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I'm Thibaut Sailly, an independant interface designer based in Paris. Say hello on twitter or by email at bonjour ✉ tsailly ◦ net.

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November 2010

Wow Adobe is really cool

John Nack linked to a video on his blog today about Adobe's work on CSS (thanks to @jasperhauser for the link). It demonstrates complex and dynamic text wrapping on a mobile touch screen, and pretends to "enhance Webkit for better typography".

The example is so technically remarkable, the result so miserable in a design sense, and the communication strings so entangled it's comical.

Technically, shaping a text block organically in CSS today is a time sink, and it's not dynamic at all. It has to be custom made, and the markup has to be adjusted too much to reach the intended result. Consequently, having a CSS rule establishing some shape relations between two blocks and letting the browser deal with the rendering issues will allow more creativity in layout design. Congratulations to the Adobe team for building this and hopefully contributing their brain power to Webkit.

However, you can't decently use this with the current state of browser justification rendering if you're serious about typography and graphic design. The example on the video shows a text crippled with holes and rivers. The resulting text very uncomfortable to read, as much as this video was to watch (by the way, it's called a tripod, you fix the camera to it and then the image stops shaking). Enhancing typography? How about some work on justification rendering first? Less impressive than text flowing around a giraffe, but it would actually "make the web a better place", and make this demo more convincing to practicing web designers who care about legibility.

As for the communication part, there is a name which, because it is omitted with so much efforts, can only be noticed: Apple. They are working with Google to enhance Webkit, not Google and Apple, the originator of Webkit. Their demo about text flow would have been much more convincing, and would have made more sense really, on a tablet sized device like the... iPad. And the use of a giraffe must refer to the Pages for iPad demo - or is it a common reference in layout design, like the teapot in 3D modeling?
This mix of untold and omitted but obvious references to Apple shows a lack of voice control surprising for a corporation like they are.

Adobe is trying real hard to be on the picture hand in hand with every single cool kid around these days: tablet publishing, "HTML5", web typography, and now Webkit. It looks more like desperate tries to solve a branding problem rather than a genuine effort to solve users problems: a sad waste of talents.

Update: I've left a comment on John Nack's blog post