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141 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both stunningly good and slightly lame
First off, this is one of the best design books around for the web designer who wants to use good code to create attractive and usable web sites. It is one of the few that does a good, no, excellent job of integrating modern HTML and CSS with good design principles. The examples represent the state of the art in CSS practices and are well paced and very well described...
Published on January 13, 2007 by Michael McKee

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Web Design Primer, Not a How-To Manual
I wanted to like this book. If you are new to design, it contains useful sections on page prototyping, grid-based design, color, and design practices. These are things designers should learn about, especially if they arrive in web design from other fields. I give the book three stars for these positive features and for its high production values.

Physically,...
Published on May 23, 2008 by artlmntl


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141 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both stunningly good and slightly lame, January 13, 2007
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This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
First off, this is one of the best design books around for the web designer who wants to use good code to create attractive and usable web sites. It is one of the few that does a good, no, excellent job of integrating modern HTML and CSS with good design principles. The examples represent the state of the art in CSS practices and are well paced and very well described. But more than offering some coding tricks, this book teaches solid visual design concepts and good professional workflow practices. Read the book carefully and follow the examples and you will be a better web designer.

Unfortunately, some of the book veers of into CSS 3, which isn't going to be a viable production option for a long, long time. Internet Explorer, the browser with, by far, the highest user base barely does an adequate job of supporting CSS 2, and that's with the brand new version, the first in 5 years. Including a chapter on it in this book is a waste of space. If I want a fantasy, I'll look in the fiction section.

Another quibble is in Clarke's justification for following web standards, especially when he compares building sites in Dreamweaver and hand coding. Saying that learning Dreamweaver is more difficult than learning HTML and CSS to the level needed to make it work in current browsers is plain silly. I am perfectly comfortable with either method and find that each has definite benefits. But the learning curve for hand coding is by far the steeper one. I don't have to browse the forums every week to learn new Dreamweaver workarounds as I do for CSS and Internet Explorer's shortcomings.

I've given more space here to the couple minor negatives than the numerous fine qualities of this book. Don't let my nit picking lead you to think I don't like this book. It is just that the book is so close to superb that its small faults really stand out. Transcending CSS is easily one of the top books for the web designer who wants to move from journeyman to master, maybe the best. It is well written by a highly knowledgeable designer, well structured, well paced and very attractive. Beginners, though, should probably start with something more basic.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new breed of CSS book, December 2, 2006
This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
Andy Clark ([...] ) is one of the leading UK designers for the past 10 years and he has been at the forefront in promoting web standards and accessibility.

This is a somewhat unique CSS book in that it is not a "beginners" book nor it is a purely "advanced" book either. It is a book for web designers who know the basics of CSS who want to know how to use the full potential of CSS level 3 whether or not every browser will support every technique you use. It describes what can be done with CSS and how web layouts can be viewed as a means to provide semantic data to your viewers.

Throughout this book, Andy Clark provides beautiful illustrations and photographs of web pages, stock photos and snap shots that give the book a less "textbook" feeling and more of a slight story telling feeling. It's hard to describe, but it makes reading it more interesting and allows it to flow better. There are four main sections of the book: Discovery, Process, Inspiration, and Transcendence.

The book begins with Discovery: This section reviews many existing well designed web sites (CSS Zen Garden, Clear Left, Adacto, A List Apart, etc.) in explaining what the term "Transcendent CSS" really means. These principles such as not all browsers see the same design, use all available CSS selectors, use CSS3 where possible, se JavaScript and the DOM, avoid sing hacks and filters, and use semantic name conventions.

The next section is Process: This section talks about how to create a perfect workflow. The process of working with wireframes, using prototypes, how to build proper layouts, organizing CSS code, styling navigation and understanding elements of typography are all discussed.

The section Inspiration is my favorite section. This section really focuses on design techniques like grid-based design. The design technique really as the author states is the only way to properly design with CSS. Andy goes through many sample sites and breaks down each design in a grid and shows how it was created and with what markup and CSS. I never found a CSS book before that really explains from a designer's perspective their view of design. The author also goes into other design with print and media to get other points of view to design techniques. The most important thing about the book is that it doesn't just talk about theory; it shows actual CSS code snippets to really explain it. Well, done.

