Archive for November, 2010

Pitching Projects and Products to Executives: How do you sell yourself?

Published by | Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

In a couple of weeks, will be releasing a new and very different course called Pitching Projects and Products to Executives in our business segment. It’s different in that it offers a new type of content to members—the focus is not on tools, but on business skills. It’s also different in its innovative teaching approach and unique visual style.

For Pitching Projects and Products to Executives, designer, entrepreneur, and author Dane Howard interviewed executives and product managers from renowned design firms and corporations like Google, Apple, and Adobe to get their insider take on how to effectively move projects and product ideas forward. Emmy-winning video and multimedia producer Richard Koci Hernandez wove the interviews together into a captivating visual narrative.

Over the next two weeks, we’re releasing some previews here on the blog to give you a sense for the course to come. In today’s clip, Tim Barber, founder and creative director of the digital agency Odopod, answers the question “How do you sell yourself?” Let us know what you think!

Can you use CSS3 now?

Published by | Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Chances are, if you are a web designer or developer, you’ve at least heard of CSS3. If you haven’t had the time to dive into the modules yourself, you’re no doubt wondering if it’s ready to use now. Well, the short answer is yes, it is! There is, of course, more to it than that. As with any emerging technology, you need to develop a strategy for deploying CSS3 on your sites that accounts for either inconsistent or non-existent support between browsers or devices.

By now, you’ve probably come to terms with the fact that web sites don’t look exactly the same across different devices and browsers. If you’ve been designing sites for a while, you probably already have a strategy in place for dealing with browser inconsistencies. In most cases, your existing workflow for dealing with these will work just fine when adding CSS3 to your sites.  However, there are some specific considerations you need to be aware of when dealing with CSS3, so let’s take a moment to discuss strategies for introducing CSS3 into your sites.

First, make sure that using CSS3 makes sense for your site. Occasionally we get so caught up in using the latest features and technology that we lose sight of the needs of our users. Before using any of the new capabilities of CSS3 make sure that using them actually enhances your design.

Once you’ve settled on using CSS3, it’s best to approach it as a means of enhancing the design of your site, rather than driving it. Make sure you have a solid layout and design without relying on CSS3 techniques to make it work. Then gradually enhance your design with CSS3 to present a much more robust experience to those using supporting devices.  This will allow you to present functional designs to your users regardless of the device they are using. This approach, called progressive enhancement, is a common way of dealing with device inconsistencies for both styling and behavior, and is a great foundation for any CSS3 deployment strategy. It’s worth mentioning here as well that if you are providing fallback content for non-supported devices, make sure the absence of CSS3 features doesn’t harm your design. Features like multiple backgrounds, transparency, and drop shadows can cause content to either look odd when absent or cause readability issues with your text. In those cases, make sure that alternate styles are presented that ensure the clarity of your content.

In learning about CSS3, you are bound to come across many solutions for enforcing or adding support for CSS3 features in older browsers. While there are some great solutions out there, keep in mind that many of theses workarounds are time consuming, result in larger and slower pages, and can cause rendering errors if not executed properly. Make sure that the extra effort is worth it. In many cases, simply providing those users with a more basic, functional site is the better solution.

Any current discussion on utilizing CSS3 would be incomplete without dealing with Internet Explorer. While Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome have all been gradually adding support for CSS3 to their browsers, the same is not true for Internet Explorer. Until version 9 is released, many of the new features in CSS3 will not work in Internet Explorer at all. That alone is enough for some designers to ignore CSS3, and frankly, that’s a shame. One browser’s shortcomings should not prevent you from enhancing the design of your sites.

When dealing with Internet Explorer, you have a few choices in how to progressively enhance your designs. First, you can simply write CSS 2.1 base styling and let it ignore the selectors or properties it doesn’t support. For more complex designs, or for cases where the lack of CSS3 styling would cause rendering issues, you could pass alternate style sheets to Internet Explorer through the use of conditional comments. Conditional comments are a widely used technique for addressing the specific styling needs of Explorer, and are a great way of overwriting unsupported CSS3 styling.

Another way to use CSS3 with Internet Explorer is to use the Progressive Internet Explorer or CSS3 PIE library. PIE is a small javascript library that adds limited CSS3 support to older versions of Internet Explorer. It’s free, easy to use, lightweight, and gives you a way to use CSS3 features such as border-radius, box-shadow, and gradients through a single line of code.

I also recommend taking a look at using Modernizr. Modernizr is free, small javascript library that provides detection support for a wide range of next generation web capabilities. Not surprisingly, CSS3 is among them. Although Modernizr won’t add capabilities to non-supporting browsers, it does make it much easier to provide fallback content to these browsers and devices. What’s more, it adds detection capabilities for HTML5 as well, making it a smart choice for anyone wanting to start working in HTML5 and CSS3.

