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Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty
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Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  814 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Discover the techniques behind beautiful design by deconstructing designs to understand them. The term 'hacker' has been redefined to consist of anyone who has an insatiable curiosity as to how things work--and how they can try to make them better. This book is aimed at hackers of all skill levels and explains the classical principles and techniques behind beautiful design ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 29th 2011 by Wiley (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  814 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
This was an excellent introduction to design for the uninitiated! I would be comfortable substituting this book for Robin Williams' "Non-Designer's Design Book" in an introductory design course. Kadavy goes in depth on topics such as typography and color theory and is able to make sense to newbies while doing so. I will be recommending this book to quite a few people!
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you already understand topics like color theory or composition, this isn't going to teach you much. But if you have no art/design background, this is a terrific introduction. Recommended for anyone who wants to demystify design + all engineers.
Nov 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ux
A book on reverse engineering beauty might most practically be read in reverse. This is one of few books where reading the last chapter first will not ruin the story, but in fact set the stage and fuel the necessary curiosity.

There are at least four books in here. Two on history [art and typography], one on graphic design in regards to the page, and another on color and aesthetics.

This book does its greatest service with its title. It calls for developers to learn the modicum of design theory,
Michael Staten
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
An introductory visual design textbook for those of us that haven't gone to design school. I now know enough about color theory, typography, and proportions to be dangerous to myself and anyone who wanders into my general vicinity.

I especially appreciate the appendix material on font pairing and the study of Monet to introduce color theory.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
It was pretty interesting, with a mix of history, theory and practical advice. I'm eager to try some of his guidelines and advice.

My main criticism would be that his history of typography was too long. Perhaps I've already over-educated myself on the subject, but this book's coverage of it bored me.
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Will be referring back to this forever. Helped me find a language and actual rules for things I see but don't know how to describe or recreate. Definitely recommended for every programmer type that wonders why the stuff they make is kinda ugly.
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a very well-done book that introduces a lot of different aspects of design. I had no design experience and I was able to learn a lot about so many different aspects of what goes into website/graphics design. Also, there is a fantastic use of examples :)
Adnan Ali
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent introductory work to design from a re-engineering perspective. The theories are accompanied by various examples that demonstrate them in action.
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design
Great first half. I didn't even know I'd be interested in fonts, but it seemed like the end section (color) was rushed. Unfortunately, that was the part I was most looking forward to learning.
Su  Myint Myat Moe
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Informative and interesting read. A great intro of design to developers and new designers.
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's really hard to find books on design theory in a context that's relevant to non-designers. I have designed many things over the years for screens with a little success. I was able to reflect on my past design choices and struggles in a way that either a professional designer or someone who's never designed anything wouldn't be able to do. A professional designer has heard everything in this book already, and someone with zero experience is unable to contextualize the teachings and tid-bits g ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: design
This book provides a crash course in art theory, covering concepts such as proportion, composition, and color all in the context of web design. Great for those who tend to be mystified by their creatively talented peers. A bit of a humdrum refresher for anyone who has studied a few lessons in art and design.

The most interesting and informative parts of the book seem to be topics that are more within Kadavy's expertise: typography. This is just about the only topic where you are given a brief yet
Ondrej Sykora
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
A nice book covering the basic principles of design, with special focus on typography, composition and color theory. Overall, I'd say the book is a good introduction and a quite nicely designed one too, but with all the hype, I've expected more.

I have three main reservation. First, I could use more practical examples and explanations of the design decision. Second, some examples of different approaches to design change more parameters in one step so it is difficult to compare the effects of indi
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
When you are designing self taught for a few years, a lot of the stuff (a quarter to maybe a half) mentioned in the book will seem trivial to you. So this is more like an absolute beginners book. The rest is really useful! I also liked the typeface related history parts.

Why I have subtracted two stars:

- 0.5 stars for the above mentioned.
- 1.5 stars because Kadavy is repeating himself quite often. You read a sentence and two sentences later there is basically the same sentence again. This is ann
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: geek, graphic-design
Critics have been mentioning that everything in this book is presented elsewhere, and as such, this isn't necessarily an original or "necessary" book.

I'd contend that what this book does--and does well--is to visit different sources of design, and compile those into a thoroughly readable and comprehensive reference book. While you won't receive in-depth treatment of any one subject, as a whole the book presents some of the most important concepts from several major facets of design, including ty
Benjamin Kasavan
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in learning about design.
I am a teen who had basically no knowledge on design (Tending towards Comic Sans), who was interested in building a website, and decided to read the book.
After readin git, I changed many things about the layout of my site, and got all those kinks I couldn't tell why it looked badly, out.

