Learn How to Reverse-Engineer Beauty with David Kadavy’s Design for Hackers

Posted by Anant January 5, 2023

David Kadavy is the author of Design for Hackers: Reverse-Engineering Beauty. Prior to writing Design for Hackers, David founded the Design departments at two Silicon Valley startups, and freelanced for clients such as oDesk, PBworks, and UserVoice.


→ The design process

→ The principles of design

→ Design for startups

→ User adoption and design

→ Design for software development

→ The importance of design in creating a cohesive brand identity

→ The relationship between design and credibility

→ Using design to add value to a product or service

→ The influence of design on user experience and perception

→ And a whole lot more


Design for Hackers



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have David Cassidy with us. David, thanks for being on the show.

David: Hey, thanks a lot for having me, Bronson.

Bronson: Yeah, we’re really excited to have you here. Now, David, you’re a designer and an author that is trying to serve the startup community or more specifically, the hacker community. So tell us about your new book. What’s it called? What’s it about? Give us the inside scoop on it.

David: Well, my book is called Design for Hackers. I actually have a copy right here. I take notes in my own book.

Bronson: That’s how much you like it?

David: Yeah, it’s called Design for Hackers. The tagline Design for Hackers Reverse Engineering Beauty. And this is a book, as the name implies, that is to teach hackers about design. Now, it’s not so much like a quick Top ten tips to make great design. I don’t know if such a thing could actually exist, but as a reverse engineering beauty, part of it would imply it’s more of providing a framework to understand design. So I use examples like Impressionist painting and Renaissance sculpture and things like that to talk about design principles.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now, do you have a background in designing for startups? Because it seems like you would if you decide to write a book like this.

David: Yeah, sure. I mean, first of all, I got my degree in graphic design. I’ve been obsessed with design since I could hold a pencil. I was doing calligraphy when I was in like fourth grade and stuff. But then I worked for head departments of a couple of startups in in the Valley starting around 2005 or so, and then have then started doing freelance work for various startups around the Valley as well. Yeah, so.

Bronson: It seems like you’ve been involved with a few startups, so we’d probably recognize the name of what are a couple, the ones that you were with?

David: Well, I guess some of the clients that I’ve had that you would probably recognize the names of, I guess would be p, p, b wiki, which is now PBE works. And user voice. Yeah. Yeah.

Bronson: The one I remember reading about.

David: Yeah. Then one that I did a lot of work for was Odesk, not as a contractor on Odesk as I was working. Doing work for.

Bronson: Yeah. You are just another guy I know that’s trying to get a job.

David: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not always.

Bronson: Yeah. You’re helping odds. Yeah.

David: Absolutely. Yeah.

Bronson: Well, let me ask you kind of the most important question, I think, to begin the whole interview. Right, which is, do you believe that user adoption is related to good design? And what I mean is do better design products actually have a better chance in the marketplace? Because if the answer is no, then I don’t know why you’re on this program. So I don’t know. What do you think about that?

David: Well, I mean, I obviously I obviously I think that it makes a big difference. But, you know, it’s not necessarily just what I think this is. This is I think it’s been proven not just through anecdotes by, you know, and people use Apple as an example all the time. But but there was a study by a researcher at Stanford, V.J. Fogg. He’s he’s really well-known for his studying of persuasion and stuff. And he did this this study where he sat down people in front of websites and collected their comments on, you know, do you find this think that this is a credible website and a huge amount, 46% of all the comments people made were about the design. So they would say things about the fonts or it looks more professional, it just looks more credible or that it’s sloppy and it looks unprofessional. So that that’s in an objective example of of design being really influential. Yeah. All right. I think that it’s a great way that if you have a good design, just instantly. Add value in the mind of the user. I mean, this is a new program adds, I got to tell you like I’m a little biased but but you know, when you asked me to be on this program, I went to check out your website. I’m like, Oh, well, the design looks pretty good, so they must know what they’re doing.

Bronson: Yeah, well, also as a personal compliment, since I’m the designer with everything here, so.