CSS3 gives designers an exciting set of new and enhanced features to use when styling page content. However, it’s evolving nature and inconsistent support requires you to have a solid strategy for using it. Be sure to carefully plan which features you want to use, and how you are going to account for this styling in unsupported devices. Having such a strategy in place will allow you to enhance your user experience in modern browsers while still providing solid functionality to older browsers and devices. Keep an eye out for our upcoming CSS3 course to learn more about these techniques, and many of the new features and capabilities in CSS3. In the meantime, the accompanying video from my HTML5 First Look course gives a good basic overview of CSS3.

A personal journey inspired by one of our courses

Published by | Friday, November 12th, 2010

Behind each course at is a team of dedicated people who work closely with the author throughout the process. We are passionate about creating quality content that informs and inspires our members.

Recently we released the course Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos.The making of this course inspired some of us to take a closer look at our own history.

It began as a treasure hunt of sorts. We knew we would need many different types of old photographs to use in the course. I began working with new author Janine Smith a few months ago to begin preparing for the course.

Janine and I discussed what the purpose of the course was and what our objectives for the course would be. Among our goals was the hope that we would inspire subscribers to preserve their photographic treasures and documents and add to the story of their local and family histories. Little did we know at the time, that this course would end up piecing together some of our local Ventura County history.

I contacted the local museum of history to see if there were any images that might have been neglected due to deterioration.

Charles N. Johnson, the librarian at Museum of Ventura County, goes through photos with Taymar Pixley, Live Action Director, and Jeff Layton, Producer.

The librarian, Charles N. Johnson, offered two images from the library that weren’t in use because they were in such poor condition. One photograph, a speckled image of a bearded man, was of Royce G. Surdam, who founded the town of Nordhoff in 1874. The townspeople of Nordhoff later changed the city’s name to Ojai, the original home of

A second image, which was crumbled and torn into half a dozen pieces, was an early photograph of an old Spanish-style adobe named Rancho Camulos. First built in 1853, the rancho had been home to Ygnacio Del Valle, former alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles and member of the California State Assembly. The rancho is now a designated National Historic Landmark and known as the “Home of Ramona,” as the rancho and its inhabitants inspired the 1884 best-selling novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson.

The damaged photo of Rancho Camulos, once home to Ygnacio Del Valle, former alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles and member of the California State Assembly.

Taymar Pixley, the director on the project, brought in her own family photographs, and discovered a piece of Ventura history abandoned at a thrift store.

“My grandmother was very into our family history, and I had lots of old family photos in a storage container in my garage,” says Taymar. “Pulling these out for the course and seeing how many of even my own childhood photos were fading, losing colors, or had been damaged really made me want to put the principles of this course to use.”

Taymar wanted to be sure to have a lot of options to use as props for the set, so she stopped by a thrift store to see if she could find any old photographs.

“The guy behind the counter handed me a big stack and told me to see if any of them interested me. There were birth certificates, baptismal records, old letters and photographs. As I went through the stack I realized that everything in the stack belonged to the same couple, Ed and Clare Franz. Some of the documents and photos went back as late as the 1800’s, all belonging to the same family who had lived here in Ventura and owned a local pharmacy. One of the letters, written in 1918, really grabbed my attention. It was to Clare and read, What you’ve heard is true… I leave for the convent tomorrow.”

Taymar bought the entire stack from the thrift store for $10. Janine was as thrilled with the find as Taymar was, and even did a little research to see if she could help find out if the couple had any descendents who might be interested in these things.

“Through working on this course I am now more excited and intrigued to find out more about my local and family history,” says Taymar, “I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned to help preserve it.”

Taymar and Charles N. Johnson discuss the photos she found at a local thrift store.

One of the many historical photos Taymar found of Ed and Clare Franz.

Taymar and I are continuing the adventure that this course started. We returned to the Ventura museum of history and spoke with the librarian about the documents Taymar found. He was able to find more information about the family, including Ed Franz’s father, the patriarch of the family who set up shop in Ventura in the 1870’s.

The final restored photo of Rancho Camulos.

Comparison of the original and restored version of the Royce G. Surdam photo.

He was very impressed with the restoration that Janine did on the photographs from the library, and gave me tickets to an event celebrating its history that very weekend at Rancho Camulos. I attended the event and gave a print of the restored photo of the rancho to the historical curator. It turns out that the original image is from the late 1890s, and may help solve a mystery surrounding later reconstruction of the kitchen wall. Taymar plans on continuing to restore her family photos, and is hoping to find descendents of the Franz family. If she cannot find relatives who want the documents, she will donate them to the Ventura museum of history.

The inspired team: Taymar and Jeff at the Museum of Ventura County.

Our original intent was to inspire our subscribers to preserve and treasure their photographs and images. It turns out that this course, in turn inspired us.

photos by Lucas Deming authors focus on 3D design at AIGA event

Published by | Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Last Thursday night, AIGA/LA hosted three authors for an evening that focused on 3D design. The event was held at Continuum, which is one of the best-looking design studios in Venice. The evening started with pizza and beer, then the authors took the stage.

Author Dave Schultze showed how Rhino can be used in product and package design. He showed a very cool Philco PC he designed as well as some very realistic renderings. Author David Lee showed some of the finer aspects of Sketchbook Pro, which is used extensively in illustration and design. I showed tips and tricks for Google Sketchup. After the talks ended, free passes and other goodies were handed out to the audience.

