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The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web Paperback – February 27, 2005

ISBN-13: 078-5342303476 ISBN-10: 0321303474 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dave Shea is the creator and cultivator of the highly influential CSS Zen Garden Web site ( As well as being a member of the Web Standards Project, Dave is the owner and director of Bright Creative, and he writes about all things Web for his daily weblog, With over 6 years of experience working on the Web, Dave is a leader of the new generation of Web designers that believe in responsible Web design.

An author, instructor, and Web designer, Molly E. Holzschlag has written over 27 books related to Web design and development. She's been coined "one of the greatest digerati" and deemed one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web. There is little doubt that in the world of Web design and development, Molly is one of the most fun and vibrant Web characters around. As a steering committee member for the Web Standards Project (WaSP), Molly works along with a group of other dedicated Web developers and designers to promote W3C recommendations. For more about Molly, check out


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press; 1 edition (February 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321303474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321303479
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I actually learn things and go "OHHHHHHHH" reading this book.
Dennis Yeung
This extraordinary, beautiful and amazing book explains, in detail, the designs illustrated on the Zen Garden web site.
Jesse Liberty
The authors present the examples, workarounds and tips in a very well written and easy to understand manner.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you've already picked up the basics of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and want to see what is *really* possible, check out The Zen of CSS Design by Dave Shea and Molly E. Holzschlag (New Riders). This is a unique book...

Chapter List: View Source; Design; Layout; Imagery; Typography; Special Effects; Reconstruction; Closing Thoughts; Index

This book covers the topic of CSS in an unusual fashion. Dave Shea came up with the idea for a web site called The basic premise is to have a standard HTML file, complete with class and id tags that can not be changed. The goal is to then use a CSS style sheet to apply unique styles and graphics to the page, resulting in some stunning visual displays of web design. But the basic thing to remember is that the page content doesn't change, just the CSS design file that's applied to it.

Shea and Holzschlag take some of the more unique designs that have been submitted and use them to explain various CSS concepts and techniques that can be used to push your design efforts beyond the ordinary. The techniques are very well documented, as well as giving explanations on what will and will not work in the major browsers due to differences in CSS rendering. Since so much of the design is driven by choices in graphics and typeface, you'll also be exposed to quite a bit in the way of design concepts, how to choose and render text, different graphic formats, and so on. While none of the information would be considered a complete reference work on any given subject, you do have enough information to apply the technique and continue on from there if necessary.

In addition to being a book to teach technique, it also does a wonderful job in providing inspiration.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By W. Boon on November 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book should probably be called A Portfolio of CSS Design. It contains lots of nice pages showing examples of some lovely CSS design. However, it doesn't present enough constructive information to really help you. Tell me exactly how the page put to together rather than some obscure problem which the average CSS user is unlikely to encounter. I don't know who this book is aimed at. There's not enough in it for it to be a tutorial book and while it's nice to look at, is this any better than viewing the actual web pages on the Internet?
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Vadim Sprikut on December 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is important to understand: this is not a book that will teach you the fundamentals of CSS. Repeat, NOT a primer on CSS. Rather, it is a book aimed at users who want to write or improve the aesthetics of their website by incorporating CSS. For that reason, it is fairly solid. Most of the premises are fairly basic and straightforward, covering the usual elements of type, layout, images, grids, etc. It is a decent resource for ideas and perhaps some alternative ways to approach building or rebuilding your site (using CSS presumably). Advanced designers would probably want to look elsewhere for ideas, theories and techniques.

If you want to understand what CSS is really about, in terms of writing it (to make your site as pretty as the examples in this book) you should turn elsewhere, like Eric A. Meyer's book on the subject. And you can easily check out the publisher's website and probably see everything you need to that is in this book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By joji on October 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like the review below, this book spends most of it's time talking about design, and really, it reads just like an art history book 101 ... So if you like reading art history books, then great! The examples that they choose are great, but they don't go into detail about how the artists actually created the site using CSS. This book, might inspire you, but I don't think it help you design sites like the ones in this book using CSS, because there is just too much fluff and not enough content. I recommend you save your money, and instead, look at the css code on the beautifule csszengarden site. I found that 10 times more useful.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kate on April 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is about extraordinary web page design. Thirty-six designs are featured from the web site Zen Garden: The Beauty of CSS Design [...], which was created by one of the authors, David Shea. The Zen Garden web site is really a great concept. Start with a simple, well-formed HTML document, coded for maximum flexibility in applying a style sheet, and then invite designers to submit a CSS document with image files to "style" that basic HTML web page. The challenge is to explore the possibilities and push the limits.

The book focuses on fundamental design concepts such as typography, color and layout. This is not a typical step-by-step book, which often has really ugly visual examples of what the code will do. Shea and Holzschlag look at CSS-formatted pages through a different lens. Each showcased project is introduced with an explanation of the design principles examined, followed by a breakdown of the elements and how they were formatted with CSS. Snippets of code are included, and you can go to the web site and download both the HTML and the CSS for that particular page if you want to follow along.

At first glance this is a visually rich book, but the screen shots are unfortunately small (they were created at 72 dpi after all) and some of the details are noticeably pixilated. Some include an expanded view of the web page, something you'll never see through the browser window, but helpful for seeing how it all fits together. Another thing I found useful was the view of all of the images used on the webpage, spread apart so I can get a good look at them. I may be stating the obvious, but what makes these designs so exceptional is the use of images. And to really appreciate the designs you need to look at them in the intended presentation-on screen.
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