I left for DrupalCon London last Sunday night, flying overnight and heading right into a day-long discussion about Drupal in education. The week progressed in a similar fashion: I gave my talk on web typography on Tuesday and the days and evenings were full. I had some amazing discussions, went to informative and inspiring sessions, a bit of revelry and work on projects filling up the late night and inter-session nooks and crannies. Now I’m sitting on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to Boston, where my darling wife Ellen and Phoebe and Trevor will be waiting. To say I’m eager to get there would be an understatement of possibly galactic proportions.
Before these last minutes expire I’d like to capture some of what made this such an extraordinary week. I realized early in the trip that while I’ve been working on the web since 1994, I’m actually more excited about it and what I do now than I think I may ever have been. There are a number of reasons for that being true. One of the most compelling is that I now get to do this with my wife. Many might think that’s a recipe for trouble, but so far it’s been nothing short of amazing. Selfishly, it’s amazing to get to see her more every day than ever before - and now she actually understands what I do in a way that she never did.
I’ve gotten to see her grow into a role she didn’t know she could do
But more than that, I’ve gotten to see her grow into a role she didn’t know she could do. While the part of her job that requires research, details, scheduling and communication is second nature, she’s also turned into a fine information architect, able to organize the most complex school structures amazingly well. I don’t even have to think about that part of the projects we work on, letting me focus on our platform and projects. That leads me to my next realization: because of that I’ve gotten to develop some design ideas I otherwise would not have to delve into so thoroughly. Getting to talk about that with fellow designers and developers really helped remind me just how special that really is.
I also picked up some great books this summer, two of which sparked a whole vein of work that’s been fascinating and truly gratifying. Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design and Aaron Gustafson’s Adaptive Web Design were both quick reads, but have impact greater than having the heftiest of programming tomes dropped on you from on high. Because we had 7 sites to launch I decided to go all in and develop a responsive, adaptive theme as the basis for all of them. While this might seem to some as perhaps, well, ludicrous - to me is seemed perfect. We use Drupal as the basis of our platform, and it’s all about applying a system-based approach to site-building. A single new base theme was the perfect opportunity to develop the new theme and battle-test and refine it, working out the kinks while I go. We’re still in the middle of that process but I have to say its going well so far - better than I could have hoped.
Something else happened on the run-up to DrupalCon: I received an email about a week and a half before the conference asking me if I was still interested in presenting. The answer of course was yes - I had submitted two sessions and knew I was on a short list of presentations. It did put a bit of pressure on though. I also do a bit of consulting and writing for Monotype and their web font service, and two of the people I know there would be attending. So I got to work, developed the talk and I think it came out well. The focus was on the importance of typography in general and how web fonts can be used and implemented well, dealing with some of the web’s general cantankerousness on the way. I’d written a pair of articles for the blog on Fonts.com that talked about much of this and included some sample code showing how I’ve learned to deal with some of that.
A funny thing happened during the presentation though: all the work and research on responsive design snapped in line with the work on typography and I realized (and blurted out) that it was really tied. I was talking about responsive typography: the merging of Ethan and Aaron’s ideas, applied to how I was working with web fonts. You have to build up your typographic design in layers, making sure you allow for all the ways that things don’t work as much as you finesse the design for when they do. So that’ll be my article I think - and one that I think is important to get done quickly while this whole experience is fresh.
That’s certainly not the only thing to come out of this week though. In addition to the conference activities, I went on a little excursion down to Brighton on Friday. At the last minute I ended up with a compatriot for the trip in the form of Jarod Ponchot from Lullabot. I’d already made a somewhat vague plan to meet up with Jeremy Keith for ‘beer o’clock’, so off we went. It was a great trip, with equal parts wandering, photographing, people and architecture watching and hanging out with some fantastically talented and genuinely nice people. It never ceases to amaze me how nearly universally it is true in our industry that from the most novice to the most experienced, the passion for learning and sharing that knowledge is just now we roll.
So here we are, now 20 minutes out. To review: I went to London, didn’t sleep much, met some great people, gave a talk, got some great feedback, made a mental leap and tied it all together. Truly, I feel lucky to do what I do, with the people I get to do it with. I can’t wait to see what comes next.