Is CSS and Website Design a Fashion Statement? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

Here’s an idea. This year’s hottest fashion
item is a CSS style sheet. [THEME MUSIC] So we’re pretty sure
you’ve seen websites. They’re made with
all sorts of things, like HTML, PHP, Ruby, some
Rails, a Native American tribe, and if my memory
serves me correctly, it’s all served from
that box on Moss’s desk. It’s wireless. There are a lot of
things that contribute to how a website looks. But one of the most common and
powerful ways of suiting up your sites is called CSS. Cascading Style Sheets do
a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to
making websites pretty. And also ugly, I guess, if
we’re going to be specific. It’s that expressive
user interface-generating layer that sits on top of
that cold hard code interior. There’s a “Matrix”
reference in here somewhere. I’m just having a really
hard time figuring– ah. We gotta move on. Oh, come on! This makes CSS sort of like the
clothes that a website wears. Or maybe the way a
website looks, CSS or not, is clothes, but that an
eye-catching style sheet, that’s something different. That is fashion. Because that’s the difference
between clothing and fashion. Clothing is functional. It covers your junk ‘n stuff. That, by the way, is
the anatomically correct terminology. But fashion is used to
purposefully express something which is not
explicitly stated otherwise, keeping in mind that even if
you choose to express nothing, you are still expressing
your expression of nothing. Basically, you can’t escape. [SCREAMING] Sorry. So while sweatpants
and a hoodie might be clothing that
expresses very little, a teal tuxedo is fashion that
expresses your love of coffee and your need to party. Oppa Gangnam style. This is the classic
form-and-function dichotomy. Fashion in the form that gives
some glitz and some meaning to the functional aspects
of your threads– and maybe everything else. Coco Chanel said that fashion
doesn’t exist in dresses only. Fashion is in the
sky, in the streets. Fashion has to do with
ideas, the way we live, and what is happening. We tend to equate fashion
wholly with haute couture and weird, unwearable
runway clothes. But fashion is also your mom’s
bad wallpaper, a 1997 Honda Civic, and that
weird sideways window they have on a bunch
of houses in Vermont. Fashion is also
the reason that we built the Silk Road,
developed Doric columns and Bullfinchian architecture. It’s the reason
for the existence of the world’s first
global corporation– and your crazy,
blinky style sheet. Oh. Oh, that is bright. Ugh. We also might think that
fashion’s stakes are higher in relationship to
clothing because, you know, showing everyone
in public your junk ‘n stuff is worse than having
a silly-looking website. But the stakes for
your web presence are pretty high, aren’t they? Especially depending
on your profession. I mean, there’s a reason that
Fortune 500 company websites don’t look like the Myspace
of a 16-year-old girl. I mean, you will never see
cursor trails on But this leads us to ask, how
much can code really express? It’s just semicolons and
brackets and stuff, right? Now, this isn’t the “is code
art?” argument, because it is. End of story. It’s more a consideration of
how an idea that we usually connect with dance, instruments,
and clothing, things which are immediate and active,
can be applied to a computer language, something which
needs to be rendered, compiled, and displayed. Well, if you’ve seen
“Indie Game: The Movie”– which if you haven’t, please do. Link in the
description– you saw one of the creators of
“Super Meat Boy” say this. A video game is the
most effective way I can express myself. That’s not normally how you
hear people talk about code. That’s usually how
you hear people talk about the clothes they
wear, the pictures they take, or the songs that they like. A lot of it, I’m sure, has
