Interview with Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks

by Steven Snell

August 10, 2008 in Interviews

Many of you probably follow Chris Coyier’s blog, CSS-Tricks. Chris has also been apart of some other projects recently, including the Band Website Template and the recently-launched Script and Style (a site that’s primary purpose is to display news from the design community). He was kind enough to take some time to do an interview with me, so I hope you enjoy this opportunity to get to know more about Chris and to benefit from his insight.

Are you currently freelancing? Do you work for a design firm?

I have recently stopped freelancing. I think freelancing requires a more serious commitment than I can muster right now, and it was becoming too stressful. Yes, I work for a design company out of Madison, WI, Chatman Design .That’s the day job. The night job is running CSS-Tricks and working on other personal projects.


How and when did you get started as a designer?

When I was already four years into college, I switched majors from Computer Science to Art. I planned to get a degree in Ceramics, but ultimately I had an equal focus on Ceramics and Graphic Design with a minor in Multimedia Design. Graphic Design really pulled me in and I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I left college. I bounced around some jobs in the print industry and as an in-house designer, but it wasn’t until Chatman that I now really have a true “designer” job.
What was your motivation behind the launch of Script and Style?

As you know Steven, as bloggers we kind of steer the boat on our sites, but what really makes them special is the community around them. Anything I can do to help the community and help highlight the things they do, I want to do. A lot of sites have “community link feeds” that are full of great stuff. Take a look right here at DesignM.ag, or CSS Globe, or NETTUTS, all of them have a community link section. Since I was working with David Walsh on the project, it made sense for a lot of reasons to build it as a separate site. With the cool stuff you can do with RSS these days, I am still able to feature all the headlines on my site. David will be including them on his soon, and we plan to release some ways for other folks to use the Script & Style content on their own sites as well (stay tuned).

You and David have built the Band Website Template, do you have plans for any more themes or templates?

I’d really like to, yeah. We got pretty good feedback on Band Website Template and it sold enough copies that it was definitely worth doing. The idea behind it is that it isn’t just a design and template, there was more to it, extra functionality built in to compliment what the template is for. That’s what makes it especially compelling for me, knowing that the template is something that I would personally buy. When we do it again, I’d like it to be the similar. A nicely designed template with extra content-specific functionality.

You make some money as a designer, selling templates, and from running your own site. What is your dream job, or where do you see the future taking you?

Steamboat captain on the Mississippi, or…. maybe a banjo player in a touring old time band. I think it would be sweet to retire into a life of engaging leisure like that. But more importantly, I want to make sure the road getting there is enjoyable as possible. For the time being, I am really enjoying working on websites and plan to continue doing that. Working for a company will probably always be part of the plan though, as little things like “insurance” and “401k” always pop up and squish and dreams of working totally independently.

A while ago you published several tutorials as you were working through jQuery. Are there any learning resources that you would recommend to other who want to improve with jQuery?

My introduction to jQuery was Nick La’s post on Web Designer Wall “jQuery Tutorials for Designers“. That article has a bunch of great examples of really simple things you can do with jQuery that pack a big visual punch. I was amazed at how simple, short, and plain English the code for jQuery was. My next step was picking up Karl Swedberg and Jonathan Chaffer’s book Learning jQuery. I read it wide-eyed over the course of a couple plane rides and when I returned I was super geared up to start writing my own jQuery examples and writing tutorials. I still have a long way to come but I look forward to learning all I can about jQuery because it is continually fascinating and powerful. Another great resources is Remy Sharp’s blog jQuery for Designers, which comes with a bunch of free screencasts which are quite well done.

Currently, what is the most challenging aspect of design for you?

All the stuff that isn’t design, but is still a part of the job, is the stuff that is the hardest for me. Clients freaking out about why their website is down is a good example. I have to be the middle man for problems that I have no control over, and that’s just a crappy position to be in. Also stuff like creating reports on website traffic for clients that want it. I find that stuff incredibly dull and a waste of perfectly good mental cycles. So the hardest part is getting through all that stuff with enough energy and enthusiasm to still give the actual design work all you can give it.

Aside from the popular sites that we all know about, are there any hidden gems that you visit on a regular basis for design information or inspiration?

Pattern Tap is a new kind of gallery which organizes design inspiration into “collections” of specific areas of websites. For example just breadcrumb navigations, or 404 pages, or calendars. I think that type of organization is a brilliant idea and I’m sure I’ll be visiting that site quite a bit. Another one of my favorites is TheDieline, which showcases awesome packaging design.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not designing or working on blog posts?

I am new to Portland, OR this year, so I’ve been enjoying exploring the city and doing stuff here in town. I’m also enjoy playing the banjo and photography.

Thanks to Chris for the interview. If you’re not familiar with his work, please visit CSS-Tricks and Script and Style.

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design.Connect with Stephen on google+

  • yamaniac

    Aug 11th

    nice interview. chris has and will always be my inspiration. His site css-tricks is amazing and has good screen casts that are really worth watching.. Chris rocks!! :)

  • Fouad Masoud

    Aug 11th

    Good stuff, Chris ur the man.

  • liam

    Aug 11th

    What a nice chap. Good stuff, enjoyed reading. And I completely agree with you on the Pattern Tap and Dieline sites, I’ve recently got into them both and think they are fantastic. Also learnt that you’re not a full-time freelancer, you certainly get a lot done in your “night job” – Good read.

  • Erik Gyepes

    Aug 11th

    Chris, thank you for this interview. Very good to know something deeper about a man who runs a such great blog as CSS-Tricks is.

    Good luck in your daily/night jobs ;-)

  • Shannon Snow

    Aug 11th

    Who would have guessed Chris runs CSS-Tricks in his spare time? That’s impressive. Thanks for the interview, it’s always neat to get a more personal glance into the life of a big name like Chris Coyier.

  • Steven Snell

    Aug 12th

    Shannon,
    Chris definitely is accomplishing a lot in his spare time!

  • Chris Coyier

    Aug 12th

    Hey thanks again Steven for the opportunity to be interviewed! And thanks everyone else for the kind words, very flattering =)

  • Steven Snell

    Aug 12th

    My pleasure Chris.

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