The final section is Transcendence which focuses heavily on the new ideas and techniques of using CSS3 and positioning and floats. Absolute positioning is first discussed with emphasis on positioning images, image zooming, and creative floating. There are so many different techniques and examples in this section it will take you months to properly go through them all. A great section as well.

Well, this book I think is a new beginning (hopefully) to CSS books especially with the new browsers (Firebox 2 and IE7) supporting some of the new CSS3 techniques that make designing web layouts fun again. I hope you get as much out of this book as I know I will. A great buy and a must buy!
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Create cutting edge websites using Transcendent CSS, January 29, 2007
By 
Diane Cipollo (Editor at BellaOnline.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
One of the major decisions one needs to make when starting a website project is how "cutting edge" your site design will be. Will you use only basic HTML or will you also use CSS, JavaScript, Ajax and more? If you do decide to use these other web languages, how much will you use and how will you use them? For a long time, there was only one answer to this question. Those features that were supported by the most popular web browsers represented the limited amount of advanced features that you could add to your site and still be assured that most people would be able to access your site.

In this book the author, Andy Clarke, presents the argument that website design should not be limited in this way. Written from the designer's point of view, this book has beautiful photography, plentiful screenshots and real-world examples of the author's approach to web design. The purpose of this book is not to teach you web standards or the popular web languages such as XHTML, CSS and JavaScript but to teach you how to use these tools to create effective and cutting edge websites.

In the first part of the book, Clarke discusses the Graded Browser Support approach to web design introduced by Yahoo and the seven principles of Transcendent CSS. The author's goal is to expand your design options beyond the commonly used table-based layouts and toward a content-based approach where the website structure is based on the meaning and purpose of the content on the page.

The next part of the book teaches how to build a web standards compliant and content-based website with XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. Again, it is not the author's desire to teach these languages and he does assume a working knowledge of them. Instead, Clarke shows you how to replace the table-based layout with a grid-based positioning of the elements on the webpage. Once you are not constrained by the table-based layout, your options are far less limited to the common two and three column design. Clarke walks you through several sample websites to demonstrate the use of alternative positioning and layout techniques. Finally, he discusses the advantages of the CSS3 advanced layout module and designing websites for different media types.

Andy Clarke is a ten year veteran of the web and is lead designer and creative director for his design consultancy. He is a member of the Web Standards Project and has worked with the W3C's CSS Working Group.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will inspire you, January 23, 2007
By 
David Roessli (Geneva, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
This is the kind of book I love to discover. The last time I got so excited by a book on CSS was when I read Jeffrey Zeldman's Design with Web Standards back in 2003. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen often enough. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of books on CSS and web design that I love and recommend, but few that excite me.

The format itself is a shear pleasure. A square book. A soft square book that stays open without having to drop something heavy on it, or to break its spine. The illustrations and photography are beautiful. The layout is gorgeous. Up to Andy Clarke's work standards, no doubt. I received it the day before the Christmas break, just in time for holiday reading.

This is not a book on CSS per se, nor a book on XHTML per se. It's about design and the philosophy of web design. About how one structures one's design workflow, how one looks at the world, how one communicates.

Divided into 4 sections, Andy walks you through his concepts of Discovery, Process, Inspiration to finally reach Transcendence. The notions covered are the principles of Transcendent CSS, semantic markup and web design process, content-out approach (discover), workflow principals and prototypes (process), layout, grid design and typography (inspiration) and finally advanced CSS technics including CSS3 (Transcendence).

The examples used throughout the different chapters are enlightening and relevant. Useful sidebar notes are made available for more information, references and URLs on a particular topic. The code examples are numerous and the source code is available online (you will find the URL on page 291). You'll find useful tips on how to structure your stylesheet files, to name your classes and ids in a semantic manner, etc. I don't always agree with everything Andy presents here, but we all have our bad old habits, and it is never to late to learn better. The Cook! tutorial may use too many classes and ids in my opinion, but the purpose here is to demonstrate a process, not to optimise markup.

I especially enjoyed the second half (inspiration and transcendence) on Andy's exploration of grid design and inspiration, and the combination of technics presented in the final chapters, especially the CSS3 chapter (page 313). The new selector modules and the Advanced Layout Module sound awesome (the latter is available on the official site). Overall, I felt very at home with the principles presented here, which certainly contributed to me liking this book so much.

