Skip to main content

  • May 5, 2011

The Art of Details

“Whether the type is set in hard metal by hand, or in softer metal by machine, or in digital form Decorative Illustration on paper or film, every comma, every parenthesis, every e and in context even every empty space, has style as well as bald symbolic value. Letters are microscopic works of art as well as useful symbols. They mean what they are as well as what they say.”
— Robert Bringhurst The Elements of Typographic Style

One of the most formative classes I took in college was Typography, a class where our primary text was The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. This book opened my eyes and shook my bones. I fell hard for typography, and my newfound passion for this craft has only grown since.

In the first chapter of The Elements of Typographic Style, Bringhurst implores the reader to not take lightly the charge of choosing your typeface:

“This is the beginning, middle and end of the practice of typography: choose and use the type with sensitivity and intelligence.”

In fact, throughout the book he encourages the reader to take care in all decisions of type, spacing, page dimensions, and more. These details may not be noticed directly by the audience, but they will be felt as a whole.

The philosophy behind that idea is even more impressive: You have the opportunity to be very intentional about the details, whether it’s choosing a typeface or doing project management. Doing this well makes a difference.

This is one of the many reasons I enjoy my job at Happy Cog. From the kickoff meeting of the project all the way through to launching the website, a myriad of details make their way into improving the final product. Here are a couple examples:

Everybody is Creative

At Happy Cog we are very collaborative. It’s part of our DNA as a company that everybody can be involved and contribute across disciplines. This means that developers chime in during IA reviews, and project managers get involved in design sketching. I’ve seen this happen time and time again, and it’s hugely beneficial to both our culture as a company and to the final product for the client.

One example of this is that during our kickoff meetings we will often incorporate a sketching exercise where we collaborate with the client to mockup a feature or a page of their website. This gets everybody involved, sharing ideas and getting comfortable working with each other. It’s not just an icebreaker, though. This process can also bring out some great ideas that often make their way to the final product.

Assuring Quality

During the programming phases of our projects, we have a rigorous quality assurance process that involves testing our code across browsers, platforms and scenarios. We check and recheck each other’s work, everything from good source order to code validation.

One point we are sticklers for is that all of our pages work with JavaScript disabled. Sure, we know that only 2% of users in the US have that disabled, but this is a detail on which we don’t want to skimp. We don’t want to ignore those users, and there are accessibility implications to relying on JavaScript for core functionality. This may seem like a small thing, but it is one of those little details we can’t disregard.

Details Matter

“…every comma, every parenthesis, every e and in context even every empty space, has style as well as bald symbolic value.”

Essentially, Bringhurst is saying don’t leave the details to chance. Just as being extremely intentional about what typeface you chose, you can also be intentional about the little details in your process and your company culture.

At Happy Cog, we seek to improve our work through details that we decide are important. Maybe they won’t be noticed directly by our clients or their audiences, but it’s our hope that, as a whole, these details will be felt.

What areas of your process have you tweaked under the hood to make a better end product? Is it something you’ve focused on in your kickoff meetings or perhaps you found having lunch together radically improved collaboration? Tweet or blog an idea in the comments and maybe others can benefit from your awesomeness.

Back to Top