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Talking about Web Type with Jason Pamental

Rifling through my research files, I came across this great interview with Jason Pamental on working with web type in Drupal 7. Hope you enjoy!

Dani: Talk to me about web type. How do you find that web type plays into this whole Design for Drupal thing?

Jason: very easily, actually. One of the things that led me to go back to working on my own, which now is over a year and a half ago, was being stuck in too technical a role in this agency I was working at in Providence, and not being able to deal with the design and strategy side of things as much as I enjoyed. I think that’s honestly what I’m better at. And that coincided with Typekit being launched, and I had been following what was going on with that, and ended up getting a subscription to it and playing around with it. I’d always really loved type, but never really was taught a whole lot about it. And this was one of my first real chances to play around with it, so I got into it right away.

At first, I just dropped a line or two of Javascript in my theme file and was fine, but then I had this idea that I’d never made a module before, but there really ought to be a Typekit module. Turns out this guy had sort of started one, but had left it sitting in a state that was really, really rough. I saw that as my opportunity, so I picked it apart, I rebuilt the whole thing and figured out the things that were and weren’t going to work, like automatically setting it to load the https script if it’s on a secured page, and adding an external Javascript call — this was for Drupal 6 at the time, so Drupal was a bit finicky about that. So again, there was this sense of figuring out how Drupal worked in order to get this stuff in there in the right way, and it really wasn’t all that hard.

So the module got much better; it was much more flexible and easy to use, and Typekit was a great service to work with and had a lot of really neat stuff. That was my first real effort at doing any amount of community work to make that thing better. But it sort of made me think about both the use and the shortcomings as well; so I started researching that a lot more — how to use web fonts better. How to deal with the things that might not go right. With all the performance enhancements in the service, I started using it more and more, even for body type. It was just this really liberating thing to be able to design with all of these fonts and not have to ever look at Arial on a web page again.

Dani: you really don’t like Arial, do you?

Jason: you know, it’s nicer than having to pick on Helvetica all the time.

Dani: That’s true.

Jason: but I have to say, there are a few that are really just no better. We have a project at SchoolYard currently that specifies Univers for the body type; it’s a utility font. That’s the thing that really underscores this web font thing: these fonts are there, and they’re used, because they have no impact. They’re easy to use in any scenario because they don’t lend anything to the design.

Dani: I also think that one of the things people look for is something that is universal, I guess. It’s a readability issue.

Jason: well, sure, but there’s a ton of great fonts out there that are extremely readable.

Dani: I agree.

Jason: and yes, I understand that the Helveticas of the world have their place, but when presented with the option to do something different after 15 or 18 years of having to do everything in Arial or Helvetica, it’s time to do something different. And what I enjoy about that is that it shifts the entire tone of the design when everything is different instead of just headers or accents being different; and that’s what makes web design a lot more fun again.

And then extending that to mobile devices and other platforms, and still being able to bring that consistency, makes it even better. So then extending it further into the Drupal world, there’s Scott Reynen with the @font-your-face module[1], which actually blends all the different services together. So then you can use one font from Typekit, one font from Google, and all these different services together without then having to do anything in your theme if you don’t want to.

There’s some interesting possibilities there. I was just having a conversation with him last night about it, and it’s headed in a really good direction. Hopefully we’ll be able to see some really need stuff soon.

For more with Jason Pamental, check out my interview with him in Design and Prototyping for Drupal, available at O'Reilly's website. He'll also be interviewed in the upcoming Drupal for Designers book, which is available for pre-order.

[1] http://drupal.org/project/fontyourface

DrupalEasy podcast: Interview with Dani Nordin

It's me! On the Drupaleasy Podcast! Talking smack about Drupal for Designers, the Swanky Denver Hyatt, UX, and working with startups. Listen to it now.

