Well, #IMD is now pretty much over for those of us in final year. It's been a great, if stressful, time for me and it'll be nice to finally unwind over the next few days before getting back to work on ReferenceIt for final submission.
I'd love to say that I'm entirely responsible for the sheer awesome that my site consists of, but it would be a lie. Over the past year I've read an insane amount of material both on and offline. And in this post I'm going to go over some of the best resources I've found and made use of over the past year.
Straight to the Good Stuff - Print
Normally I'd provide a bit of a build up to the main point that I'm looking to make, providing some background on what I'm talking about. Today it's all about sharing the resources I've found to be most useful over the past year. This time I'm just going to work through each of the resources, providing a brief overview of each as we go. So let's get to it shall we?
A Book Apart - All of Them
The three books (currently) available from A Book Apart are a pretty awesome series of resources for several topics related to web design. Rather than providing an in-depth, overwhelming, look into the nitty gritty workings of a topic, these books provide a fantastic resource for getting to grips with the things you need to know now whilst providing information on where to look if you want to delve deeper into things.
As both a student and someone who freelances semi-regularly, having a series of books that doesn't get lost in the technical side of things has been fantastic. They're quick and easy to read and to understand, which lets me get back to work with a solid understanding of the topic at hand.
HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions: A Web Standardistas' Approach
This book, by final year lecturers Chris and Nicklas, I purchased during my second year on the #IMD course. At the time I was well aware of how to build a site using HTML and CSS, which is what this book covers. Even with this knowledge I came away with a better understanding of how and why sites should be coded in a semantic, structured fashion.
The only thing I would count against this book is that it deals with XHTML, and this one fault is brought about purely due to how well it has stood the test of time. The approach taken with this book is as applicable to HTML5 sites as it is to XHTML ones, and this is something to bear in mind when reading this book.
Web Designer's Idea Book (Volumes 1 & 2)
I'm of mixed feelings sharing these books as they aren't really a resource I use regularly. These books are, however, a really nice collection of sites that have really nice designs, which can inspire some really beautiful pieces of work. There's no how-to with them, which means you can't just copy/paste the code used, something I view as a plus - it makes you work things out yourself.
The books break the designs down into multiple sections. These are either a colour or a style of design, making it nice and easy to quickly view specific types of site design. This is useful if you're seeking a particular type of inspiration, as you can go straight to examples of similar site design.
My own criticism of these books would be that I can't get them in any digital format. Quite often I find myself not working at home, which means I can't look over these books because I'm not going to carry them everywhere I go... just in case. I would love to see these made available in a PDF or similar digital format.
8 Faces is a magazine produced for people who love typography. Each issue it covers 8 people's views on the world of typography. In addition to these articles, each person who makes an appearance in the magazine provides a list of their favourite fonts. Magazines are printed in a very limited run, remaining available as PDF downloads after the printed versions are sold out.
As someone who works on the web I have found the topics brought up in the issues to be very insightful, as there is a brilliant blend of print and web typography talk. With the increasing requirement for perfection in every aspect of web design, I think this is a valuable resource for people looking to produce brilliant design the entire way throughout a project.
If you can get a printed copy, do so. If you can't get that, get yourself a copy of a PDF. If this isn't an option then beg, borrow, or steal 1 a copy from someone who does.
The Good Stuff - The Internets
All of the above are printed media. And they really are all kinds of awesome. They're also very much static, you can't exactly update a book after it's gone to print. This is something only afforded to content on a magical place... called The Internets. Here you can find all sorts of new, experimental, awesome and horrifying stuff. With great power comes great responsibility - unfortunately people on the internet don't seem to follow things called "rules".
Over the past couple of years I have found and used a series of really awesome sites to get stuff done. This is something I have done previously 2 and I thought I would finish off this year by doing the same again, sharing some of the awesome sites that I've found to make my life easier, or just showcased some awesome stuff.
CSS-Tricks is a site by Chris Coyier, who is some kind of god when it comes to making awesome stuff online. When he isn't tinkering with something, you'll probably find him posting up a fantastic article on some kind of HTML, CSS or jQuery thing he's cooked up.
Honestly, any time I've had an issue with some kind of client-side technology, this man has had something up on this site that has helped me out. Visit CSS-Tricks, you won't regret it.
Perishable Press is a site maintained by Jeff Starr. He's a guy that does a lot of WordPress related work. Much of this is covered on his site and most of it can be applied in some form or another to pretty much any web site, as he covers a lot of best practices that happen to deal with WordPress, but that aren't specific to WordPress. This results in a vast amount of really useful information for people reading his site.
This is, I feel, my #1 online resource for weird server-side stuff when I have issues. If I can't get help from people I actually know I go here, then hit up the Google. As most people on the #IMD course are aimed more at design than development, this might not help you too much, but if you're at all interested in that kind of thing, or work with WordPress, you should really hit up Perishable Press right... now.
Digging Into WordPress
Digging Into WordPress is a joint venture by Chris Coyier and Jeff Starr, dedicated to sharing information on how to use, improve and expand upon WordPress. They use two ways to share this information. There is their book, which contains information about working with WordPress and there is their site which provides information about doing much more.
The really nice thing about their book is that purchasing either the print or digital copies of their book provides you with free copies of each digital version when they update the book - something that they do shortly after each WordPress update is released, ensuring that their customers always have access to the latest information regarding WordPress.
People finishing second year could probably have used this resource several weeks ago, and students entering the second year of #IMD might want to check out Digging Into WordPress now so that they have a better understanding of how it works. Of course, the same is true for anyone who is interested in using WordPress and wants to tinker with it.
Forrst is a community for Designers and Developers to show off work, share code, and get feedback on things. There has been a lot of comparisons between it and dribbble but I really see them as two entirely different types of community. I've not really used it a great deal of late, which is a real shame. The community spirit of Forrst is really great, and you'll find both inspiration and fantastic information at every turn.
Unfortunately Forrst is an invite-only community but you can apply on the Forrst Homepage or, if you happen to know members of the site that regularly get invites that they can use to add new members to the community. I currently have 3 available. If you'd like one and follow me on twitter, drop me a message and if I like your work (and have any invites left) I'll send an invite your way.
24 Ways is a designer's advent calendar. Every December, 24 designers each produce an article for this site, sharing their knowledge so that everyone can benefit from what they have learned. The last series of articles marked the sixth year that this has occurred as well as their first foray into the world of print. This first step consisted of a lovely printed version of this year's articles, with all proceeds from the purchases going to charity.
Fortunately, for people who didn't get a chance to purchase a copy of the annual, this year's posts, along with posts from the previous 5 years, are freely available to anyone who wants to visit the 24 Ways site. When content this good is available, there's really no reason at all why you shouldn't be reading it.
That's a Wrap
So with my #IMD career coming to a close (May 12th will be my final submission of work as an #IMD student), I wanted to share some of the resources that I've used to get me through the past couple of years (and have me dubbed the "God of #IMD"), in the hopes that they might be of some use for students getting ready to start the course, or to progress onto another year.
I'm not quite done with University just yet though. I've already been accepted on The Masters course and I'm hoping to land a position helping one of the years of #IMD in the labs. Hopefully you'll find some of these resources to be as useful as I have, and you'll enjoy your remaining time as #IMD students as much as I did.
Oh, and enjoy your summer breaks, it won't be long before you're back for another year.