to do with how far we’ve come in display in
computing technology. I’m sure that it is
near-impossible to be expressive using a
punch card computer. The fact that we compare
CSS with dynamic protocols like PHP, HTML5,
or JavaScript means that we can have it move, make
it respond– two things which are key to expression. It means that instead
of the friendly layer over the unfriendly
technology, everything comes together and becomes
one cohesive, expressive, coded Gesamtkunstwerk. Which actually brings us
right back to fashion. In the same way you
might not be able to talk about the way a person dresses
without talking about who they are, because one informs the
other, in both directions, you can’t really
talk about websites, or any other computer
program for that matter, without talking about
its UI, its fashion. German sociologist
Georg Simmel said that is almost a sign of the
increased power of fashion that it has overstepped the
bounds of its original domain, which comprised only
externals of dress, and has acquired an increasing
influence over tastes, theoretical convictions, and
even the moral foundations of life in their changing forms. This is only getting more
true as mobile phones turn from ugly bricks
to sleeks slabs, as computers turn from
refrigerators to tablets, and as the internet turns
from war games to– well, we’re not quite at
hacking the Gibson yet. But maybe someday soon. What do you guys think? Can user interface design
be a fashion statement? Let us know in the comments. And if you don’t have your
sunglasses handy, I’m sorry. [MUSIC PLAYING] (SINGING) Comments,
comments, comments, oh! Let’s see what you guys had
to say about Justin Bieber. To Nayukuo, that’s a
really easy answer. We will probably just
shut down everything. CARTONofSUKI says
that crowd psychology has a lot to do
with bringing people into the fold of fandoms. Which I think is
probably part of it, but then there’s also got
to be this other thing that brings them in. And I’m– I think we’re really
curious about what that thing is. MaryandLydia point
out the they disagree that there is some
sort of It or Oomph or Zazz about a work of art
that will bring people in, in that they are
actually– popularity is an effect of good
marketing or renown. Which is a very valid argument. cartoondreamer brutally reduces
our thesis of our last video to “people like
things.” which is true, but there are only a
few things that have this intense effect on people. And so I think that we’re
really curious about what it is about these
things that people like, and that it’s even more
than just liking something. Robert Stoll says
that there is nothing truly impressive
about Justin Bieber, and I have a feeling that a lot
of people will agree with him. To stjonal, I’m glad that
someone got this joke. To anybody who hasn’t
seen the “Mona Lisa,” if you do go see it, you will
not be seeing it by yourself, and it most certainly
will not be quiet. To Ky0breck– and anyone
else, for that matter– who wants to remix Idea
Channel, we would be flattered. Please, go crazy. SollingDown made a
really good point that Motherboard
actually agreed with, that the cult of personality
that we talked with was largely positive, and that
it can also be really negative. So maybe another
episode for another day. MrNagagon makes a
really interesting point about how history has treated
beautiful works of art, and I think this is really
cool to think about. Because we have yet to see what
Justin Bieber will contribute to history, what history
will say about Justin Bieber. Which I think is,
you know, maybe on the level of the
Sistine Chapel 600 year from now, maybe not. To Raven46Poland, the
answer is yes, I do. Which means that you maybe can
all look forward to November, when I have a silly mustache. And also, you
should know that I’m going to shave for Halloween. So in the comments section of
the next video, maybe no bears. Prepare yourself. [THEME MUSIC]