Research, Eating Behavior, and Media Stupidity

Several weeks ago, the Harvard School of Public Health came out with a study that suggested the more red meat you eat, the more likely you are to die younger. The anti-CAFO lobby has, OF COURSE, jumped on this, claiming that there’s no control for CAFO vs. Grass-Fed meat, therefore the study must be bull. Even BETTER, they claim that the only real way to find out if red meat is actually bad for you is to do an experiment.

Because you can totally assign a random group of people to eat meat for twenty years and see who dies. No ethical problem there, right?

Because there totally was such a thing as grass-fed meat, that people knew and cared about, 20 years ago, that they could control for in 20 years of data.

Because this study is obviously trying to turn people vegan.

While I am fully in support of pastured beef, and meat from happy animals, these arguments irritate the hell out of me for some very specific reasons. Mostly, I’m irritated because these arguments have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ACTUAL RESEARCH THAT WAS DONE.

First of all, the study looked over the course of 20 years, not a few months, and they found specifically that each INCREASE in red meat consumption, particularly process meats, led to an increase in mortality. For example, they found that people who ate a LOT of red meat or processed meat—think 5 or more meals a week—were also more likely to be smokers, have a high BMI, etc. The researchers even go on to suggest that people cut down on their consumption of these foods—note, NOT eliminate them, NOT become vegetarian—but CUT DOWN ON THE DAILY CONSUMPTION OF STEAK AND BACON—in order to reduce their risk of chronic disease.

In other words, they found that people who eat mostly red meat and processed meats aren’t particularly healthy. That’s a “duh” moment if ever I heard one.

But somehow, this has turned into, for some people, a manifesto against all meat, and for some people who eat grass-fed beef, rather than simply showing the abundant evidence that it’s better for you—IN MODERATE AMOUNTS—than feedlot beef, have to jump on the defensive, and attempt to debunk some very interesting findings.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent the last several months deeply absorbed in eating behavior research (and may, in fact, spend several more years studying it), but that kind of nonsense gets me really irritated. Primarily because the media loves to turn scientific research into definitive cause-effect relationships (The LA Times reported something like “All Red Meat can Kill You” as their headline for this article), when the research itself is rarely close to definitive, and always notes an ASSOCIATION, NOT A DIRECT EFFECT.

So, to recap: yes, eating pastured beef is better for you than eating beef that comes from Cattle Death Pens. However, that doesn’t mean that living exclusively on steak, meatballs and bacon will EVER BE GOOD FOR YOU. That’s not an argument against all meat; it’s an argument for intelligent and balanced food consumption. If you’re going to make an argument, make *that* one.

Dani talks Coda with HOW Interactive

Recently, I was interviewed by Grace Dobush, editor at HOW Interactive, about my love for Coda and excitement for Coda 2. For those who aren't aware of Coda (and are interested in web design tools), Coda is hands-down the best coding software I've ever used, created by the good folks at Panic.

There are many reasons I love Coda, some of which I detail in Drupal for Designers. My favorite aspects are the ability to access Terminal directly from within the program, and the ability to save snippets of code directly within the program, which can then be inserted into any file I'm working on (a MUST for Drupal theme hooks and CSS3 declarations). Coda 2 includes Git integration (which I haven't played with yet, but it means you can access version control directly within Coda), a nicer and easier-to-read layout for Clips and Terminal, and a bunch of other features. But my favorite feature so far is the ability to set the code syntax for any file you're working on—which means that, when I'm working with LessCSS, I can set the text syntax to CSS, and see all the pretty colors that make my code easier to read.

New Book: Drupal for Designers

Drupal for Designers, which combines the first three guides in the Drupal for Designers series with a more logical flow, better grammar and some entirely new and updated content, is currently in production at O'Reilly Media. It's slated to come out in July/August 2012, but you can pre-order your copy today on Amazon.com. The first three guides, Planning and Managing Drupal Projects, Design and Prototyping for Drupal, and Drupal Development Tricks for Designers, are also available on Amazon, or you can order DRM-free ePub editions at oreilly.com.

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