Julien Taquet lives in France and is an expert UX and Book CSS designer whose expertise benefits Coko, Book Sprints, Editoria, Paged.js and all of these organizations’ constituents. We decided to learn more about how Julien amassed such a wealth of knowledge across multiple very specialized domains, and why he chooses to deploy these gifts in the Cokoverse.
Alison: Julien, you are just back from holiday! Where did you go and what did you do? I often think if I lived where you do, near Provence, France, I would never leave home!
Julien: Ha! I guess that grass is always better in someone else’s garden. Yes, we’re back from the Southern Alps, one of the smallest ski station of the area, a perfect place to go with a 2 year old kid.
Alison: Awesome. We are so glad to have you back, of course! Can you tell me, how did you find Coko, initially? You were one of the first team members, right?
Julien: One afternoon i get a mail to which the subject was CSS book production jobbie, Adam was looking for someone to make books using html and css, and i said yes. I started to work with the lovely people of Book Sprints. But I think that the first job Adam asked me to do related to what we’re doing today at Coko was a small mocked-up prototype for a new book producing platform, and it happened before Coko was a thing. And i think i didn’t do too bad, as I ended up working with you all.
Alison: What most interested you about the proposition of being part of this community? At the time, and also today?
Julien: I’ve been working in the publishing industry for so long that I’ve seen all the gaps in the workflows. At that time, I was surrounded by people saying that the only available tools were the one that someone would sell to you. And for a bit, that might have been true: inDesign is fully ready to make printed books, we don’t need much more than what the app has to offer.
But there is something wrong in the setup: compositor/typesetter/designer is the only one with access to the final output, and therefore, there is no sense of collaboration, even though a book is the work of a team: author, editor, proof-reader, indexers, designer, compositor, etc. Why is the only one who can make changes to the final output is the one who has the knowledge of how to use inDesign? What if we could change this small set-up and see what happens to the publishing world?
Alison: What were you up to prior to joining this merry band of publishing rebels?
Julien: Before Book Sprints and Coko i used to work as a designer for the french administration. And before that, i made a lot of books in a small vendor for big french publisher: school book, maths, teacher’s magazines, comic books, etc. and before that, I used to look after kids in day camps, and it was a very cool job.
Alison: Can you describe ‘a day in the life’ for you at Coko? You wear so many hats and do so many different and pretty intense things! For example, you may tweak PDFs out of Editoria, and also assist with local installs, and create UX designs all in one day! Can you tell us about this?
Julien: Since i work at home, i try to get ready to work around 8 AM. My days start with a coffee and a mattermost session, going through the discussion that happened when i left the night before. Most of the time, we can welcome new faces, and start the day with a friendly discussion about what we’re doin’. And if someone struggle with some app installation i jump in to help, because there is a good chance that we already faced the problem. Then, i look at what’s on the planning. It’s often divided in a couple of options: UX design or book design. Most of the day end between 6.30 and 7pm, unless we have a call with California, where the morning is way too late (or maybe it’s my evening that’s too early).
Alison: And, you also build community for Paged.js and Editoria in Europe! Can you tell us about how this works and why you enjoy it?
Julien: Building a community is a very exciting thing to do as it’s all about connecting people who didn’t know they shared something, and see what happens. I’m genuinely curious about what people are doing, why and how they’re doing it. When you spend a bit of time with someone with an idea, and you understand what they’re trying to achieve, you understand their needs. If you spend enough time with each one of them, you find some interesting commonalities between projects. And you put the people around the table and start the discussion. Most of the time, people being passionate by what they’re doing, they’re gonna find a way together.
Alison: What exactly is CSS Book Design and why is it important?
Julien: From one single source, you could make a physical book, a multi-screen-sized website, a text-to-speech, big sized letter, etc. You wouldn’t need to get through another tool to make a book within its own universe, without any standards, etc. You’re just free to make whatever you want from the same content.
And that’s only doable with CSS and standards (and Paged.js, until the browsers implement the features we need).
Alison: How did you acquire such deep expertise in these very specialized areas? Your expertise is so striking and impressive!
Julien: A well focused procrastination 😀 To be honest, I don’t know if I have such an expertise.Ii just do things I’m passionate about, and I’m surrounded by friendly people that I learn from day in and day out (the real secret could be that I’m a tiny bit curious about everything).
Alison: When you look back across your time with Coko, what stands out? Are there key moments or events that struck you as milestones for the organization? For you, personally?
Julien: The people stand out. Always. The community is complex and there are a lot of differences between publishers. They have different names to talk about the same roles. They have different ideas about workflow, how you work, etc. But they’re all connected to one thing: share knowledge widely.
I never say it enough. But I like to work with the people I want to drink with and drink with the people I want to work with. Coko is all about that.
Alison: I love that! It does describe us pretty well! Super friendly. What are you most excited about in the year(s) ahead for Coko?
Julien: I think that’s the hardest question, because i’m excited about everything Coko. The more I discuss with publishers and designers and authors, the more I get that we’re on the right tracks. It’s really rare that we get a question we cannot answer, and when that happens, the one who asked the question join the community with the beginning of an answer that is then managed through the whole team.
But I think that the most exciting thing to me is to see new faces among old friends on a regular basis, with who we’re gonna drink and work.