Thanks to my new “online friend”, (or how do you call such a thing?) Faruk Ateş, I got the chance to ask the famous webdesigner Andy Clarke some questions via email. He responded quite rapidly, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff among his answers. So check it out:
* Could you introduce yourself a little to our public? Most will probably know who you are, but then again, some may not.
I’m a visual web designer based in the UK and I have been working on the web for just under ten years. I have a background in the creative arts and advertising and I started my own design consultancy, Stuff and Nonsense, in 1998. Over the years I have designed for companies and organizations that range from local small businesses to government organizations and well-know names such as Disney Store UK, Save the Children and WWF.
In 2004 I co-founded a company called Karova where we developed a standards-based e-commerce platform. However my wife and I sold our shares in that business earlier this year, as we were very unhappy about the direction that the company was taking and we wanted to focus our efforts on creative, standards-based design for our clients. So we moved Stuff and Nonsense back to our studios at the cowshed and haven’t looked back since.
When I’m not designing for my clients, I write about design, music and my other passions over on my blog. I have been very lucky indeed to be asked to speak at conferences and workshops from the United States to Europe to Australia and in 2007 I will be speaking in Hong Kong, London and in the United States (as well as learning to ride a motorbike with my great friend James Edwards (Brothercake).
* You recently wrote a new book, called Transcending CSS. I haven’t read it yet, because I didn’t buy it (yet), so could you tell us a bit about it? Has it got anything to do with CSS3?
Transcending CSS is an attempt to write and design a book that crosses the areas of creative web design and CSS. There are no so many great technical manuals about CSS that I wanted to write something a little different, something that would be inspirational as well as informative and educational.
Transcending CSS is a book about moving forward in web design, rather than be held back by the limitations of poor browsers or old-school thinking about web design. The book is divided into four parts: Discovery, Process, Inspiration and Transcendence, rather than a series of chapters.
It starts with the background and my principles for a transcendent CSS approach, moves through new methods for working with CSS during design and prototyping phases, into an explanation of grid based design and a detailed look at how some of my favourite sites of the moment have been designed. It ends with a series of brand new examples using some familiar and some not-so-familiar CSS techniques including some from CSS3 and rounds off with an exclusive look at the CSS3 Advanced Layout Module actually working in a real-life web browser.
So far the book has had great reviews and I have been so pleased at the feedback that I have had from readers.
* Do you have any plans on writing another book?
Transcending CSS took almost a year of my life to write, design and art-direct; so I have no plans to write another printed book in the very near future. However I can reveal that there will be a series of shorter PDF format books from me and several other well-known contributors that will be published starting in 2007.
* Are you involved in any way in CSS3 development? If so, in what way?
Yes, in 2006 I was very proud to be asked to join the W3C’s CSS Working Group as an invited expert. So far my contributions have been limited due to work and book writing pressures, but I hope to bring a working designer and developer’s voice to the table as I feel that it is vital for the future of CSS for the working group to have a real knowledge of what designers want. I hope that during 2007 and beyond that I help shape CSS into the tool that standards-aware designers and developers want and need it to be.
* What do you think of the pace of development of the different CSS3 modules? Is it too fast, too slow, or on the right track? Can you of a module or multiple modules which need another pace of development?
As I wrote in my book, the pace of development of CSS3 seems maddeningly slow. Having seen the workings of the W3C and the CSS Working Group I can understand a little better why this is. The Working Group has to deal with issues that are much wider than simply design and layout including internationalization. This is one of the reasons why it was decided to break development of CSS3 into separate modules as well as to give the browser makers a choice as to which modules to implement and when.
The Working Group has published their proposed order for development but whether that agrees with the needs of working designers and developers is another story. And therein lies much of the problem. For a working designer or developer, establishing a relationship with the W3C is almost impossible. Much of the documentation has been written for academics and for browser makers and can be very hard for others to understand and contribute too. Add to this the difficulty of following and contributing to the various mailing lists and there appears to be a real disconnect between the browser makers (who largely make up the CSS Working Group) the group itself and those referred to as ‘authors’: real working designers and developers who make web sites. However I am confident that this will change in the future and I hope that designers and developers will come forward to make CSS3 a reality sooner rather than later.
* What’s your favorite CSS3 element? And why?
Oh, without a doubt it has to be multiple background images, something that, in my opinion, should have been included in a CSS specification much earlier. The Advanced Layout Module is also a fascinating development and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with, with the help of the fantastic prototype scripts made available by Cesar Acebal and his team at the University of Oviedo in Spain.
* How fast do you think browser builders will adopt CSS3?
This is a difficult question and one that is almost impossible to answer. We have already seen some elements of CSS3 creeping into Safari, Firefox and even IE7, but real implementation cannot safely take place until the draft specifications are in a later stage. It takes time and money for the browser makers to implement new features and it would also be dangerous for the web in general if features that might be subject to change were widely implemented in browsers and then used by designers. That said, I hope that we never reach a situation where the browser makers (who make up a good deal of the CSS Working Group) are slow to develop the specifications because of the work that will be entailed to implement them.
* Could you name the three most important things happening right now which in your opinion might impact the future of webdesign?
- The combination of CSS and DOM scripting
- sIFR for better web typography
- IE7 and Microsoft’s new-found passion for web standards
* What are your personal goals in webdesign? What would you like to accomplish?
In only ten years I have seen a huge change in the web industry, much of what has happened recently will be of huge benefit to designers, developers and to web users in general. I hope that continues and that we carry on remembering why tools such as meaningful markup, CSS and scripting should be used and not get carried away by the technologies themselves.
Personally, I would like to push my creative design work further forward and to challenge myself everyday with what I can achieve. I love designing for the web and talking and writing about what I do. I hope that, and the feeling of happiness that I get from it never stops.
That’s it, thanks a lot Andy for taking part in this and for your elaborate answers! This is the first interview in a series of interviews, I’ve dubbed the series “The future of webdesign”, the next interview is with the lovely Veerle Pieters.
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andy clarke used to be a prolific designer of great websites but i keep an eye on his blog and i havent seen anything at all website wise from him in a year or more? its not just about talkin the talk its about walkin the walk!!