It is an excellent overview for people interested in a working knowledge of design, with little theory.
Furthermore, it is an easy read
Jose Manuel
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Author sets the basics on design for structured minds. As a professional software developer, I need a bit of design skills for my job.

The book focuses on three main topics: composition / color / fonts. Since composition is easier to undersand for developers by the use of maths, color and fonts have been my main interest.

Fonts chapters are a bit wider than expected, but interesting.

You can feel a strong influence from Apple and Jobs, but not disturbing.

Recomended for IT Professionals willing to
James (Xiong Chiamiov) Pearson
An excellent book for its titular audience.

Many reviewers have commented that a particular section felt too long, although they don't seem to be consistent in these findings. For me, it was the middle section on shapes; it just seemed to repeat itself, and draw lines to support conclusions. After getting through this, though, I returned to being pleasantly educated.

Of particular note is that most principles are accompanied by examples, and when those examples are websites, they're reproduced in
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference, design
This was a great book. If you're the type of person who wants to understand the WHY behind design choices, this is for you. For example, Kadavy discusses the history of fonts - how greek/roman scribes made what they wrote legible, how that evolved for the printed page, and now why some fonts are most readable on a screen. He also discusses color and what makes a design both beautiful and useful - and puts it all into context for modern designers. Instead of a how-to list of good design ideas, th ...more
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book for anyone interested in how visual design works. Although the title says it's "...for Hackers", you don't have to be a computers major to read it. Kadavy does a great job explaining the inner workings of design in an easy to understand fashion, paving the way for additional reading and serving as a foundation to gain more knowledge in this very interesting world of visual design.

Recommended for anyone into web design and development, or anyone even remotely interested in graphic/vi
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Overall, mediocre. Some examples were insufficient. For instance, the examples with n's in different fonts. I can stare are those three, and hardly see any differences between them. I needed a few dozen more examples, maybe with a grid overlaid on top, just to learn to see differences. Much of this book felt dated. Screenshots were years old and css properties were current at least four or five years ago. Surprisingly, there was very little in this book about mobile considerations, and almost no ...more
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf-design
This for me was a very quick read with a lot of things I already knew but some very special things I didn't know. I was familiar going in with Kadavy's work and thoughts and his online course that matched this, but his sections on typography were pure bliss for me and my favorite portions. The color portion was also good for me in showing examples of what he was discussing, which is what I had been missing previously, and coming up with a grid.
I didn't finish all the appendixes in this, but read most of it. There were several things that I already knew or had picked up along the way, but there were also few things that helped me understand how a designer approaches a problem. I read this with my eyes (actually via the O'Reilly Safari bookshelf that work gives us). I don't think it exists as an audiobook and anyway obviously has lots of graphics that are important to the book.
Robbie Abed
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read. I've had it on my bookshelf for a long time and just got around to reading it. Long read, but you can jump around.

It's definitely a book you would refer to when you're in the middle of the design process. Not sure if there is a kindle version, but this book is probably more suited for print. Highly recommend.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I picked this up on a whim. I found the thinking muddled & the old-memes tone grating. There are better books with fewer words that teach you to look at things - Picture This by Molly Bang comes to mind.

It's good to recognize historical and technical influence on design but I found the treatment here surprisingly flat.
Shelley Cooper-White
May 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Was okay. Super wordy; tonnes of long, complex sentences dedicated to describing diagrams when actually they could've just... improved the diagrams. Also very typography heavy, and a bit vibe-y (like, *this is a true fact* when actually it's just something he feels to be true).
Useful but not stellar. Could've used a hard edit.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This wasn't as good as I hoped, but I think a lot of that was because my aesthetic sense is completely non-existent. He gave very clear examples of what looked good and what looked bad, and I couldn't even guess which was which. I'll stick to coding.
Andy Seroff
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Seems a bit TOO simplistic at times. Like all the first day lectures of a variety of design classes, strung together. More of a fun read (visuals galore) than practical.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Design for students!
Hackers use bootstrap from twitter
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english, computers
Very interesting book, explaining design to non-designers. I learned a lot.
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David Kadavy (@kadavy) is a bestselling author, blogger, podcaster, and speaker. Through his blogging at and his podcast, Love Your Work, he helps people find satisfaction through following their crafts, even if it takes them down unconventional paths. David's writing has appeared in Quartz, Observer,, The Huffington Post, McSweeny’s Internet Tendency, and Upworthy. He has spoke ...more

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