Day 13: SXSW, continuing to be continued

Monday, March 10, 2003

Between the (Style) Sheets: CSS, Browsers, and You

Tantek Çelik (Tasman Development), Eric Meyer (, Jeffrey Zeldman (

Tantek is giving tips on cleaning up markup.

Eric is demonstrating how one simple document can be changed multiple ways with stylesheets. He asked how many people know the difference between block-level and inline elements. The majority of people raised their hands. Surprising. He says you don’t have to completely separate style and content. Basically, you can have content without style, but you can’t have style without content. The style must be related to the content.

Zeldman is showing how he redesigned his site using CSS. Apparently, I still don’t understand absolute positioning. He positioned something at 0, 0, yet it is under another element. I’ll have to play with that.

Q: On CSS rollovers, there can be a lag as the image loads.

Zeldman: Make the hover image the background, and the non-hover state the image. Good idea.

Freelance Forum: Going Solo

Pableaux Johnson (, Jennifer Niederst-Robbins (Littlechair Design), Paul Pugh (

More PCs in this one than Macs. And one tablet PC. Interesting.

Paul: Has been freelancing for about a year. He has a partner with overlapping skills, but he does more design while his partner does more technical work.

Jennifer: Decided she was draining her life for someone else’s company. She wanted freedom and flexibility. In the past, she didn’t have to market herself.

Q: Practical ways to market yourself.

Paul: Align yourself with other firms to handle marketing and sales. Ad agencies, ISPs, etc.

Jennifer: Pick something you do well and market to a specific niche.

Paul: Create a usefulness on the web. Create a reputation from that.

Jennifer: Passive marketing: Do things for yourself that proves what you can do.

Pableaux: Being a freelancer allows you to do many different types of jobs.

Q: If you market yourself as a generalist, how can you convince clients you can do it all?

Paul: If you can’t do something, farm out the work to other freelancers.

Q: How do you keep yourself motivated?

From the audience: Be flexible, redirect yourself.

Another audience member: Make connections with people online so you have people to sympathize with.

Pableaux: Freelancing and working for a company have the same amount of problems, they’re just different.

Q: How do you make sure you get paid in a timely manner?

Paul: Get money up front. Have some leverage (source files). Usually 30% up front.

From the audience: Business Forms and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers

From the audience: Make contact with people in accounting.

Pableaux: Ask from the beginning what the payment terms are.

Q: How should you present yourself: As a company, or an individual?

Short answer: It depends

Paul: Indicating that you are a firm can get you a slightly better rate, but so can having a reputation.

Pableaux: Business strategies?

Paul: They’re not trying to build a big company, they just found what they like to do, and want to keep doing it.

Jennifer: Tries to choose things that are interesting. Be professional, get things done on time.

Q: How do you run your life?

Jennifer: Decides from day to day, based on what she needs to do. She does miss working with a team.

Pableaux: How comfortable are you with or without structure? He maintains a separate space for his work.

Paul: Also maintains a separate space, and keeps a regular schedule, so that work doesn’t cut into time with his family.

From the audience: Portfolio is key.

Pableaux: Because of the economy, continue to moonlight, rather than quitting your day job. Keep adding to your reserves. Also, keep a line between what you do for money and what you do for art.

From the audience: Keep the work coming in. If you don’t have the time for something, farm it out. Keep up a good network.

Q: Company loyalty is not what it used to be. Why work for a company that is not loyal to you?

Pableaux: Make informed decisions, because the infrastructure can be expensive and complex.

Adding Humor To Your Website

Dave Linabury (

Techniques for humor:

  • Use paragraphs for timing.
  • If you’re trying to write about something, look up about 10 things about that subject.
  • Trivial things are funnier than important things.
  • Top 10 lists are usually funnier than “A/B” lists.
  • Elevate the mundane.
  • Wrong uses for products or safety warnings.
  • Making fun of yourself.

Dave talked about being sued by the company that owns Godzilla. There is precedent that, when you buy a trademark, it does not give you rights to similar trademarks. Also, when parodying, you can use the name of something, or the image, but not both at the same time.

He mentions that he will soon switch to a Creative Commons license. Also, RSS greatly increases his hits.

The majority of the rest of his panel was showing humor sites and talking about the techniques they use.