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#AEASea: “The Future of Responsive Typography” by Nick Sherman

If there were two things to take away about Nick Sherman, they were that he liked pizza very much and that he liked to complain. This was how his introduction was prefaced, and there was something fantastic about this man’s grievances.

Here’s the great thing about what we’re doing, which I think is what Nick’s talk helped me realize:

We’re in an industry that has the ability to address dissatisfaction, and we have the means to make these solutions totally universal.

Just take a second to think about that.

If the default calendar app on my phone looks like shit, which it does, I have the means and resources to build a new one for myself. If this Dolly Parton ultimate fan site is not to my satisfaction, I can create an entirely different interface for it and make the woman proud.

And as long as our version of this is out there, as a free reference for another dissatisfied person, he or she can then take it version and make it better. They can take Calendar App V2 and create Calendar App V3. They can make DollyPartonLove.biz it’s own native app.

It’s a world where your concerns are legitimate, as long as you actively address them. Knowledge will always run free, and the only thing to stop you is your own fears and lack of common sense.

How empowering is that?

When responsive web started blowing people’s minds a few years back, I remember having a conversation with my buddy Ross about it and mentioning some slight concerns I had about the effect it had on the fluidity of measures. If the measures of a page are unknown, how do you… what does… golden ratios… Bringhurst, I… how do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Coming from a print design background, this made me nervous. It was a specific thing, and it seemed nitpicky to pursue it. And I knew that if I did, there was a very huge possibility that it would lead to more bad things to make me nervous and I didn’t want to take that pill. I, the awful coward that I am, decided to stay inside the Matrix.

Because responsive web and fluid grids were so amazing. The hype was REAL, dudes!

And then I ate a sandwich and carried on with my life.

But each time I would think about this idea of fixed type size on fluid measures, I would just kind of groan inwardly. Whenever I would test out my type sizes on websites, I could feel my butt clenching as I saw things break on smaller viewports.

Rivers formed, terrible rags that hurled widowed women and orphaned children off their awful, crooked edges. My paragraphs turned into the Mt. Pinatubo landslides of the 1990s and in my mind I knew there was nothing to be done about it.

I’m not proud of it at all, and I know it makes me look really bad. Like, wearing sweatpants and Uggs kind of bad. But guys, I did it. I compromised the design because I didn’t know how to deal with it.

I was Jodie Foster and I was trapped in that panic room of fluid walls with that chick from Twilight and everything was terrible but I didn’t know what to do.

And suddenly, ideas from people like this pizza man started popping up. Different people from all over the world were discovering new things to try, and setting the world on fire with them. They weren’t all perfect, and a lot of them were in beta mode, but it was there.

Some people were addressing widows and fixing them. Others were looking at resizing type on headlines. Other people cared about this shit as much as (or perhaps even more than) I did!

And it’s like how the cops bust in and everyone starts yelling and everyone has guns pointed and there’s something on my shirt I don’t know if it’s blood or BBQ sauce FLUSH THE WEED, LORNA—it’s mayhem for a moment, and then everyone gets a grip on the situation and then we all start thinking, “Hey, maybe this can work.”

And from this idea of banding together and knowing people who are smarter than you at other things, they made interesting things happen. With Math. And interpolation. And the Pythagorean fucking Theorem. What. The.

Like THIS:

OH GOD THIS WEBPAGE FEELS SO GOOD.
OH GOD THIS WEBPAGE FEELS SO GOOD.

And THIS:

Life size type. YES IT'S RELEVANT.
Life size type. YES IT’S RELEVANT.

Suddenly there is hope. And really, all you need to do is ask. But ask nicely.

Hey, this kind of sucks. Can someone help me make this not awful?

It is this constant dissatisfaction that should really help drive this vehicle. It makes for better work, and helps idiots like me not forget what we went to school for.

So that’s kind of what I wanted to say, Nick Sherman, when I tried to start an awful conversation with you. Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay to be dissatisfied with how things are, even though everything seems amazing. Because that small bit of unease is always a gateway to something even better.





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