I am by no means a graphic designer. My curricula places me closer to the development end of the spectra of web design. But design facinates me. The information architecture, design, accessibility and semantics of websites are what drives me today, and this book is about most of these. It will help graphic designers to better understand the web semantics and structure that underlay any website, and help to broaden their vision of web design.

I consider Andy Clarke as some kind of visionary. He is capable of bridging the gap between aesthetic beauty and rock solid technology and explain it all to you in simple words, through understandable concepts. He has a great sense of humour. This book will not only guide you through modern web design concepts, it will inspire you.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Web Design Primer, Not a How-To Manual, May 23, 2008
This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
I wanted to like this book. If you are new to design, it contains useful sections on page prototyping, grid-based design, color, and design practices. These are things designers should learn about, especially if they arrive in web design from other fields. I give the book three stars for these positive features and for its high production values.

Physically, the book is about two inches wider than a standard programming book. The paper is heavy and coated with full color all over the place. This is nice, but the author goes too far. Some pages include pictures of websites, but many other pages are filled with seemingly random photographs and montage works. In fact, pages 239-242 are fully dedicated to a scrapbook sample. Page 243 includes some text, but 244 is another wasted page. The images are sedate, and these picture pages seem to take up a quarter of the book. White space abounds. Consequently, as others have noted, the book is light on useful information.

I understand the attraction of grids. CSS divs and table cells both lend themselves to grid layouts. I know it is in vogue to emulate the multi-column layouts found in a newspaper page. I've read plenty about usability and how people actually surf. Unfortunately, the author's fixation with these conventions leads to dull page design. The most interesting, useful technique in the whole book involves the intelligent use of relative and absolute positioning to displace background images so that they break up the outlines of the blocks.

On the down side, the author advocates the use of browser-specific style sheets and the use of CSS3 style rules. Current browsers still have problems with some CSS 2.1 rules. The CSS3 rules will be great when browsers support them, but they won't help you write pages that work on multiple browsers and platforms. And that's the real issue with this book. It contains information that is useful to beginners, but it's not really a beginner book. This book won't have you writing CSS and XHTML in a few hours. The strange mixture of beginning and advanced materials mixture may confuse beginners while offering little that is new or useful to more experienced designers. Add in the sheer volume of wasted space and I have only one recommendation: Borrow the book from the library.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Another CSS Book?, January 5, 2007
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This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
If you were to randomly grab a book out of the web technology section of any book store odds are you'd get a book on cascading style sheets (CSS). They're everywhere. With a flood of CSS books on the market, it's not a problem finding out how to write CSS, make it valid, standards compliant and accessible.

Being a creative person from the print world who made the transition to the web, I've had a hard time finding any sort of resource on the creative process of Web design -- which I find sort of strange. Any book on print design focuses on the creative process and spends very little time talking about applications or operating systems. Yet when it comes to Web design, it's all code and browser compatibility.

I suppose there is a reason for this. Print design has its roots in the fine arts and tends to be very visual while Web design emerged from programming and tends to be highly technical. It's basically the old "right brain" vs. "left brain" fight. So, how do we meet in the middle?

I thought I had found my answer in The Zen of CSS Design, but it fell short of my expectations. While it was good for creative inspiration, it ended up being a gallery of advanced CSS techniques without much explanation behind either the creative or technical process.

Now, with the release of the follow-up to The Zen of CSS Design, I've got my answer: Transcending CSS, The Fine Art of Web Design by Andy Clarke. This beautifully designed book is about design and not markup, and assumes that you already know about XHTML, CSS and Web standards. It goes over designing from the content out, finding inspiration, establishing a workflow, creating wireframes and prototypes, and working with grids and the box model -- allowing both sides of your brain to work together in harmony. It's about time!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of book on Web Design, February 24, 2007
By 
Choke (Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
As a professional web designer, I really appreciate and relate to where Andy Clarke is coming from in this fantastic book. Web Designers are the best of both left and right brainers. We have to be logical when it comes to content and coding (not to mention business objectives, user profiling, competitive analysis, and PM, but that is a topic for another time), but we also have to be very creative when it comes to front-end/GUI design and communicating thru design. Clarke touches on all subjects related to what a typical web designer goes thru from best practices to workflow to inspirational stuff.

