Above: Work by LCAD students Thomas Phillips, Steven Cartolano, Jessie Chang and Sean Christiansen.
Any student who has taken my course in Internet Design at LCAD is familiar with the CSS Zen Garden by David Shea. It’s the first project I assign every semester — after several weeks of exercises and practice code, it’s their first chance to really get their hands dirty with CSS and build something with it.
Last fall, I decided it was time to transition the class curriculum to HTML5 and I thought I might have to leave the garden behind. I looked around online to see if anyone had gone to the trouble to update the code for the site to HTML5 and came up empty handed. But I really liked what David Shea had built with the CSS Zen Garden — it had a history. It was an important landmark in the development of the web. So, rather scrapping the garden in favor of a new project, I updated the code myself and posted an article about it on my website.
That article has gotten a lot of hits over the past few months, making it clear that I wasn’t the only one looking to see the Zen Garden updated. Apparently, David Shea himself ran across it. A few days ago, I got a mysterious tweet from Shea thanking me for my work on converting the Zen Garden to HTML5 and telling me to take a look at his site the next day.
Hmm. What could that be about, I wondered?
Well, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the CSS Zen Garden, David Shea posted the Zen Garden html to GitHub, updated it to HTML5 and reopened the CSS Zen Garden Design contest. I didn’t put two-and-two together but according to an article on .net, my post last September where I spoke about using the site as a teaching tool was partially responsible for Shea’s decision to relaunch the site. He liked the idea that the CSS Zen Garden “remains relevant … because new people are entering the industry and using it as a reference point.”
I really never expected my efforts to lead to anything, but I’m glad to see that the CSS Zen Garden will be around for a while longer. Now that the design contest has been reopened, it’ll be interesting to see if it spurs any of my students to enter the competition. With the expectation that entries fully embrace CSS3 and responsive design, the bar is sure to be set very high. I can’t wait to see what today’s current (and future) web designers are able to create for the site.