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100 thoughts on “Is CSS and Website Design a Fashion Statement? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

  1. Maybe there is some people who have the mission to pull up the world, and other have to make it run. No of them are less important : without the other, no one can live. Maybe "Its just to hard to see for most people". What about it ? 🙂

  2. I am loving the obscure 1995 hackers reference in there. As well as adventure time. And everything else.. You are a very intelligent man..

  3. This totally makes sense. I feel like I express myself through the order I set up my iPad or iPhone apps in. Hmmmm…

  4. "With all due respect John, I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority that if you type "Google" into Google, you can break the Internet. So please, no one try it, even for a joke. [the executives laugh] It's not a laughing matter. You can break the Internet." -Jen

  5. If i was to take a class on code…what would it be code and would this enable me to learn how to because a web designer

  6. I wonder if the term fashion isn't being incorrectly used–maybe a better word would be rhetoric. Fashion may be a kind of rhetoric but so then is architecture and web designs

  7. Coding is one of the few ways to create art while actually doing something that's in demand by the economy, and will always be hired even when the economy stalls. Take that liberal arts major.

  8. I am super impatient with poorly constructed websites. Inconvenience is only half the story. A bad website isn't just a bad website; it's a bad business decision. It means that some business owner had the option of paying a little bit more for a decent website, but instead went cheap, and provided its potential customers with an un-navigable mess. If that's the kind of decisions you're making about basic business functions, can I trust you to ship my product to the right planet.

  9. I think code itself is art too, not only what it produces.
    If you make a C64 demo, which shows some stuff like thousands of white dots forming a 3D object, or just any kind of neat effects that are difficult to do on so limited device, I think it looks better, because the code behind it needs to be better too.
    Even if a low resolution spinning cube, or bright colors morphing to an abstract plasma effect on a computer screen isn't really so so beautiful, it gets more beautiful, when the code does

  10. What do you mean you can't be expressive with a punch card computer? What about the Alchemiter and Cruxtruder

  11. If those fashion "clothes" are so unwearable, why do they design them in the first place?

    -An almost entirle functional clothes wearer

  12. random programming langaouges GO!!

    java,css,php,html,c++,c#,c,freeBASIC,visoul basic,qbasic,ruby,javascript
    objective c,xna,css3,html5,actionscript,lua,python,IOS,justbasic

  13. Lol, I know that 😀
    I sometimes feel a huge need to do something random like that too, especially in school.

  14. as someone who has worked with CSS, html5, java, and action script (so far)
    i can say that UI is everything
    it isn't just form, but also function
    a program or game can have a "functional" UI that is ugly, or a nice looking UI that is a pain, but the nicest UI, and the easiest to use is one that encompasses both
    also, looking at UI isn't just a statement based on look, but if you understand the basis of it, you can understand how the programmer thinks

  15. I wasn't talking about Hypertext or styling.
    I was talking about real computer programming.
    Really creating what you want to have in the screen as a computer program, instead of just designing and putting together a webpage.

  16. You just had to sing… now it will be stuck in my head even though I never actually heard any of his "songs", THANK YOU VERY MUCH!, and in case you didn't notice: SARCASM, otherwise great channel and videos…

  17. Six hundred years ago, people won't have a clue who Justin Bieber is, anymore than people now have a clue who Karl von Burgstaller is.

  18. `@Potterz907 SEO or search engine optimization is really the way to get your website recognize. Visit the website to get info on how backlinking and social signal works.

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  19. `@Potterz907 SEO or search engine optimization is really the way to get your website recognize. Visit the website to get info on how backlinking and social signal works.

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  20. Нихрена не понял что он говорит, но видео всёравно, весёлое )

  21. sure is right. i have been searching for a solution to build many back links for my sites. Listen to this i will recommend this seo software which is an auto pilot will make income monthly and yearly even you sitting idle, making me happy really :). if you to wanna try MAKEMONEYATHOME.COMYR.COM REal Deal Right Here—–> MAKEMONEYATHOME.COMYR.COM SUPPORT..advice, guidance,tips..needed to succeed MAKEMONEYATHOME.COMYR.COM

  22. i LOVE this channel. i found it early this morning, 7 am and i have already watched every one of there videos to this point, its noon now

  23. This reminds me of the imperfect distinction between art and design. It seems clear to me that most things that are defined as functional are in some way artistc, Unless every single decision in the making of the output is absolutely necessary, it is probably artistic. Do a quick search for "Design is not art" to find something infuriating.

  24. Anyways, CSS like you said are like the website's clothes. But they'd have to be non-movable or crazyily interactive clothes; that's what we use Javascript and jQuery for.

