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Thoughts: Design for Hackers (Book)

March 14, 2021

Design. An idea which I admit rather shamefully to not have paid any serious attention to (until now).

Design of a system happens before building not after.

This, it seems, is a general attitude towards design by builders and engineers or people who work on the guts or so called backend of a system as was coyly pointed out by the author himself.

Unfortunately, it is true. Design is something I have always thought of as an after thought in my projects at least uptil now. But no more!

The more I dwelled into David Kadavy’s excellent book on Design, I began to appreciate design at a much, much deeper level. This book is exactly what it says on the tin and I like it for how it tries to make a seemingly abstract idea like design accessible in a concrete manner to a “hacker” (ie one who is functionality minded) by employing lots of examples.

Kadavy took care to pick out real world good design examples and explain what makes them good. He points out the underlying design principles that generally governs the interface of a design. Seriously though, how on Earth would I have expected to understand why Manet’s “Luncheon on the Garden” was the beginning of Impressionism or what makes Seurat’s “A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte” a captivating painting?!

The Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet

The Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte by George Seurat

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte by George Seurat

How did I get hold of this book?

Ok, this is another one of my web rabbit hole expedition. I was reading ESR’s jargon files where he references a blog by an anon CS student for Linux newbies. Did I need any restraint? Off I went through most of her posts (which were fun and properly written) and found this book in one of her currently readings from perhaps 2016(!). She isn’t active as of today. Last post is dated ~2018. 🤷‍♂️ I enjoyed her writings to be honest.

Design is not definitive

Of course, these principles are not set in stone as the subject it deals with is inherently a creative discipline. However, the ideas presented are a general guide for the uninitiated and they seem to be present in almost all good designs so I conclude they must be good heuristics. For eg: the idea of dominance, or direction, composition etc.

The point is design is not something one gains by reading a book. It is not a place where you can reach and exclaim to others “I have arrived!”

You can read a book summary I prepared for more or better yet read the book (which I highly recommend) if you tinker with stuff.

What next?

I would love to go to art exhibitions and develop a taste for art as I can now appreciate the ideas latent therein with more fervour.

Basil | @itbwtsh

Tech, Science, Design, Economics, Finance, and Books.
Basil blogs about complex topics in simple words.
This blog is his passion project.