David: Oh, great.

Bronson: I have the guy writing a book of design saying my designs aren’t too bad. That’s a good thing.

David: Yeah, it was. It was good enough to get me to sit down and chat while.

Bronson: Exactly. And maybe after the review is over, I can have you critique it a little more time.

David: Yeah, okay.

Bronson: Because I know you do design critiques for startups as well.

David: Yeah, they do.

Bronson: So it was interesting that that study with Fogg, he asked him about credibility. He didn’t say, What do you think about the design? He says, Do you think it’s credible? And they answered with design. So that’s how we know that the link is in their mind, not in leading the witness kind of thing.

David: Yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean it’s an academic study, peer reviewed and everything. And I was just actually just reviewing that study a little bit earlier today for something else that I was I was working on. And they were actually if you if you read the paper, they actually were sort of surprised that wasn’t what they expected. Yeah. For the commons to be like that. And additionally I think another I don’t think these these are mutually exclusive but like another 25% or so of the comments were about organization, visual organization, information architecture.

Bronson: Stuff which, which could be under design. I mean, it’s, it’s just super important as well. Depending on how you define design, it could be a part of it.

David: They’re yeah, it’s a huge amount.

Bronson: Absolutely. Well, I mean, if design is a part of the growth equation and if if if design leads to credibility, then I think it is a part of the growth equation. I think better design products have a better chance to grow because people see them as credible. Then it’s going to be really important that our audience understand how to hack design in order to aid their growth. And that’s really why I have you here. Right. I want to give us kind of, you know, the the the quick kind of snapshot. Here’s the basics. Obviously, you need to go buy your book. They need to read it. They really need to have the framework because like you said, there is no here’s the top ten. But I try to distill your book down into some questions for you to really help our community out here. So let’s start really broad, right? What are your thoughts on design trends? You know, for instance, you know, this was more popular a couple of years ago, but we talk about the Web 2.0 style, you know, and things like that. Is it good if we jump into a design trend that’s popular or do you think startups should just do their own thing, do what seems right to them, chart their own path and ignore convention? What do you think the best way to grow a startup is from a design point of view?

David: Yeah. So I’m going to give you the the sort of ideal world scenario, of course, where we’re all building start ups and bootstrapping resources are going to be tight in times. But in a perfect scenario, you’re going to really think about your problems and that you’re that you’re trying to solve and approach the design from that standpoint. So you gotta be careful with with trends. I think, you know, Web 2.0 is one that you mentioned right now there’s this big flat design trend going on, which is basically saying, oh, buttons shouldn’t look like buttons, they should be flat color. And that’s a reaction sort of two to what Web two point out. But if you think of it and a part of what flat design depends upon is that your user doesn’t need that much affordances, right? They don’t need to know that this is a button. So it doesn’t have to look like a button. Right now, if you’re designing an app that is going to be used by or is predominantly for, say, seniors or like you can’t just put a square there and expect them to know that that’s a button. You’re going to have to think a lot about your users. So yeah, I definitely think that that in an ideal scenario, you’re not going to approach it from the standpoint of design trends. You’re going to think about the technology and the audience and and go from there.

Bronson: Yeah. And then if your audience and the technology leads you to a certain trend, then you’re not necessarily against it. It’s just that you need to start with who’s the audience, was the technology or the platforms, and then you start from there and you see where it takes you.

David: Exactly. I mean, that’s where trends come from. Trends come from technology, and they come from a real place like they come from, oh, you know, with Web 2.0, it was like, oh, wow, we can we have the bandwidth now. We’ve got the colors in the screens to do this. And it was inspired by, by the Mac OS X Aqua interface and stuff, which was just like that was bleeding edge technology at the time and that’s where the trend comes from. But then when people start copying the visual look of something rather than where it really comes from, that’s where there starts to be some increase in congruency in the. Design. And that’s it isn’t always a good thing.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a great point even about growth, because if you just imitate or copy a design because it helps them grow, but you have a different audience with their goals. Now you have a similar looking design and yet you’re not growing. They are because you ripped something off instead of understanding at a deep level. Do you think that’s fair enough?

