Speaker spotlight: Una Kravets on the power of CSS


You’re incredibly prolific. You speak at a lot of conferences, co-host a podcast, write articles… how do you make and reach goals?
Ahh, thank you so much, Oliver. I am productive only because of todo lists. Honestly! I used to have a GitHub-based repository of my personal goals, and now I keep a bullet journal. I’m pretty religious about my todo lists (every Sunday/Monday I review and update) because I'm pretty useless without one. :P 

One of the topics you currently speak about is how visuals, doodling and technical diagramming can make you a more effective developer and community member (see Una's dev doodles on Instagram). What are some of the benefits?
There are so many! Doodling helps you to think through concepts, helps you understand and remember them better, and helps you share your thoughts with others. Nobody wants to read paragraphs of text. If you can distill that down into a diagram (and use teach techniques like mnemonic devices), it is much more likely to help others understand across language barriers and also help them to remember.

What’s the number one reason that design systems fail?
Support is a big one. If a product isn’t supported by the company, it’s being set up to fail. One example of this is the company that temporarily puts a team together to build a design system: they work on it for three months, “finish” the system, and stop. That was great, but if they don’t keep it up, then it will quickly fall out of date and get crufty, creating more and more problems. Working on a design system incrementally and continually is important to its success.

Una keeps a bullet journal for her todo lists

How did you get into the industry, and to where you are now?
I went to college for Interaction Design and Computer Science. I really started getting involved in the industry while I was a junior in college. I started attending a lot of meetups and learning from the local community and eventually started my own meetup groups (Sass meetups). That was huge in getting me to where I am now. Through the community I got to meet really smart passionate people who shared their experiences. I started speaking locally, and then that eventually grew to international conferences and working on a larger scale.

Have you got any advice for aspiring junior and intermediate developers?
Write a blog! Share your knowledge! Experiment! Seriously, writing and sharing is so good and important. It helps you reiterate and remember concepts, and helps you to start sharing your opinion in the developer community at large. You’re never too young to start.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received yourself?
We often are too afraid to ask for things. If you want to do something but think you won’t be allowed to, it’s already a “no”. So if it’s already a “no”, why not just ask? You’d be surprised!


What tools can’t you live without and why? 
My laptop is an obvious choice. :P I use Slack all of the time for work, and VS Code as my text editor. I also love my iPad and the Procreate app. I don’t know how I’d travel without the iPad these days.

What’s your favourite CSS trick or hack right now? 
I’ve been toying with ways to improve performance by taking advantage of CSS filters and blend modes. One really cool thing that's emerged from my experimentation is something I want to call the Contrast Swap Technique (just because naming things is fun). Basically, it involves reducing contrast in Photoshop to reduce image size (savings average around 25% without reducing size and retaining high quality) and then re-applying that contrast using CSS filters (the contrast and brightness filters). Stay tuned for an article out soon!

What can people expect to take away from your talk at Pixel Pioneers? 
I hope it inspires people to experiment more with CSS and also realise how powerful it is as a tool. There are a lot of capabilities people just aren’t aware of, and a lot of hacks out there. I’ll go over some of the UI hacks and make people aware of accessibility in the meantime.

Una will present alongside seven other great speakers at Pixel Pioneers Belfast. The topic of doodling and sketching will be picked up by Eva-Lotta Lamm in a talk about visual literacy and visual fluency as well as her workshop on sketching interfaces. There are still a few spaces available. Reserve your spot now and save 15% on a conference and workshop bundle with the discount code 'evalottchen'.