Kicking and Screaming
I was dragged from the print world into the digital world kicking and screaming. Phones? I’d still have a rotary if I could. Books? I like the paper kind. Video games? I’ve not touched one since our Intellivision died back in the mid 80’s. Nostalgic? Maybe just a little bit.
I was a proud print designer and I had a nice little niche in my professional career. I was the template master. I loved it. I was good at it. I was considered a goddess in certain circles. But in digital publishing, where everything seemed more fluid, more transitory and temporary, was there really a need for exacting consistency? Would InDesign still be relevant in a few years? How would evolving content and design, created for a society on the move, ever be templatized? It kept me up at night.
I made the jump from print design to digital/mobile design in 2011. I knew that if I wanted to grow my career, I’d have to let go—or at least loosen my grip—of my singular love of print design. I wasn’t excited about it.
I started with baby steps. I would make prototype comps in InDesign and then hand them over to a web designer to recreate in Dreamweaver/HTML. From this I learned two very important things. 1) pixel perfect design was not possible and 2) our web designer could be bought off with Mountain Dew. At some point I got a hold of some HTML articles for an iPad publication that we were working on and I started pulling them apart to see how it all worked.
Be Still My Heart
At first, I couldn’t really figure out the logic. Why does this code mean that? How can I design with only a few H tags? Then I found out about cascading style sheets. Low and behold, I found something in that CSS file that made my heart skip a beat—patterns and rules.
Patterns of indents, brackets, and codes controlled by rules that were documented and not up for interpretation. Everything that I had done since my 10th grade journalism class had prepared me for this.
Paragraph styles, nested styles, based on styles, object styles etc. It was all basically there in this lovely little CSS file that was magically controlling everything else. I could plan ahead for variations. I could combine style instructions into groups to practically automate the design process. I could make global changes without picking through dozens of files. I found order, consistency, and efficiencies that ultimately gave me more time to get creative.
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
Over the last year, I’ve spent more time working in HTML than I have in InDesign and I’m actually happy about it. I’m still a beginner and I’m constantly breaking things but that’s how I learn. I never would have believed that I, the letterpress girl from 90s would find a comfortable spot in this digital world. But here I am, doing what I do best, just in another language—HTML—and it only took me about 22 years.