David: Yeah, I think totally. I mean, just imagine imagine if you if you wanted to hire a lawyer, a lawyer, and you went to their website and it just had white glossy, you know, glossy reflections and and and and glossy buttons and stuff to it. It’s got to be appropriate for the audience just to reference that that fog study again to, you know, just because your design looks good, you know, it has to be appropriate for what it is. There were there are also people who had negative comments for this looks like a marketing team built this you know this.

Bronson: Doesn’t too slick or something it.

David: Was too slick for whatever whatever the whatever the site was really about or whatever the audience was.

Bronson: Yeah. Now I think that’s a great insight because, you know, on this program we’re trying to help people grow and designs a piece of that. And so I think that’s why your book is important, because it gives you a framework for understanding design, not a, hey, let’s go rip off everything that’s beautiful because that may not help you grow. Yeah. Now, let me get to a presentation you gave at South by Southwest. I think I have the stat right. I might have misquoted you here. I’m not half percent sure, but you talked about the importance of typography and you said it was something like 70 or 80% of web design. Is typography, is that right?

David: Well, I mean, first of all, made up made up stuff.

Bronson: Of course. Yeah. I’m not holding you to it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

David: So whether you got it wrong or not, is it necessarily as important as the fact that typography is really important? This is, you know, that information is the lifeblood, lifeblood of the web. And the way we convey information is through typography. So, yeah, it’s a it’s a it’s a huge part.

Bronson: Yeah. So so help us start watching this. What should they know about typography? It seems like you’re kind of obsessed with typography. As I look at the book, it has almost an inordinate amount of space because it’s like you just know a lot about it, you care about it a lot. And your plantation’s, I mean, you’re talking about look what the passenger does and look what makes you feel good. You know, all this stuff. Yeah. So you seem to be the person to go to on typography. Tell us what we need to know about it.

David: Yeah, definitely guilty as charged. I’ve been obsessed with typography for a long time and then that. And that’s that’s because of the things I’ve said that, you know, it’s such an important part of how we convey information and the technology behind it. And it’s such a fascinating thing. Behind design is typography. Now, as far as what startups should know about typography is, is, you know, if you’re looking to, to, to make good design quickly and to make good use of your time, it almost helps you to know in some ways a little bit less about typography. I think the mistake that I see happen a lot of times as people get font anxiety, they yeah, they’re there’s so many fans out there. There’s thousands and thousands of fans out there. Doesn’t help that the Google Font Library has over 600 typefaces on it now. Yeah. And you know, the majority of typefaces, the majority of plans that are out there are, are, are not very good.

Bronson: Yeah. You can say.

David: You know, you don’t need, you don’t need all of them. So I think that that kind of identifying a few good go to typefaces and worrying about other things because it’s the other things, the things you can’t see in design that really make the difference, that really make people say, oh, this looks clean, this looks credible. It’s that things like spacing and sizing and whitespace and alignment, those are the things that you can spend much more time worrying about than than say what font you have. And just if people are looking for a resource on that. I actually have a PDF of like all the fonts you’ll ever need is what it’s called and it’s associated with that South by Southwest talk and people can get that at designer hackers dot com. Yeah and that’s in the book as well.

Bronson: I recommend them getting that and you only list like how many is like 20 fonts or something or how many?

David: It’s it’s fewer than that. And you know, people sometimes say that all the fonts you ever need thing are really literally the point of it is is like if you were to just use those fonts, you could still do really great work. Yeah, you would have plenty of other things to worry about. I mean, the early typography was had to carve out all these little letters just to make a fine and and now we can just pick from our list of thousands and and you can do great work with with simple choices is.

Bronson: It’s funny as a designer, you know, I have access to my fonts and, you know, thousands upon thousands. The fans and I find myself going back to the tried and true ones that just look great every time, you know, it’s hard for me to get away from did you know it’s hard to get away from is my go to font, you know.