  25. Very late, but I think there is a difference in "Code" as art and "Site Design" as art, similar to how fashion design is different from working in a textile mill.
    I've often heard the "Code as Art" argument refering to how reading the lines of code can instill a sense of beauty, and I liken that conversation more to the "craft vs art" episode that happened earlier. Is there beauty in a bedsheet with a really high thread-count? What you do with the code however, can be art. The code is a medium, like paint, or stained glass, or a camera, that exists to convey an image that the creator wants to convey. This leads us right into the "What is art?" conversation, to which I say if you have to ask,  then It's art. Then the question is "is it good art?" 

  26. I just discover this channel, so excuse me to participate lately to this conversation (by the way you published awesome content).
    There are to many things to say about CSS and fashion web sites. The first thing that came to my mind is to consider the CSS code as a tool (exactly like pencils for artists). CSS allow web site developper (and especially designer) to change the look of their web site, allowing users to feel new emotions in front of the page. The coder is limited in his own action by the capacity of the tool and his own skills in manipulated it. Then, it seems normal to me to compare it to art. But there is another idea tightly related to art and design, it is the ergonomy. And for me again designs of pages are compromise between artistic (or at least esthetic) and ergonomic decisions.
    You also say that "code is art" as a fact but it is not an idea shared by every one. I personnally agree. I already felt lots of different emotions in front of codes written by other people (the range of emotion can go from the terror, especially if I have to modify it, to admiration). In programming, there is always several ways to do something, some decision will be more adapted, some will be temporary. And I heard a lot the idea of "elegant solution".
    Art in general is a really personnal experience, in front of a painting some people will feel emotions from the final result (the image), some from the subject developped and others from the paint stroke and the technic developped by the artist to realize the painting. If you look at the web site as the whole work of art, then coding can be seen as the equivalent of painting with a brush.
    Again, great videos !
    (sorry for my poor english, it is not my mother tongue)

  27. 3:37 "The fact that we can pair CSS with dynamic protocols such as PHP, HTML5, or javascript…"
    Is HTML5 actually a dynamic protocol in some way? The "or" implies that it's dynamic all by itself without the help of javascript or PHP…

  28. 100,010 views… Odd, beautiful looking number. I had to look it up in binary. I guess it represents double quote marks (") or the number 34. Interesting.

  29. On a tropical island,
    Underneath the molten lava moon.
    Hangin' with the hula dancers,
    Askin' questions cause' they got all the answers.

    Puttin' on lotion!
    Sittin' by the ocean!
    Rubbin' it on my body!
    Rubbin' it on my body!

    Get me out of this caa-a-ve,
    'Cause it's nothing but a gladiator graa-a-ve.
    And if I stick to the plaa-a-n,
    I think I'll turn into a lava maa-a-n.
    I think I'll turn into a lava man!

  30. On a tropical island,
    Underneath the molten lava moon.
    Hangin' with the hula dancers,
    Askin' questions cause' they got all the answers.

  31. so does that mean that our personal fashion tastes and how we choose to dress ourselves can be seen as a sort of UI for other people who may choose to interact with us? would that make those actual interactions and the other person's perception of us our UX?

    my brain is broken.

  32. Ok, I know this is old, but I couldn't help commenting. I work as a web developer and web designer (if you don't know the difference, basically developers work with code, designers do not). Being able to see both sides of the product is what got me a job and what gives me an advantage over other freelance web devs.
    I LOVE that you just unconditionally say that code is art, because it is. Especially for me code is absolutely a method of expression.
    I think the comparison between fashion and css makes a lot of sense as well.
    However, creating a good UI design requires that you make it functional first, which is wildly different from how clothing fashion is designed. If all fashion was required to be comfortable before it was "artistic" I would say the two would be comparable, but that far from the truth. UI design is more of a "take this thing that works and without functionally changing it, make it look good" where as fashion is "just make something interesting and who cares if it works as actual clothing".
    Sorry for the long post, I unfortunately have no potatoes to give here, please forgive me.

  33. No offense, but it is kind of corny trending with that humor style everyone uses. It isn't even funny anymore. Just give us the information!! We are just information processors!

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