Zeldman Quarterly No. 1

ZEL01

#ZEL01, MY FIRST CURATED gift for Quarterly subscribers, has dropped. It contains a book of classic Blue Note jazz LP record cover designs, a jazz LP record (each recipient gets a different one), a framed Mondrian print inspired by that artist’s first encounter with jazz, and a letter from me telling the story behind the gift box.

ZEL01 is all about constraints, a topic close to my heart. When I began designing websites, we had four fonts, one language (HTML), and 16 colors to play with. It wasn’t much … only enough to make magic.

The gifts in ZEL01 exemplify the magic of constraint, reflected through the lens of jazz: from Reid Miles’s two-font, one-spot-color album cover designs for Blue Note records—classics we still turn to for inspiration, more than 50 years after their release—to Piet Mondrian’s jazz- and street-grid-inspired “Broadway Boogie Woogie,” spun from right angles and primary colors.

Thanks to Nora Johnson and her staff at Quarterly for indulging my curatorial whims, and to you early subscribers for believing. I hope you like the package. Another gift comes soon.

There are still four weeks left to subscribe to ZEL02 and future gift packages.

To Leiden, To Leiden

THEY’RE SLEEPING in New York. They’re sleeping all over the world. Even here in Leiden, The Netherlands, they’re still mumbling and drooling in their beds. But not me. I’m awake and packing for my return home to NYC after three glorious days here in this ancient university town, where I was privileged to speak at the first Inspire conference. And all you got were these lousy photos.

Related: Design Problem

My Brother is a Monster

MY MOTHER played piano and cello. My father draws, paints, and sculpts; plays trumpet and guitar; and led an advanced R&D lab in the 1970s, developing robotics and rocket parts. You know what I do, but I also play keyboards and other instruments, studied music theory, and composed and produced music in my own studio before failing up into my present career. We Zeldmans go our own way, bring our own juice, and leave a trail of tears and gold. But my brother Pete Zeldman is the real talent in the family.

My brother Pete spontaneously composes and performs music of such rhythmic complexity that Edgard Varèse and Frank Zappa would be proud. Even with an advanced music degree, you’d have a tough time following the music analytically. But you don’t have to, because it grooves. That’s the crazy surprise of it. My brother plays 17 in the time of 16 in the time of 15 in the time of 14, with cross rhythms in simultaneous 3/4 and 7/8, and you could dance to it. Admittedly, you couldn’t pogo, but it doesn’t pretend to be punk. Musically it is probably the exact opposite of punk, but spiritually it is punk because it is pure affirmation.

My brother made two CDs before releasing his new video, Enigma, this week. I listen to these CDs a lot. Although I’ve watched my brother develop his unique rhythmic musical theories over the past 20 years, I don’t attempt to “follow” the music in any analytical fashion while listening. I just let it wash over me. So can you.

New art is rarely understood. New music is rarely what the people want. They threw tomatoes at Debussy and Stravinsky, and now their compositions are gentle backgrounds for dentist’s offices. White people laughed at rock and roll and their children danced to it. Those rockers laughed at hip hop and their kids dance to it. My brother’s music is like that. It is something new. It’s not going to be a movement because it takes a certain kind of twisted genius to conceive of and play it. But you might like it. And if you’re a drummer, you probably need to hear it.

I am proud of my brother and delighted to share his genius with you. Samples from his new video are available at pete-zeldman.com. His CDs are also available.

Insites: The Book Honors Web Design, Designers

“INSITES: THE BOOK is a beautiful, limited edition, 256-page book presented in a numbered, foil-blocked presentation box. This very special publication features no code snippets and no design tips; instead, 20 deeply personal conversations with the biggest names in the web community.

“Over the course of six months, we travelled the US and the UK to meet with Tina Roth Eisenberg, Jason Santa Maria, Cameron Moll, Ethan Marcotte, Alex Hunter, Brendan Dawes, Simon Collison, Dan Rubin, Andy McGloughlin, Kevin Rose and Daniel Burka, Josh Brewer, Ron Richards, Trent Walton, Ian Coyle, Mandy Brown, Sarah Parmenter, Jim Coudal, Jeffrey Zeldman, Tim Van Damme, and Jon Hicks.

“We delved into their personal journeys, big wins, and lessons learned, along with the kind of tales you’ll never hear on a conference stage. Each and every person we spoke to has an amazing story to tell — a story we can all relate to, because even the biggest successes have the smallest, most humble of beginnings.” — Insites: The Book


I am honored to be among those interviewed in this beautiful publication.


Insites: The Book is published by Viewport Industries in association with MailChimp.

The Great Discontent & Me

In celebration of TGD turning one tomorrow, we’re going back to our roots. Jeffrey Zeldman—the “godfather of web standards”—has already left an indelible mark on the web industry and those of us who work in it, but what of his life before that? We met Jeffrey at A Space Apart, where he recounted a journey that started long before the [web] was born.

I’m honored to share this lovely, free-form interview: The Great Discontent: Jeffrey Zeldman.

From an imaginary novel

I AM Jewish but my parents named me Jesus, which they pronounced Hay-Seuss, with an emphasis on the Hay. You can imagine the joy of being me in public school. First day of kindergarten, Miss Terwilliger called out, “Jesus. Jesus? Jesus!” And I sat there like a stuffed dummy, because I didn’t recognize the name. About the fifth Jesus, I realized she meant me, and cried out, “It’s Hay-Seuss,” with an emphasis on the Hay. Laughter rang in the classroom, followed by beatings at recess. Like my namesake, I was destined to suffer for the sins of others, although in my case it was only for the sins of Mr and Mrs Kaplan.

Little Jesus, Happy At Last—coming in 2015 from Jeffrey Zeldman

Leo Laporte interviews JZ

IN EPISODE 63 of Triangulation, Leo Laporte, a gracious and knowledgeable podcaster/broadcaster straight outta Petaluma, CA, interviews Your Humble Narrator about web standards history, responsive web design, content first, the state of standards in a multi-device world, and why communists sometimes make lousy band managers.