David: Yes. Same, same way for me. I mean it’s the amount of great typography that’s coming out. It’s really staggering how much how many good typefaces really do come out. But there’s also a lot. Yeah, it just can get really confusing.

Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s great advice. In your book, you also have a section on composition and proportions. So I want you to walk us through those a little bit because I think that’s really helpful as I kind of the framework idea, again, what is composition and what is proportions and more so how do they affect the end user? Because that’s what really talk about here, growing the end user, adopting our products. However, portions and composition really play into that end user experience.

David: Yeah. So a composition I think like pretty much everything is a composition. So people who are looking at this screen, you know, it’s composed a certain way, like here I am over here, there’s some stuff in the background. If you’re watching a movie, every frame is composed a certain way. So like maybe a character is in the foreground and and that’s that’s what you’re supposed to see at that moment. And so what our composition does is help arrange things almost in levels of importance. And so if you were thinking about your site as a composition, as something that somebody can look at in a split second ads, and they’re going to see certain things before they see other things, that that is going to be very important to meeting your goals as a startup, meeting your marketing goals, because hopefully you have figured out when somebody visits your site or starts using your app, there’s something, some things that you want them to do more than you want them to do other things. Yeah. Ads And so understanding sort of the, the meta composition of something in relationship to your goals is, is, is really important for startups, I think.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now what is proportions? Where do we go with that?

David: Yeah. So proportional is just the proportional relationship between things. So like this book has a proportion to it, you know, it’s a certain width and then that is a certain it has a certain height and there’s a proportional relationship to those, to those things. And if you are, if you use proportions wisely, you can start to create like a more cohesive relationship between all the different things that are on your page, like whether you’re using font size or, you know, people use the grid a lot and that allows them to create proportions. Like maybe, maybe they have a main area that’s three columns and then a side area that’s one column. And being consistent with those proportions also helps create consistency and cohesiveness and it also makes it easier to make decisions.

Bronson: Yeah, yeah. In your book, I think you use the example of think vitamin is that the screenshot you have in the book at once. Yeah.

David: Yeah.

Bronson: Yeah. And I like that example because my go to it, the proportion and the composition is just so clear and obvious and almost comforting. It’s like I look at their blog post titles and the titles of the blog post are just huge. I mean, I don’t know what the high point is, but it’s just this title and then, you know, below it is smaller. So it’s like you get structure instantly, like, oh, these are the titles, this is what’s below it. And then on the right side you have these huge social media icons. So it’s like, you know, where their eyes want you to go. Look at our blog titles, look at our social media links like you can see they’re called actions and how they compose it, how they proportioned it and it feels right. Like when I go to a site that is not the proportions are all maybe I don’t know why, but I know they are like, I feel weird even if I can’t put my finger on it, you know what I mean?

David: Yeah. And that’s the thing is that all those things that you’re mentioning, the titles that are social media icons, those are just our little things that a lot of people, they just sort of look at them as details. But when you step back and look at the composition of everything, you know what is more important than that? Then the next thing, that’s where you start to understand if your if if if the design and layout that you have is likely to meet your your goals and stuff. And that’s a problem that a lot of people run into, is that they’re too concerned about the things that they can see, like the little details. Then then they are about all these, these alignment relationships and things like that.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. And yeah, sometimes finally I show designs to my wife just to get her opinion and she’ll feel awkward about something, even if she knows nothing about design. If I haven’t designed it well, you know, I don’t take her input. Like as a designer, as a fellow designer to give me input. I take it as a, Hey, you don’t know anything about design. How does this make you feel? You know, and I take you with that kind of, you know, filter in place, like knowing she may say some things that don’t matter, but there may be other things that I really need to listen to because as a whole, there’s a composition going on here that’s greater than, oh, I. You use that font because she doesn’t care about fonts. Yeah.

David: What’s the first thing you notice? I mean, sometimes that really surprises you. What? What? You hear somebody say that they notice.

