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Non-Designer's Design Book, The

Robin Williams · 7 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
For nearly 20 years, designers and non-designers alike have been introduced to the fundamental principles of great design by author Robin Williams. Through her straightforward and light-hearted style, Robin has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to make their designs look professional using four surprisingly simple principles. Now in its fourth edition, The Non-Designer’s Design Book offers even more practical design advice, including a new chapter on the fundamentals of typography, more quizzes and exercises to train your Designer Eye, updated projects for you to try, and new visual and typographic examples to inspire your creativity. Whether you’re a Mac user or a Windows user, a type novice, or an aspiring graphic designer, you will find the instruction and inspiration to approach any design project with confidence. This essential guide to design will teach you The four principles of design that underlie  every design project How to design with color How to design with type How to combine typefaces for maximum effect How to see and think like a professional designer Specific tips on designing newsletters, brochures, flyers, and other projects
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
I would suggest The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams. I have the third edition, it’s great.

Thanks for the suggestion!
Would recommend "Non Designers Design Book" for engineers interested in a survey of design.

Proximity, alignment, repitition, and contrast are four basic principles that get you pretty far.

I can second this recommendation. It was recommended to me years ago by an experienced app developer. Don’t be turned off by its use of print examples—most of the general ideas can just as well apply to the digital.
The first step should be this book because it so very clearly explains and show-cases the 4 fundamental principles of basic design in a way that is very easy for others to understand: proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast.

"The Non-Designer's Design Book" by Robin Williams.

Dec 15, 2019 · needle0 on Layout 101
The Non-Designer's Design Book is also recommended:
I really like this book. CRAP principles are very clear and easy to follow.
I think the most important thing is that you are motivated to create a web-app in the first place — this should give you mental leverage to learn how to do UI / UX properly, if you have the time to go down that route.

As someone who started off as a non-designer programmer, I taught myself UI/UX just by practising a lot. The two ways (that in hindsight were the most invaluable) I improved were to:

• Read highly-praised books on design fundamentals... These two literally changed the way I make / look at everything that is graphic design related: 1. The Non-Designers Design Book [1]; 2. Know Your Onions [2]. The third I can recommend is all about making websites / UX and covers everything you need to think about when you're working on a web project: 3. Don't Make Me Think (Revisited) [3]. All three are very well-reviewed and have changed people's lives.

• Copy everything you like the look of. What are your favourite web apps / pages / interfaces? What makes them tick? Try and copy sections that you like to give you a feel for how things should be laid-out. Most crucially, use a vector graphics program (I cannot recommend Affinity Designer enough, not least because it is insanely cheap for what it is), and copy as many icons / vector images as you can. Learn the fundamentals of bezier curves and how almost every piece of graphic artwork is made up of different combinations / layerings of shapes... Forget about fancy effects (e.g. shadows, gradients) at first, and just copy the shapes themselves. This was my biggest revelation and improved my UI ability to that of a professional standard. Once you realise that a fancy padlock icon [4] is just a rounded rectangle with a circle and triangle in it merged together, you'll start being able to recreate neat icons really easily.

If you don't enjoy doing any of the above, then hire a professional designer :) There really are no other 'ways of dealing with it' than doing it yourself or using a service. But trust me, it is well within reach to get yourself to a decent level in just a few months.

[1] - [2] - [3] - [4] -

IMO, a book every developer should read is "The Non-Designers Design Book" by Robin Williams (no, not that Robin Williams).

It's short and to the point, so it won't take long to read, yet it covers all the basics of design to just the right level for the average developer.

"Design for Hackers" by David Kadavy is also quite popular, but IMO it just takes longer to say the same things.

Amazon links for the lazy:

Edit: Since several of the latest comments seem to be saying similar things about programmers not "getting" design, I think one thing that may come as a bit of a revelation is that design starts with a hierarchy of information and there are certain rules for how that information should be presented. There is an artistic aspect to compelling design, but when it comes to things like wireframes and UX modelling, your average programmer probably has more design skills than they realise.

I'd tend to agree with this assessment. I've never been a designer, from scratch...but once I have a design to work within I don't have any issues with making UI/UX decisions that keep things smooth for people.

This is probably one of the reasons that Twitter Bootstrap has done so well for people like me.

You ask me to worry about visual recognition, spacing, minimizing number of steps, 80% interfaces, etc and I'll have no issues.

You ask me to come up with a color scheme, tones, gradients, proper fonts, line spacing, negative space, etc and I'll curl up in the fetal position.

I'm enjoying The Non-Designer's Design Book - (, as a guy who spends hours trying to figure out why my layouts look like crap, this book has really helped me get to grips with the basics. Which is tbh, where you need to start. After that, just keep reading, designing and failing. Dealing with the inevitable frustration is key (see educational mithridatism). Learning how to use a good design tool also helps a lot. I'm playing with Sketch which is pretty awesome.

I guess in the end, there is no real linear path to learning design. You just sort of have to bumble along until you find your stride.

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