The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Carson Workshops - CSS for Designers

– November 19th, 2005 –

Here I am, sat on a train, stuffed full of Sushi awaiting the train to finally pull away so I can start my long trip home (about four hours depending on which signal’s decide to fail). After buying my 12inch iBook in July, this is the first time I’ve used it in a truly mobile capacity and so far it’s going well. Anyway, I’m not going to go about sushi, trains or laptops in this post. Today, I had the great pleasure of attending the ‘CSS for Designers’ workshop hosted by Carson Workshops in London. What a day it was.

I’ve sat here for a good ten minutes now thinking where to start on describing today, so I’ll just start at the beginning.

Carson workshops

Carson Workshops is a UK based company doing really great things. Ryan and Gillian’s combined talents are managing to get the most talented and inspirational speakers from around the world over to the UK, as well as events in the States, to give day long workshops to the industry.

Like a lot of web professionals (do I fall within the bracket Andy? Molly? I’d like to think so :)), I try to attend as many conferences as I can in the web industry, such as @media, SXSW, unfortunately I couldn’t make it to dConstruct, but I was there in spirit. These conferences are generally very good. The wide variety of speakers give informed presentations on a plethora of material. However, these panels and presentations rarely last more than an hour, and from my experience, there’s only so much you can gain from them. Workshops, such as the one attended today, are a very different beast all together.

The Workshop

Today’s workshop - CSS for Designers - had Molly Holzschlag and and our very own Andy Clarke at the helm.

I’ve met Andy before in person, very briefly, at @media in London in June and found his presentation very inspirational from a designer’s perspective. Andy talks the same language as me. Japanese. No, seriously, Andy’s design talents are but the tip of a Web Standards trifle. I mean, Iceburg. The guy just really, really knows his stuff. Not only all the creative design stuff, but also how to implement it using web standards. The most important thing, however, is Andy can explain this stuff in a language designers can understand. No mean feat. The same can be said about his co-presenter, Molly.

It was great to finally meet Molly. If there’s one person in the web industry who embodies the passion that first got me interested in this medium, then that’s Molly. The thing that got me about Molly, as she was presenting throughout the day, was the incredible depth of her knowledge. Like Andy, she really, really knows her stuff but in a slightly different way, from a different background. The two of them working together throughout a whole day worked very well indeed. A great double act. Not quite Morecombe and Wise though, more like Cannon and Ball :)

Ok, that’s enough back-slapping (the troll’s will be queueing up otherwise). What I’m getting at is, if you get the change to go to a workshop like this or listen to either of these guys speak, then do it.

As I was saying earlier, a workshop format is very different from a conference. In a conference format you only get a snapshot of the presenter’s work, on a subject they choose, in a format and structure which may not be totally up to them. How much can you really gain from this format in practical terms? Yes, they’re great for inspiration, for steering you in the right direction, but generally they lack specific detail and the opportunity to ask very specific questions in the context of a project you may be working on. The workshop format changes all of this.

This was a full day workshop, from 9am until 6pm with reasonable breaks for lunch and coffee. So, it was a long day to sit in front of a projector and listen to two people talk about the same subject. Or so you may think. In reality, it wasn’t like this at all. With some nicely designed slides, a user-friendly agenda (meaning it wasn’t all design in the morning and theory in the afternoon) and regular swapping over by Molly and Andy it made the day go really quickly.

When I first arrived, Molly and Andy both expressed a concern to me that I’d know a lot of stuff that they’d go through throughout the day. This was not the case at all. Regardless of your experience level, you should consider attending one of this workshops. I learnt tons of stuff that I’d either skimmed over, couldn’t be bothered learning fully, or got by by other means. One of these examples was Molly’s examples of Relative and Absolute positioning. I’d sort of understood them for a while, but never used them because I’d always used floats. During the presentation a little light bulb went on in my head. ‘Hello there’, I said, ‘Now I get it. This looks really cool!’. In fact, that happened quite a few times throughout the day.

The personal highlight for me was when Andy was presenting a section and grid design and a slide of my site appeared. Well, if he hadn’t of forwarned me, you could’ve knocked me down with a feather. He even made me stand up, which was nice. I like to think I took this five minutes of fame in my stride to a rather bemused audience who, not surprisingly, had never heard of me.

A fun day had by all

If there’s one thing to be said about today’s workshop is that it was enlightening, both in terms of day’s presentations, but also in the pub afterwards (which is where most of the really useful stuff is normall discussed). Thank you to Ryan and Gillian for hosting a fantastic day. It was great to meet some new people, finally meet Molly and have more than five minutes to talk with Andy. Interesting to note how many people from the BBC were there also. Are we to expect big CSS things from the BBC designers in the future? Well, just maybe.

Well, that’s killed an hour. Right I’m off to the buffet car. Stella anyone?

Filed in: css, design, markboulton-co-uk.

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