Bronson: Yeah, it’s her eyes be drawn to something that’s like, well, that’s not my call to action. That’s not even on the radar called actions like that kind of sucks that her eyes are being drawn to that. I got to figure out something, you know?

David: Good thing you figure it out, right?

Bronson: Yeah, exactly. You know. No, that’s great. Great advice. Now, in your book, you also have a section called Design Principles. And I really like this just because if there are kind of any just quick takeaways, I feel like these are the ones like if there if there was in a nutshell, make sure you remember these. It feels like this is what they are. I want you to talk us through these a little bit, because you said that these are what make a composition really attractive, these kind of principles, these design principles. And they’re also simple to understand. That’s why I like them. I think they’re super important. They’re easy takeaways and they’re not super complicated to really get your head around. So I want to have you walk through each one of them for just a moment here. Let’s start with dominance. I think that’s the first one in the book. What is dominance in web design?

David: Pretty simple. You know, if if if one thing is like bigger, more visually dominant than another thing, then it’s going to be clear to you that you should be looking at that thing before the other thing. And that’s sort of creates some interest in a composition, but it also helps you meet your your your goals for what you’re doing. If you can get people people’s attention on the things that you want them to be paying attention to.

Bronson: Yeah. And that’s where sometimes you almost have to you have to think like a marketer. Sometimes I think like a designer sometimes. But it’s like someone put on the marketer hat, like make the thing bigger that you want them to pay attention to. As a designer, it seems like I’m always wanting to bring things more subdued. I want to get more to like where things don’t stand out as much. I’m trying to paint Mona Lisa instead of having a call to action, you know? And yeah, well.

David: Yeah, by all means, make the thing that you want people to pay attention to bigger. But when you make all the things bigger, yeah, then you’ve got a problem because then you have dominance anymore.

Bronson: Exactly. If you highlight every line in a book, you’ve highlighted nothing.

David: Exactly.

Bronson: So, you know, make something dominant, you know, and don’t be afraid to have a call to action because it’s people are drawn to them. They do click on the things you want to click on if you create it properly. So that’s kind of the first design principle. The next one is similarity. What does that mean? What is that.

David: Similarity? Is, is, is that as it sounds, again, when things are similar, that you’re going to that you’re going to connect them to each other. So you might have some icons that all belong to the same to the to the same application. And there might be some similarities in the way that things are expressed. Like maybe, maybe one thing is a telephone and another thing is, is a question mark or something. But something about the way that the lines express what the forms are helps connect them together. Yeah. And that can help create cohesiveness.

Bronson: Yeah. You know, one thing I see a lot sometimes online, I’ll be browsing around and I’ll see somebody use an illustration at one point and then they use a photo at another point and I’m just like, Oh, are you mixing photos and illustrations? It’s like the worst example of something being dissimilar, you know? That’s kind of the other end of the spectrum, right?

David: Country wise. I was just on I was I was making I was booking a flight on an airline the other day. And I went to their home page and was like, Oh, cool. They’ve like redesigned it. Like it looks so much better. So and then I started booking my flight and then I got into deeper into the site and I was like, Oh, it’s the same crappy site that it was before. It was like. So I was a little disappointed because of that.

Bronson: But yeah.

David: Go with the flight. Yeah.

Bronson: Yeah. No choice, right? Yeah. So we have dominants, we have similarity taught us about rhythm.

David: Rhythm. Yeah. Rhythm is a lot of these things are intertwined in a way. So rhythm is it sort of a repetition or similarity of things that. Can help draw someone’s eye throughout things. People talk a lot about trying to create vertical rhythm with with typography, with each line of type people. A lot of people are really into the vertical grid. So that’s rhythm that can be evenly spaced units of things, or it can just be that there’s some sort of similarity that helps draw someone’s someone’s eye throughout the composition or along to something.

Bronson: Yeah, you can almost say that all these other principles lead to rhythm when they’re done. Well, if you do everything else the way you need to, the rhythm is there. You’re just kind of on beat, moving through the site, right?