The event was a success, and it introduced a lot of Los Angeles-based creative types to a whole new dimension in design.

Free NMC webinar on Wednesday with Lynda Weinman: Love to Learn

Published by | Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Love to Learn - webinar with Lynda Weinman

On Wednesday, November 10 at 12pm PST/3pm EST, Lynda will be sharing her thoughts and ideas about the co-founding of, her life, and her passion to share the love of learning. This webinar, hosted by the New Media Consortium (NMC) will be a special opportunity to hear from Lynda and her view on how our company has made a difference in so many people’s lives.

The webinar will take place in the NMC Adobe Connect Seminar room, and is free and open to anyone interested in participating. Additional information, including about how to configure Connect, can be found at the NMC web site.

We look forward to having you join us!

Worth the wait: Lynda’s interview with Kit Hinrichs

Published by | Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

We’ve been trying to get Kit Hinrichs and Lynda together since shortly after we shot our Creative Inspirations documentary about him last December. No easy task. But at last, we recently found a time and place where they could sync up and spend some time together.

What resulted was a very topical conversation in which Lynda and Kit covered such relevant topics as getting and staying employed, the role that an internship or that first job out of school plays in your education, and why Kit is always busy.

It’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time to be a fly on the wall during this candid conversation between our founder and this AIGA medalist.

A training producer learns Joomla, and practices what we teach

Published by | Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Video shot by’s Taymar Pixley and Lucas Deming, and edited by Chris Chan Lee. Starring author Jen Kramer and training producer Samara Iodice.

You may be surprised to discover that behind every author is a training producer, like me, who oversees all aspects of course production—from content development, to script review, to graphics creation, to booth and/or live action recording, and eventually publishing in the Online Training Library®. You may be even more surprised to learn that training producers are not usually experts in the software for the courses they produce. In fact, often the first experience I have with a certain piece of software is in reviewing the early draft of a course table of contents in preparation for beginning work with an author. That doesn’t mean training producers aren’t extremely knowledgeable about the course content, but where the author must know details of how every individual feature of the software functions, the training producer is looking at something completely different—the overall educational integrity of the course and associated exercise files.

Some training producers are experts in some software programs—it’s often how our career path brought us to where we are. Some of us are experts in certain products; all of us are skilled in many products, are very technologically savvy, and learn new software quite easily. Before becoming a training producer at, my software expertise was in the computer-aided-drafting (CAD) area, having used AutoCAD extensively in my previous career as an engineer, and also in the web design area, using Dreamweaver for the last several versions.

One area of web design I had become increasingly interested in was the use of content management systems (CMS) such as Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla to create web sites that could be more easily maintained than the traditional static web site. So, when the opportunity arose to produce a Joomla title with the very enthusiastic author, Jen Kramer, I jumped right in. I was particularly excited to learn a CMS because I’d been doing volunteer media work for a youth-run nonprofit, Everybody Dance Now, and the teenage leaders desperately needed a new, modern web site they could learn to maintain themselves.

So, after a week of recording with Jen Kramer, I had my first real taste of Joomla, and that, in turn, stimulated my appetite to watch many of the other Joomla and CMS offerings in the Online Training Library®. Before I knew it, I had designed a new Joomla-based national web site for the young ladies of Everybody Dance Now, and was being called upon to design other chapter web sites around the country for the same organization, in addition to providing training for those chapters to maintain their own sites. It’s been a whirlwind of volunteer activity that I wouldn’t have been able to participate in, had I not fully immersed myself in the Online Training Library® to learn a new topic.

Joomla 1.6 Beta Preview Course Trailer

Click to watch the trailer for Jen's Joomla course.

With the release of Jen Kramer’s Joomla! 1.6 Beta Preview title last week, many people are wondering what Joomla and other content management systems are all about, and how they can apply this technology in their own lives. I’m hoping that sharing my experience as a training producer practicing what we, at, teach will help inspire members to investigate Joomla and all the various content management systems in the library, and discover these practical and highly-effective solutions for creating and maintaining a powerful web presence.

Watch Jen’s course, Joomla! 1.6 Beta Preview, and learn more about Joomla at the Joomla web site.

WordPress week at

Published by | Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

You asked for WordPress courses, and we heard you. We have three new WordPress courses coming online this week.

New in the Online Training Library® is WordPress 3.0 Essential Training with author Morten Rand-Hendriksen. Morten is a gifted teacher and WordPress expert who is eager to share his knowledge with you. The course includes a walkthrough of common tasks in WordPress, from setting up an account to launching self-hosted sites. Also included are tutorials on inserting media, installing plugins, creating custom themes, and incorporating search engine optimization.

Soon, tune in to Chris Coyier’s new course, WordPress 3.0: Creating and Editing Custom Themes. I am very excited to bring Chris Coyier’s unique voice to the Online Training Library®.

Wrapping up our new WordPress releases this week will be WordPress: Creating Custom Widgets and Plugins with author Drew Falkman. Let us know what you think!