The Zen of CSS Design by Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag

May 13, 2005

It isn't often you can call a technical book lovely, but this one is. The Zen of CSS Design is one of those rare books in which every element seems to come together in perfect balance and harmony. Kind of Zen, actually. In my admittedly inexpert opinion, this is the best book on web design to come out this year. For me personally, it's been the best I've ever read. I don't know if it is the result of a random congruency of time, level of learning and need, but this book has inspired and excited me about web design more than any other.

Its roots are beautiful enough in their own right that it could hardly escape being first-rate. Shea is the creator of the CSS Zen Garden, and it's from this amazing collaboration of some of the best designers in the world that Shea and Holzschag draw their examples and their lessons. The material they have to work with is ingenious and stunning, and they do it justice. The book is very well-written. Their descriptions of the methods used to achieve the Garden designs are some of the clearest explanations of CSS I've yet encountered.

This alone would make the book stand out, but Shea and Holzschag went a step further. They organized the book not by CSS elements, but by major components of design. This was, it turns out, an inspired choice. While the book does concern itself a great deal with CSS, it reaches far beyond that subject to touch on almost every aspect of design. I learned more about graphic design concepts from this book than from anything else I've read so far.

Although The Zen of CSS Design is not a tutorial on CSS, it's still a good book for beginners. You'll not only be introduced to the remarkable possiblities of CSS and some dazzling designs, you'll also be treated to an excellent discourse on the basics of design.