David: Yeah. Yeah. There’s so connected, you know? And I remember even being in design school and kind of learning about these different principles and being like, Oh, man, come on. Like, who made up this stuff? Where if you really take the time to, to, to practice and then observe them and get to know them, then it starts to make a lot of sense.

Bronson: Yeah. The next one, the fourth one is texture. Talk us about talk to us about texture for a second.

David: Yeah. So texture is in some ways can be intertwined with with rhythm in that if you have repeating elements that you’re you’re going to create sort of a texture. And it’s its texture can can by differences, it can create interest. When you think about even if you’re going to get up in the morning and have yogurt and granola with strawberries, you know, it’s like different textures. It’s a lot more interesting to eat that.

Bronson: Whatever you’re designing can be a lot like that. It can create interest. It can also you can also use texture to to create relationships that say, you know, this is this is different information from this. This is more important. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be like, oh, we made this look like paper or stone and we made this button glossy, which is it isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but it can also apply to typography. So every typeface, when you put it in a block of text, line after line after line, that creates a certain sort of texture to it. And so as you’re using bold typefaces or like that, those are creating different textures. And sort of if you step back and squint your eyes and look at how these different pieces of type.

David: Of those textures are expressed, then you can start to see more ways of, of of achieving that and those relationships between that information. This is more important than that is or this is just different than that is even similarly important.

Bronson: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Now, let me ask you about a direction or the fifth one here. What is direction in a Web design direction?

David: Again, exactly as it sounds, the idea of directing someone’s eye from one part of the composition site to another part, it could be that you have that dominant element that you really want them to see. But there’s some things that sort of support that. And so maybe you’re lining things up.

Bronson: Mm hmm.

David: Or, you know, sometimes people just go ahead and use an arrow, but there’s a lot of different ways you can do that. You can you can create direction.

Bronson: And then the last one is contrast. What is contrast?

David: That kind of to make designs. Putting and engaging. Yeah.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now, it seems like if a hacker was going to sit down and try to design something, if they just paid really close attention to these six, they might able to pull off a decent design. If they get something dominance, they had similar elements. They had a rhythm to their design. There was texture to it. Everything wasn’t blending together the same exact thing. There was a direction to the design, the information. There was contrast. So something stood out, others blended in, like it’d be hard to make it too bad.

David: Right? Yeah. The trick is, is the trick a lot of the time is really thinking about what it is that you want to say and what are your goal. Or anything over the other thing. And sometimes it’s not so much of a problem of of having the design skill as it is of having the clear vision of what it is that you want to say. I mean, a lot of times you work with somebody, which is a lot of times business problems within the company manifest themselves in in poor design. Because if you if you don’t know what you’re doing as a company, it makes it hard. It makes it impossible. Yeah. To make, to, to know what you’re doing with design.

Bronson: Or if you have different little groups within the company becoming warring factions, each wanting the website to represent their needs. All of a sudden you have a website that represents nobody needs you now.

David: I feel like you’ve even. You’ve somehow seen a section of my life. Yeah.

Bronson: No, it’s just. I’m also a designer. We all have the same sad story to tell. Now, let’s talk about color for a second. Color can be maybe one of the trickiest things. It’s still hard for me to this day to get the right colors. Is there any shortcuts? I know that’s not the right question to ask. I know that we’re supposed to say, although it’s there’s a high level theory here, don’t try to make a shortcut. But are there any shortcuts that we can kind of take away when it comes to selecting colors?

David: First of all, you’re absolutely right. Colors are I think if there. First something you got to quickly it would be think about. That goes well with. And sort of mixed that up with with levels of. Raise a little bit. Then then that can add dimension to it helps to learn about the different color schemes that are available at all. This is to watch out for color conventions. You know, if you’re if you’re using red, it’s sometimes if you’re using that the wrong context, it can make it like something is broken or there’s a warning or something like that. So, you know, some colors do have sort of conventional meanings in certain contexts. So that’s something to watch out for, too.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that. Now lastly, I got a few questions for you to kind of give back to the community here. And they’re less about your book and more about what you’ve seen in your life and what you can recommend to us. Now, you’re a mentor at 500 startups. Yeah, my guess is that you’re mentoring them on design decisions. Would that be accurate?

