody but weird Unibomber-like hermits and Tantek hand-codes individual pages anymore.

And it is to that environment—to our environment—that Jason’s redesign speaks, calling for real art direction in the context of template-and-CMS-based publications.

Well, here is my experiment: a very simple setup for fast design and art direction around content. I’m approaching this is much the same way one would approach the design of a magazine: a system for the way content gets handled, but every layout and story can take on a look of their own within that system.

It’s just a blog, like any blog, although better looking than most. Housed on what is essentially a beefed-up open source blogging platform. Beefed up just enough to allow the writer/designer to change colors, typefaces, and the position and shape of copy blocks on a per-post basis as needed.

Speaking of beef, where is it? Where are all these posts with unique layouts within an overarching and unifying system of design? They have yet to be written and produced. But I’ve seen the comps and know some of what is coming, and it is going to be a lovely, drawn-out feast.

And even if it were not half as lovely as it will be—if Jason, instead of being one of our leading web designers, were a visual illiterate—the idea would still matter, and this proof of concept would still merit our gratitude.

[tags]artdirection, webdesign, jasonsantamaria, derekpowazek,{fray}[/tags]

Filed under: art direction, Design, Jason Santa Maria, Layout, people, Web Design, work

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18 Jun 2008 1 pm eastern

Video: Cameron Moll on natural mapping

Onstage at An Event Apart New Orleans, 2008, designer Cameron Moll discusses what happens when a computer novice bumps heads with a computer expert. HD video by Bonnemaison of Baltimore, MD. Edited by Ian Corey. The next show is An Event Apart Boston, June 23–24, 2008. That’s next week!

[tags]cameronmoll, video, aneventapart, webdesign, conference[/tags]

Filed under: An Event Apart, video, Web Design

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17 Jun 2008 6 am eastern

ALA 261: CSS layout redux; in praise of prototyping

In Issue No. 261 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Faux Absolute Positioning

by Eric Sol

CSS layout is awesome, except when your layout calls for a header, a footer, and columns in between. Use float, and content changes can cause columns to wrap. Use absolute positioning, and your footer can crash into your columns. Add the complexity of drag-and-drop layouts, and a new technique is needed. Enter “faux absolute positioning.” Align every item to a predefined position on the grid (as with absolute positioning), but objects will still affect the normal flow (as with float).

Sketching in Code: the Magic of Prototyping

by David Verba

The rise of Ajax and rich internet applications has thrown the limitations of traditional wireframing into painful relief. When you leave the world of page-based interactions, how do you document all but the simplest interactions? Flowcharts and diagrams don’t work. Prototyping saves the day by focusing on the application and conveying its “magic.” Prototypes can help you sell a decision that is fundamentally or radically different from the client’s current solution or application. Sit a stakeholder down in front of a working prototype and show him or her why your approach is compelling.

[tags]css, layout, ajax, prototyping, information architecture, design, faux absolute positioning, webdesign, alistapart[/tags]

Filed under: A List Apart, Ajax, CSS, Design, Information architecture, Layout, Publications, Publishing

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15 Jun 2008 8 am eastern

Number Nine

Early this morning, in my last deep sleep, I was tormented by a nightmare concerning our three-year-old. In my dream, she was chasing some happy bauble. Call it a big floating bubble filled with sunshine. The bubble blew out of the park. She ran after it. I ran after her.

The bubble floated above a big street filled with speeding cars. I called her name and shouted stop, but she did not hear me or would not listen. Giggling and burbling, all young enthusiasm for the chase, she ran into the street of speeding cars. I ran into it after her.

The pursuit continued, block after block. The oblivious bubble. The excited child, dashing into street after street of speeding cars. Me behind, never able to catch up, never able to protect her, never able to make her stop.

Happy Father’s Day.

[tags]dreams, family, glamorous, parenting[/tags]

Filed under: dreams, family, glamorous, parenting

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13 Jun 2008 8 am eastern

Video: Got Live in New Orleans

Caught live at An Event Apart New Orleans 2008, new, widescreen video clips featuring Andy Clarke on web layout and yours truly on journalism and the web are now online for your viewing pleasure at An Event Apart’s website. Immaculately captured by Bonnemaison of Baltimore, MD, and crisply edited by Mister Ian Corey, these quick clips provide a glimpse into the two-day experience that is the AEA web design conference.

More An Event Apart video clips are on their way. Keep watching the skies.

[tags]aneventapart, webdesign, conference, videos[/tags]

Filed under: An Event Apart, conferences, content, Design, events, Web Design, Zeldman

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