Skip to main content
Books On Engineering

Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty

Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty

Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty
By David Kadavy

List Price: $39.99
Price: $23.14 Details

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Ships from and sold by

77 new or used available from $5.00

Average customer review: logo
(107 customer reviews)

Book Description

The smash hit introductory design book that debuted at #18 on Amazon
Hackers are able to accomplish so much in so little time because they come from a community that's built upon sharing knowledge. When it comes to programming, they can learn whatever they need to learn by reading manuals, or simply typing in a Google search. But learning design isn't so simple.

Many design books try to teach design through lists of "do's" and "don'ts." But hackers know you need a deeper understanding of something to really do it well. Design for Hackers takes apart design by "reverse-engineering" Impressionist painting, Renaissance sculpture, the Mac OS X Aqua interface, Twitter's web interface, and much more. You'll learn about color theory, typography, proportions, and design principles. This theoretical advice is mixed with concrete, actionable advice such as suggestions for color scheme tools, and a chart of "all of the fonts you'll ever need" (available along with the free design course at

By the end of the book, you'll be seeing design through new eyes.

Book Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #322169 in Books
  • Brand: David Kadavy
  • Published on: 2011-08-29
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 9.13" h x .71" w x 7.32" l, 1.95 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 352 pages


  • Design for Hackers Reverse Engineering Beauty

Editorial Reviews

"David Kadavy is the Malcom Gladwell of web design"
-Noah Kagan, Founder,

"Kadavy's book does an excellent job of linking the theoretical to the practical in a very readable format."
-Brad Feld, Co-Founder, TechStars

"clear yet engaging and comprehensive"
-Vitaly Friedman, Smashing Magazine

"those coding [our world's] software and user interfaces and threading the web should all learn what this book has to teach"
-Gareth Branwyn, MAKE Magazine

From the Back Cover
"If you want to learn to create great design yourself...there simply is no way to do so with lists of rules. Instead, I want to provide you with a new set of eyes through which you can see the world anew." -David Kadavy

Why did Monet never use the color black on his paintings?
Why is the golden ratio not all it's cracked up to be?
Why is Comic Sans such a hated font?

It's amazing what you can learn about great web design by asking questions like these. Award-winning designer David Kadavy uses this "reverse-engineering" process in Design for Hackers to deconstruct classical design principles and techniques for web designers. Using an eclectic array of reverse-engineered examples, ranging from Twitter's latest redesign, to Target's red shopping carts, and ancient graffiti from the walls of Pompeii, he explains:

  • Color Theory: How can you enliven your designs by understanding how colors interact?
  • Proportion and Geometry: How can you establish a grid that is suitable for the device on which your design with be displayed?
  • Size and Scale: How can you create clean design just by choosing the right type sizes?
  • White Space: How can you use it elegantly to communicate clearly?
  • Composition and Design Principles: How can you use them to make your designs more compelling?
  • Typographic Etiquette: What tiny typographic details can make a huge difference in what you're communicating?

About the Author
David Kadavy is president of Kadavy, Inc., a user interface design consultancy with clients including oDesk, PBworks, and UserVoice, and mentor at the 500 Startups seed fund. Previously, David led the design departments of two Silicon Valley startups and an architecture firm, taught a college course in typography, and studied ancient typography in Rome while earning his BFA in graphic design. David's design work has been featured in Communication Arts magazine, and he has spoken at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference. David has written for, blogs about design and entrepreneurship at his blog,, and tweets at the handle @kadavy. More than 30,000 people have taken his free design course at

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful.
5Useful foundation for design
By J Bambauer
I'm always looking to expand my knowledge within the UI/UX perspective of the web (and I guess even beyond the web really) and I like to know not just what works and what doesn't but why. Why does someone choose a particular layout, why does everyone seem to use that font, etc. Design for Hackers does a nice job of laying out foundational concepts and gives good insight into what makes one option better over another.

This isn't a guidebook to tell you how to design awesome stuff (not sure that could ever really exist), instead it guides you on how to make better decisions. Why should you use X font instead of Y font? Why is iconography important? It is an easy to read book that is worthwhile. It has some heft to it, but I found I was blasting through chapters very quickly -- so it seems well balanced. I feel like it was a smart purchase.

If you are a total beginner looking for a book to tell you how to get a super slick site that will be revered by all, well good luck finding that book. But if you want to learn, pick it up. It isn't that expensive and you'll have a better understanding of design.

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful.
5Fantastic Resource for Design Newbies
By Michael Salvato
Kadavy does a fantastic job taking the complete design beginner through the important parts of design. From a hacker's point of view, this book is brilliant, and exactly what I needed.

Having designed several web sites and applications before without any form of design training or knowledge, I always felt like my designs were grossly lacking in a lot of ways. Designs seemed to always be based off of my gut feeling, and the opinions of other non-designers. While a gut check was good, my designs still sorely lacked.

After reading this book, I feel as though Kadavy makes it clear how I can approach my designs with a different perspective. His chapters on typography, proportion and color are fantastic examples of this. I no longer feel like I will be stabbing in the dark to find that perfect color, but now have some tools in my arsenal to get good jobs done quickly.

When I need the heady parts of design done and refined, I will still probably need to hire a designer, BUT with this book, as a hacker, It has set me off in the right direction to either leave my knowledge as is, and put out really good designs, or pursue a greater understanding of design but with a solid foundation.

As a hacker, my time is money, and every day fiddling around with something is another day lost in terms of making great applications. This book will reduce my time fiddling with design, and increase my time focusing on my apps' functionality.

That said, it isn't a perfect text (though still gets 5 stars in my opinion). There is a very fine line between a lot of information and too much information. Kadavy walks this line VERY well in this book, but at some points I felt as though it was a little too much info that was not giving me any more practical information. Also, it seemed like every figure in the book was a page ahead of where it was being referenced, so I was constantly flipping back and forth.

With that said, these negatives are extremely small compared to how much practical information I pulled from the text. The book is excellently written and designed.

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful.
5Really Useful
By peakcyber
I'm a developer who has been looking to improve my design skills. I've tried picking up design from tutorials and articles online, but it's hard to know if an article is credible, and it's difficult to combine all those small pieces of knowledge into a coherent understanding of design.

Enter Design for Hackers. It has the right mix of concrete examples and theory.

The book is an easy read. It has nine chapters and two appendix sections. I casually read a chapter or two a day over a week. It has lots of examples and images to illustrate the design concepts.

The book includes many actionable resources: It has links to online color scheme tools. It also has a chart with a useful fonts and suggestions for pairing them up.

So, if you want to get better at design, get the book. It will be worth your time to read. Even if you don't get around to reading it, the chart of fonts and their pairings make it really useful.

See all 107 customer reviews...
We strive to provide excellent resources for our site visitors.
We make available for information whatever we consider to be a good source of information to Engineering students and practitioners.
If you have any complaint about any of our partners products, please let us know by writing a review at Amazon Product Reviews, so that we may remove it from our store