David: You know, that would that would be accurate. But like, as I said, a lot of the time, the conversation work is the conversation always starts with, you know, tell me about your company. Yeah. What are you trying to do? Um, and, and a lot of times the, sometimes the conversation doesn’t even get to design because there’s so much to be figured out before you can get that design right. But yeah. Yeah. And in the perfect scenario.

Bronson: That’s what you would be doing. Yeah, absolutely. Because design can only be right or wrong based on who they are and what they’re trying to do. Design can’t be right if you don’t know what they’re trying to do, because then you’re just judging based on what you esthetically think is pleasing, not what’s not effective or needed at all.

David: Yeah, you can’t just like slap. A pretty design on on a concept that doesn’t make any sense. Now some work that way.

Bronson: Absolutely. Well, let me ask you this. What design mistakes do you see startups making just kind of over and over? What are the things that you just want to like have written out on a cue cards, hand them like, look, I don’t feel like telling you this. I’ve already said it three times a day. Here’s the index card with notes on it, you know?

David: Yes. Yeah. I mean, there actually have you have you can create a presentation based on this that I get to give sometimes.

Bronson: I don’t know. Yeah.

David: Yeah. It’s called design pitfalls or whatever.

Bronson: Well, that asked the perfect question to you.

David: Yeah. So one is the thought anxiety that I talked about, worrying about all the fonts that are out there. Another big thing is competing elements. I think a lot of times people are putting too many different things on on their design and it’s not clear what is the number one thing I should be looking at right now.Mm hmm.

David: Beyond that, what is the next thing I should actually be looking at? And those are all that should all be articulating your business goals or goals for the user at that moment. Yeah. And that is. That is definitely. Yeah. That’s that’s one of the big ones right there is.

Bronson: Yeah.

David: Look at that composition and and say does this clearly meet our objectives.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Having designed that, like I said before, is, is borne out of the goals, not designed for design sake. Right. I think that’s a great thing that startups have kind of brought to the design community is it has to be eminently functional. Like there’s just not there is no picture, there is no like, here’s a photograph. Don’t you like it? It’s like, no, like our design. It has to actually do something all day long, a million times a day. And so it just brings in all these new ways of looking at it, thinking about it, that maybe have been there before, but they haven’t been the forefront like they are now.

David: Yeah. Yeah. You know, baroque ornamentation of leaves and and flora and fauna are out.

Bronson: Yeah. There’s just no room for them anymore. They might have been there in the late nineties, but there is no room in the start of.

David: Yeah. The late 1870s, right?

Bronson: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Let me ask you another question. What resources can you recommend? Cause obviously your own book, maybe hold it up one more time so we can see it there. So we all go out and grab that all by Amazon. I mean, honestly.

David: I wrote it because it, you know, because there weren’t a ton of resources that that. Yeah. Really work for folks.

Bronson: Absolutely. Are there any, are there any blogs or, you know, any other books or any people? They should go and look at their designs or what they’re doing work. Where could you send them to learn more beyond what we’ve talked about?

David: Yeah, there’s there’s a lot of stuff cropping up. Smashing magazine, I’ve, I’ve written a list, I’ve written at least one articles for them before and they have acting website. They’re great editorial process, they’ve got amazing content books. It sort of depends on on what you want to dig, dig deeper into. I’m of course, obsessed with typography. I think. Robert bring Hearst elements of typographic style is amazing. I, i, I willingly defer too to whatever he says in that book when it comes to typography. So those are a couple, I think a lot of people look around on dribble a lot and they learn some things that way. I think that Pattern Tap is an interesting website. I was familiar with that, but that has something where you can kind of say, Oh, I want to see an interface for, you know, pagination, you know, just show you a whole bunch of different ones from a bunch of different sites. Yeah, little big details. I think it’s a tumble org or something and it’s not so not so much about visual design as it is thinking about little details and in your user experience. I think that’s a resource that I enjoy as well.

