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Chris Coyier: why the world needs good design

Renowned web designer, Chris Coyier, talks about the industry, responsive design and managing design projects.

Chris launched web design and development sharing site, CSS-Tricks, in 2007 and CodePen in 2012.

Since then CodePen has become a popular education platform for developers to share ideas and inspire each other.

How did you get into web design?

“I was a computer nerd kid and was always attracted to online stuff, surfing dial up bulletin boards as soon as those were a thing.

“I was into programming in high school and college, but ultimately got my bachelor’s in art, focusing on ceramics and graphic design.

“We didn’t do much web, but it was pretty obvious that was a big thing I was interested in.

“After college, I taught myself through installing and tinkering with WordPress themes.”

Why did you set up Codepen?

“My website CSS-Tricks is all about front end design and development.

“It’s a blog where myself and others post tutorials and opinions about web stuff, and it’s full of screencasts and forums and reference material.

“At the time of CodePen’s launch, there were several other sites doing the HTML/CSS/JavaScript editor in the browser thing.

“I thought that idea was amazing as it’s the best possible way to demonstrate something front end related.”


What common frustrations are there for developers?

“I don’t think developers are such unique creatures that they have a unique set of things that frustrates them.

“They suffer from the same stuff we all do – health, stress and love lives. 

“People problems are probably the most common frustration, like unhelpful bosses and combative coworkers.”

What surprises you about the industry?

“The level of openness and sharing is pretty crazy in this industry, it’s very rare to find people trying to keep new tech ideas secret.

“As soon as someone has a better way to do something, they can’t wait to open source it and tell the world.

“And yet, equally surprising is the diversity problems – the level of sexism, racism and rude behavior is still totally unacceptable.

“I’d like to think we’re a relatively intelligent and relaxed community, yet there are problems all the time – we have to fix that.”

How important is it that young people start to show an interest in web design and coding?

“It’s important if they have an interest in it.

“Seeing young people follow passions early is wonderful, but I don’t think that web tech needs to be a part of standard early curriculum.

“There are plenty of resources to learn that are easy to find on the web if they choose that path.” 

What’s so great about responsive design?

“It’s the solution to having a single code base serve the incredible number of devices accessing our websites today.”


How do you project manage a new design in terms of timescales, communication and team coordination?

“I’m working with another company right now on a design project and it’s really interesting to see it all unfold.

“The project is professional, across multiple teams with more people involved. 

“They manage it by having a process with well defined phases.

“There is constant communication, clear documentation, and lots of talking and sharing and openness.”

What changes do you predict happening in the industry in the coming years?

“The boring answer is some things will change and some things will stay the same.

“The world will always need good design, it will always have businesses trying to communicate to customers wherever they are and there will always be something to do.

“People that are good communicators, problem solvers and lifelong learners will be forever busy.

“The things that will change will be the technology, so web browser capabilities will change and new ways of doing things will emerge with us just following along.”

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

“Lay off the pizza and hamburgers kid, you’re going to regret that in a big way.”