Responsive Design with WordPress

A good overview of implementing responsive design into WordPress templates. Joe Casabona has done an excellent job of balancing the concepts and the codes. He also managed to keep the book brief to help you get started. An essential read for designers who are new to WordPress.

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Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

Robert Irwin is the Los Angeles artist whose work has been stripped down to its pure essence: lines, dots, discs, and light. The concept of progressive reduction is fascinating, but I find the reading to be hard to grasp. For one, I don’t know anything about the artist and his art before reading the book. For two, the author, Lawrence Weschler, keeps the narration very conversational. Readers get to hear the story from Irwin’s own voice, but the flow isn’t so smooth.

As for the book design, Sandy Drooker has done an excellent job of combining Adobe Garamond text with Univers display. These two classic typefaces make the reading experience pleasurable. I’ll definitely revisit the book in the future when I learn a bit more about Irwin’s work.

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Critiqued

In an intriguing design experiment, Christina Beard set out to study the creative approach from 23 respected designers, thinkers and educators including Steven Heller, Ellen Lupton, Stefan Sagmeister, and Paula Scher. Beard began her journey with a poster design to communicate a simple but important message: “Wash Your Hands.” Then she interviewed each designer to see how the individual would approach the design. She then redesigned the poster based on each critique. I have to give Beard the credits for staying sane after redesigning the poster 25 times in a wide range of art directions. After three iterations, I would used a typographic approach with the message, “Please wash your fucking hands,” and called it the day.

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Kansas City Lightning

This is not just another biography of Charlie Parker. Stanley Crouch brilliantly weaved the vibrant scene of Kansas City into Bird’s childhood. Spent over three decades and interviewed the people closest to Parker including his first love Rebecca Ruffin, Crouch has meticulously crafted one of the most fascinating and innovating biographical books I have read. I found myself doting almost every sentence on every page. The book, 334-page long, ends when Bird had not even met his partner in crime Dizzy Gillespie. I can’t wait to read what Crouch has to pen (in the second volume) when Bird set the jazz scene on fire.

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Flash: Building the Interactive Web

This book gives me a Flash-back. I discovered Flash around 2008 and spent endless amount of time and energy learning all types of animated techniques. I also wasted a tremendous amount of time sitting and waiting for each Flash site to load over my dialup connection. Those were the days. Like many designers, Flash lost me when it became a complex programing language. I shifted my focus on web standards, but I could never imagine Flash would be dead so soon.

Seeing a book writing about the history of Flash, I couldn’t help picking it up. I am a bit disappointed that Anastasia Salter and John Murray focus mostly on Flash games. They didn’t mention early groundbreaking sites like Balthaser, Eye4U, and Once Upon a Forest or new masters of Flash like Joshua Davis, Yugo Nakamura, and Eric Jordan (just to name a few).

Flash under Macromedia was thriving. The community was strong, passionate, and sharing. If Adobe didn’t acquire Macromedia, I wonderful if Flash would have fallen as fast as it has under Adobe. If Adobe got into the browser game like Google, would it able to save Flash? In any rate, Flash definitely had its moment. As the book suggested, Flash’s influence and legacy will live on and I would love to see Flash resurrected, but the future of Flash is not too bright at all.

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JavaScript & jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development

It’s a no brainer that Jon Duckett follows up his beautiful, successful HTML & CSS with JavaScript & jQuery. As with the previous book, this one is for beginners. Pleasing design, clear writing, and comprehensive coverage make it an excellent reference. A must-have for web designers who want to add interactivity to their site.

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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

A thorough and compelling biography of Thelonious Monk, a genius of modern jazz. Monk’s music, is often misunderstood, has always been a fascinating matter. Fortunately Kelly knows his music well and brilliantly sheds the light on Monk’s signature styles such as his beautiful melodies, dissonant chords, and complex rhythms. For Monk’s life, which often seemed eccentric and erratic to the public, Kelly provides the charming and passionate side of the man through detailed research and interviews with the people who were closed to Monk, including his family members. For the man who used very few words and whose entire life dedicated to music, this book does do him justice.

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Responsible Responsive Design

A companion to Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design, Scott Jehl’s Responsible Responsive Design is a required read for front-end developers who want to make the web more accessible and faster. Because of his expertise on web performance and his experience in working in places with limited access, Jehl explains clearly the important of delivering images, CSS and JavaScript without blocking the contents. Even though this one is brief, as with all the books from A Book Apart, Jehl was able to pack all the technical details you need to know to make a better, smoother user experience across networks and devices.

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HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites

An absolute beginner’s book for designers who want to learn HTML & CSS. My design students prefer this book over Thomas Michaud’s Foundation of Web Design, which I recommended. While Jon Duckett’s clear writing and the pleasing visual layout make this book approachable, it lacks the HTML5 goodies and ARIA landmarks. Perhaps a second edition is needed to bring the materials up to date since it released three years ago.

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Mobile HTML5

A solid reference of the latest features in HTML5 and CSS3. Weyl’s clear, approachable writing makes it easy to understand for beginners and practical for more advanced front-end developers. Good to have on hand for mobile web designers and developers.

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