Bronson: Yeah. Do you recommend that designers who are designing for startups go and look at the websites of other startups knowing that yeah, they have their own design decisions for their company goals, but going and really studying them and looking at them and kind of dissecting them more than just, hey, when signed up as a user and use it and I like it and it’s beautiful, they’re really just looking at it for a while. Do you recommend that or do you think it might be groupthink?

David: You know, I I think I don’t think that there’s any any any prob any harm in that. I think that as long as you’re doing it kind of the way that you just described, really, you’re like looking at that design and you’re thinking from an abstract level.

Bronson: Yeah, there you go.

David: You know, what are they what are they trying to accomplish? And how is that manifesting itself in this design? Because chances are, hopefully, whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish is in some way different from what it is that they’re trying to accomplish. And so you’re going to have to learn your own ways of of of manifesting that through your through your design. So I think that’s a great way to learn.

Bronson: Absolutely. All right. One last question. What’s the best advice that you can give to anyone that wants to design for a growing startup? Let’s say they’re at a startup and they’re one to design in such a way that you can grow. What’s the best advice in a nutshell, you could give on your best?

David: The best advice. The best advice I would would use is, is keep it simple with the stuff that you can see and think a lot about, the stuff that you can’t see.

Bronson: To break that down. That’s to a that’s too mystical. You got to tell us more.

David: I know I can I can go a little further. I like the the alignment of things, the whitespace, the. The sizing of elements, proportions. These things that people don’t talk about enough. You know, you see people talking about fonts and effects and things like that because that’s the stuff you can see that’s just going to get that’s that’s what’s going to get noticed. Yeah. And, and if you really want to create that feeling of like, man, I don’t know why this this design looks clean. Mm hmm. That’s that’s that’s where where it’s going to come from. I actually have a specific story is somebody came up to me at a talk once, and they they had their iPhone app, and they’re like, David, I, I don’t know why our app doesn’t look good. We look at that. Here’s our competitors app, here’s our app. We’re like, we kind of have the same basic things on our app, but like, ours just doesn’t look good. It was, it was because of the things that he he couldn’t see was because of that alignment. The subtle things that you say with a white space that’s this big versus a white space that’s that’s this big. Those are the things that are going to create that sense of cleanliness and that are going to create that, that customer trust.

Bronson: Yeah.

David: That that that Fogg demonstrated in that in that study that when you look at something, you’re like, oh, these guys know what they’re doing.

Bronson: Yeah. No, I’m so glad you said that, because I feel sometimes like I’m OCD because I’ll be in Photoshop and I’ll be moving a line of text to the left, a pixel to the right, a pixel to the left, a pixel to the right a pixel. Because I got to get it exactly where it needs to be against whatever element it’s next to. And the pattern just has to be perfect or is feel like it’s horrible, you know? And if you do that with everything, you put that much time in it, you step back and you’re like, All right, this all work like this. This makes me feel something like it’s supposed to.

David: That’s really the thing that’s so important. And that’s the that that to me is the number one thing that that separates the the the the hackers from the hackers, I guess.

Bronson: Yeah. There you go. Yeah, that’s good. I think we can end on that. Don’t be a hack, be a hacker. Learn how to design from David Cadabby. I thank you so much for being on the program. I think people got to learn a ton from this and they’re going to realize that design and growth, you know, there’s a lot more to growth than just design, but it’s hard to grow without it. You know, Craigslist and early Google, those are the exception that proves the rule.

David: Craigslist is stepping it up from a design. I mean, it’s still pretty basic, but yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Bronson: You look at those, the stuff that grows and it looks like it’s supposed to. So, David, thanks for coming on the show.

David: Thanks a lot for having me. Great.




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