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H697 Seeking Out New Worlds

I’m beginning to think this must be what immersion classes are like for beginners in a new language. Or perhaps what is is like to arrive in a new country having learned only a few phrases out of a dusty guidebook. We’ve been dropped into the land of design and code with a few resources and hope we land on our feet.
Door to the sea
I feel I should point out a few things about this semi-linguistic journey. First, design and code are languages which get you to the same place, but not in the same way. I think we’re on the border of France and Belgium (and no waffles in sight!), or maybe traveling through Central America. In order to get by, we have to figure out both languages more or less simultaneously. Prior knowledge helps, but only so far. I’ve known a smattering of HTML since the mid-1990s, but CSS is completely new as are the professional rules of design.

Thus far I’ve managed some of the jargon. I’ve successfully used @font-family on the beta version of my digital resume, without any cost thanks to the League of Moveable Type and their free opensource/public domain fonts.

It’s fun, but I’ll admit to some concern. Will the availability of all these fonts mean that people who stick with Verdana (named with a hint of rancor in this week’s training videos), Trebuchet, and Georgia are seen as somehow falling down on the job? Certainly, Gillenwater makes a good case for not using webfonts for body copy, for reasons of accessibility and readability. There is something to be said for  using a clean, universally hosted, accessible font for body copy, and keeping the funky fonts in the headers.

Speaking of funky fonts, I think I’m due to lose another half hour (or more) browsing webfonts. After all, visiting the marketplace is a great way to learn about a new country, right?

13 Comments

  1. Agreed that both design and code are new worlds, and as you said, doing web work involves both–not just learning each, but combining both together. When I was driving Lindsey back to Arlington last week, we were talking about how it’s so different designing for the web than for print. With print you just lay something out, and it’s there! With the web, much tougher, if not impossible, to get it to do what you want! Hence why I spent hours upon hours getting my menu bar just to look semi-how I wanted it to… And hoping that’s actually decent design.

    Your CV looks great–I like the font you used. As a side note, didn’t know you used to work at the Apple Store in Clarendon. Awesome. Ten-minute walk from me. Very dangerous.

    • mebrett mebrett

      Thanks for the feedback. I need to flesh it out, but at least I have something.
      The job at the Apple Store was my first post-college gig. I lived in Lyon Village, on N Jackson. I have Such Stories from those days…

  2. Geoff Geoff

    I completely agree that the experience of learning CSS and HTML is akin to learning a new language, as cliche as that is (I’ve done immersion classes and lived in countries where “Ich glaube nicht, sprechen die Sprache” and that’s about all I could say to you). And while my knowledge of Deutsch is very limited, I believe (perhaps hope and pray is better phrase to describe my feelings) I have a keener advantage in learning design and coding than I did in learning German – the basis for CSS and HTML is English. And not just in the sense the the same (relatively) alphabet is used, but the base language for what we’re learning is in fact English. The difference is that it’s English that’s been reformatted and crafted in such a way so that computers understand it, not people.

    On second thought, perhaps a better analogy would be that it’s not like learning a totally foreign language but like learning a different form of your own. I know for many students learning Elizabethan English is difficult which is way Shakespeare is generally sold in annotated editions. Could it be that what we’re learning now is essentially a similar endeavor?

    • mebrett mebrett

      The analogy to to Shakespearean English might work. Or perhaps middle english, where the syntax is generally the same but some of the words are new or different?

      • Geoff Geoff

        I’m thinking somewhere in between the two. I had such a horrible experience (but an amazing professor, oddly) with Middle English in Chaucer that I try not to think about it. However, Early Modern English is something I can actually read and comprehend. While there are instances I still need to stop and consider what was just said, I’ve generally understand it. Middle English on the other hand I still have no clue. Please give me the translation (although it can be fun to recite in the original to get the flow). Also I think I’ll prefer to stick with Elizabethan English as my analogy because I was successful at learning it, whereas I was far less successful at learning Chaurerian English. So this is some sort of hope for me that learning CSS/HTML will be like learning Early Modern and not Middle English. =)

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  5. I like Geoff’s analogy for coding as learning a new version or dialect of your own language. Perhaps that contributes to the frustration? We read and use letters and punctuation marks everyday for our living, and here we are confronted by something that seems as if it should be familiar and is not.

    I like your question about the use of almost universally available fonts like Verdana and Georgia. I too noticed the hint of derision towards Verdana in the video. For some reason I keep comparing the world of fonts with fashion. To be slightly melodramatic, is Verdana more polyester bell-bottoms or a well -cut pair of jeans? Is it something out-of-date with a smaller window for current use or is it more timeless, something to be re-styled perhaps, but fundamentally sound? I agree with you that there is something to be said with using an accessible, universally hosted font for body text. It’s hard enough to digest information without having to struggle to read it.

    • mebrett mebrett

      I really like your fashion analogy! These are, after all, designers, even if they are using pixels instead of fabric. Personally, I think Verdana is more demin than polyester, but it was also the font the designer used to revamp the website at my first office job, so I’ve a bit of a bias.

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