That being said, I think the title is a little misleading. If anything, the subtitle would have made a better title "The Fine Art of Web Design (using Standards)."

This is NOT a book for beginners who want to learn Standards. You would be better off getting Dan Cederholm's two books or Andy Budd's CSS Mastery (though I guess that is not for beginner's either ;)

If you're looking for a different angle, get this book. In the end, this book will teach you something new, be it a new method, new technique, or reinforce best practices.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bridging the Gap Between Visual and Coded Languages, June 14, 2007
By 
thopai12 (Toronto, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
Andy Clarke has written a gem amongst well-structured, but often dry and monotonous CSS manuals. This book particularly benefits the fine artist, who follows a more conceptual and visual approach to design, by connecting the dots between CSS implementation and the resulting visual presentation.

I will admit that 'transcending CSS' was read in conjunction with two other CSS books: 'Beginning CSS' by Simon Collison and 'CSS Mastery' by Andy Budd. However, it was 'transcending CSS' that sealed the gap and created a bridge with the first two books. It was almost as if each author had unwittingly wrote their book with the others in mind; they make a great series in CSS instruction. I strongly recommend that if you are completely new to CSS, you try reading Collison first or something comparable to basic CSS.

This book has amazing visuals that help motivate both designers and developers to use CSS as a creative tool. The technical content is properly structured and explained with 'everyday' dialog. It's also a great resource for browser tips, designer sites, and various tutorial links.

If you are more of a visual person, you may find some sections on inspirational techniques a bit redundant, especially after your brain has switched into tech-mode by practicing the CSS exercises. However, I considered this good training. It's overwhelming being bogged down with too much tech in the beginning.

All in all, I found this book well worth the time and money.
It remains one of the few technical books I have read from cover to cover, without skipping around to garner specific bits of information.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and practical--excellent code and design examples, May 7, 2007
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This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
Andy Clarke's "Transcending CSS" is the first book on CSS that successfully marries the artistic and technical skills that are the heart of modern web design. The book should appeal to those who are primarily trained in the design disciplines--the author includes a thorough treatment of grid-based design and the use of mood boards, scrapbooks, and other creative tools. "Transcending CSS" will also be of great benefit to the seasoned CSS hand, as he challenges us to reexamine old habits and workflows, to embrace change, and to plan for advanced web standards.

Apart from a core group of "standardistas", the field of web design is still a divided camp--graphic designers who cling to WYSIWYG editors and claim they "can't do HTML", and coders who (though technically adept with markup and programming languages) lack the most basic knowledge of the principles of visual design, color, typography, and the like.

Andy's book goes a long way towards fostering the development of a truly professional discipline of web design, one wherein its practioners are well versed in aesthetic theory, confident in their creativity, and technically capable of creating functional, accessible, and durable web content. This book is also an engaging read, as Andy's wit and energy shines through his writing. (Andy's presentations are immensely popular on the design conference circuit.)

"Transcending CSS" is a must-have for your web design bookshelf, as indispensable as Dan Cederholm's Bulletproof Web Design: Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS and Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook (Pioneering Series) and Eric Meyer's Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Outdated and Irrelevant, October 29, 2012
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This review is from: Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design (Paperback)
I mistakenly bought this book in fall 2012 for some insight into how other designers approach their projects. It seems that it was ahead of it's time back in 2007, but web design is a rapidly changing industry and most of the book is totally irrelevant now. More specifically:

* Responsive design isn't mentioned in the book. The mobile industry is huge now, you should definitely be focused on mobile device displays.

* Google Chrome didn't even exist when the book was written, to give you an idea of how old the paradigms and technology are. Your sites will be below-average at best if you follow this book.

* @font-face didn't exist when the book was written - it is a cornerstone of modern website design.

* IMO, graphic design is now a much more important part of web design. Frameworks and templates that are effective have been established (ie Bootstrap by Twitter), meaning most of the web designer's work is in the realm of making unique content, primarily through graphic design.

Kudos to the individuals who put the book together years ago, but I can't recommend it for anyone in 2012.
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Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design
Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design by Molly E. Holzschlag (Paperback - November 25, 2006)
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