- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 29, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1119998956
- ISBN-13: 978-1119998952
- Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty 1st Edition
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"David Kadavy is the Malcom Gladwell of web design"
-Noah Kagan, Founder, AppSumo.com
"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?
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Top Customer Reviews
I thought I'd get a really good introduction to design concepts, accompanied by really solid, cohesive examples of either how to use this in a design or examples of the concept in action and why it's a good use of it. What I got instead was a scattershot of sort of interesting concepts, a few examples, and a bunch of other random stuff. Maybe I'm more persnickety about books than the other reviewers, but if we're reading the same book, we must have totally different definitions of a good teaching book.
Most of the information in there just struck me as weird and disjointed. I won't cover all the my issues with the book (some of them are just simply pedantic...), but I'll share a few examples. There's a (by page count) huge amount of space spent on Roman/Greek typography (something the author spent a lot of time researching in school as we're told in his back cover bio, inside bio, introduction, first chapter, and a few other times), but a tiny bit of information on selecting fonts for designs, type proportion, and so on. There's also a long rant on why Comic Sans is a bad font (even going so far as presenting a number of really technical arguments as to why it sucks), but completely neglects the most important point about font choice which is context. He bizarrely somewhat indicts the font being used on things like a teacher's party invitation, which seems like a perfect application of a whimsical font like that. Yes, it sucks for body text because of its design and proportions, but he doesn't say that. What he says instead is about 4 pages of technical design jargon that my programmer friends are going to gloss over. He totally missed his audience.
Then there's a whole 10 or so page section on search engine optimization. I get that it's also part of design considerations when working on the web, but in a book that's supposed to cover background design concepts to shore up a programmer's understanding of design fundamentals, it seems like a weird choice to spend 2% of the book's mass on. Plus, 10 pages is rather poor coverage of a pretty sticky topic.
The last one I'll point is the chapter on color. It does have a good bit more useful information in it than others (especially with regards to color math; really useful when working in HTML), but it also has a lot of page-filling fluff. He spends a ton of pages showing the various types of color schemes (tetradic, triadic, analogous, etc.), but he puts one per page with no context. Basically it's just "Here's the way it works, OK moving on."
And that's basically my big issue with this book. He points to a lot of interesting stuff, but doesn't tie very much of it back to actually doing things with it. He rarely even points to where this stuff is useful past a passing mention or a hastily introduced bullet point list.
I don't really blame the author for my issues with this book. Of course, he's not blameless, but I think all the information it's lacking is in his brain. He obviously knows a lot about design and is *almost* there with relaying it really well to developers. I fault his development editor for doing a terrible job of asking the right questions and getting the right answers when he was reading the drafts of the book. A good editor would have caught the audience issues and constantly been asking "How does this chapter make our readers more awesome at design as programmers?" Instead, it seems they were taking a nap or something.
Again, I was really excited and maybe that skewed my expectations. I'm just pretty disappointed with it.
I wasn't expecting a step-by-step recipe book - this is not a "Teach Yourself Web Design in 24 Hours" book. Design is a creative process after all and super-subjective. However, it is tremendously helpful, IMHO, to have some guidance, and this book does a stellar job of presenting a solid explanation of why it is that some things just look right while others don't quite work.
Though I enjoyed parts of each chapter, I found the following sections particularly valuable:
* The discussion of proportion, the golden ratio, and the case study involving the MailChimp logo breakdown (Chapter 5).
* The demonstration of how effectively one can establish visual hierarchy, even while using only a single font, by varying
type size and weight, and using white space strategically (Chapter 7).
* The entire color science chapter (Chapter 8), but most notably the tips for how to mentally navigate the hexadecimal
cube to rapidly fine-tune colors.
* The suggestion to limit the number of fonts you use to only two and, further, restricting them to those shown in the
provided chart (which also shows which pairs well with what, both for print and the web) (Appendix A).
Bottom line, if every developer read this book, the web would be a lot more aesthetically pleasing (and usable, too, for that matter).
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Had very good snippets of content throughout
Content was scattered, needs more structure
Most topics not covered in comprehensive manner,...Read more