Become the designer
your startup needs

Bootstrapping Design

Roll your own design.

The design eBook for bootstrappers, founders, and hackers.

By Jarrod Drysdale

You’re building a business, but great design feels out of reach.

What if you could design it yourself?

Free Sample: Download 2 Chapters & the Design Critique Cheatsheet

Download a Free Sample

Design is a
skill anyone
can learn

The "creative type" is a myth. You are capable of beautiful design. Learn the best ways to practice. Craft a style worthy of your elegant code.

is simple

Learning design doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Great design isn’t tedious theory. Learn to evaluate. Employ the basics and see an immediate improvement in your work.

Design for

Design can bring higher profits and more users. Learn how aesthetics can drive business goals. Earn the trust your business deserves with a polished, professional design.

not magic

Design isn’t a mystery. Learn the most essential components of a great design. Understand how to start a design from scratch and what to do when you get stuck.

Why is learning design
so frustrating?

Have you ever read a design book or tutorial, and just felt more confused?

The problem is that most resources teach advanced principles too soon, which leads to confusion.

Master the essentials and learn which topics you can safely ignore. Bootstrapping Design is the lean guide to learning DIY design.

The best part is easily how ruthlessly practical the book is. I love how it's always saying things like, "Here's what the experts do. That's hard/complex. Stick to these simple guidelines and you'll get decent results." It's surprisingly comforting and encouraging. It makes me want to try it. —James Edward Gray II, @JEG2

Bootstrapping Design helped me understand and apply design principles and made my site better. I'm so glad I picked it up! —Tait Larson, cofounder of

Design is often described as something mysterious, that can only be accomplished by the talented few. That's bullshit. Design is a skill that can be learned. It's also a process that can be reverse-engineered, to a degree. Jarrod's book will give you a huge head-start in both. —Jarkko Laine, @jarkko

I highly recommend it for developers and product builders...I created a good enough design myself, without much time or money, and was able to launch my product. —Eric Davis, @edavis10

Finished [Bootstrapping Design] by @studiofellow in one sitting. Such an awesome book. Go buy it. Right now. —Mike Breen, @hardbap, tweet permalink

Just finished [Bootstrapping Design] by @studiofellow. As a developer with moderate design skills it is well worth the money. —Daniel Pehrson, @dpehrson, tweet permalink

*All quotes used with permission. Emphasis added.

Table of Contents

  • Part 1: Mentality

    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. You, The Designer
    • 3. UX, UI, and Other Buzzwords
  • Part 2: Principles

    • 4. Layout
    • 5. Visual Hierarchy
    • 6. Proximity & Space
    • 7. Typography
    • 8. Color
  • Part 3: Practice

    • 9. Your New Process
    • 10. How To Steal
    • 11. Visual Design Tips
    • 12. Evaluating Design
    • 13. UI Examples New!

Bootstrapping Design

Second edition: Revised July 2014

  • 204 page PDF & ePub/mobi

  • 2 Printable

  • Resources for
    Further Learning

New Chapter

UI Examples

A new 40-page chapter. Prescriptive case studies of how to handle common UI challenges. Includes:

  • Pricing Pages
  • Forms
  • Navigation
  • Different layouts for the same content
  • Multiple Calls to Action


Design From Scratch Video Series

Screenshot of video 1, Sketch a UI

Video 1

Sketch a UI

Length 9:26

Learn how to explore layout ideas with sketches. Watch as I sketch various layouts for an example landing page, then evaluate them.

Screenshot of video 2, Alignment Masterclass

Video 2

Alignment Masterclass

Length 12:51

See how to correct alignment and spacing. The HTML prototype starts out ugly, but a few simple edits make a big difference, even without fonts or colors.

Screenshot of video 3, Design a LogoI

Video 3

Design a Logo

Length 8:52 (Free on Youtube)

Watch as I create dozens of logo variations using code, then pick a design using a braindead-easy method. The code is included when you buy the videos.

Screenshot of video 4, Create a Type System

Video 4

Create a Type System

Length 12:49

Learn to create beautiful typography using a simple type study in code. See why it’s important to differentiate headers, like H1-H6.

Screenshot of video 5, Steal Color

Video 5

Steal Color

Length 9:29

Watch me apply a stolen color scheme to the landing page design. With not a color wheel in sight.

Screenshot of video 6, Hierarchy & Aesthetics

Video 6

Hierarchy & Aesthetics

Length 6:04

Learn to improve aesthetics and create visual hierarchy. A few subtle changes to the design make it look much better.

Design Teardown + Videos + eBook

(Only 10 Available)

  • Design teardown & review
  • Design action plan
  • Videos & Source code
  • Second edition ebook,
    Cheatsheets, Resources

I will spend an hour reviewing your design and email you detailed notes & an action plan. Then I’ll answer your questions on Skype for at least 30 minutes.



Sold Out

Videos + eBook

  • 6-part video series
    (58 min total length, edited
    down from 2 hours)
  • Source code
  • Second edition ebook,
    Cheatsheets, Resources

Learn to explore your ideas and be comfortable making mistakes. Seen an entire design from start to finish.



Buy Now

Already have the ebook? Upgrade to the videos package for $60.

eBook Only

Second edition with the new, extremely actionable 40-page chapter on UI Examples.

  • 204 page PDF & ePub/mobi

  • 2 Printable

  • Resources for
    Further Learning



Buy Now

Who is this book for?

The book is written primarily for people who have absolutely no design experience, especially programmers, but founders of all backgrounds and skill sets will learn just as well. Those not familiar with coding might not recognize a couple of terms, but the core principles are accessible to everyone.

Note about .ePub & .Mobi formats:

For better viewing of the graphics and illustrations, consider using the PDF version of this eBook. The .ePub and .Mobi formats provide limited control over graphics and typography, and thus are less ideal for a design book.

Also because of this, the .ePub and .Mobi formats will no longer be updated. They reflect the original version of the book, but not the edits and new content in the 2014 second edition.

Why doesn’t the book cover X topic?

This book contains the minimum design fundamentals that bootstrappers must understand in order to launch a business. My intent is to emphasize design basics. You’ll notice some topics, even popular ones, are absent. This is not because such topics are unimportant but because they are neither suitable for beginners nor relevant to their bottom line.

Other questions? Send me an email and I'll reply personally.

Photo of Jarrod Drysdale

About Jarrod Drysdale

My approach to design is about instinct because I learned in high pressure situations. (Launch in a week or lose the client.) Other designers are academic in their work, but I like to jump in and get my hands dirty. This makes me uniquely positioned to teach you.

This book contains the hard-won lessons from my career so far (10 years). Follow my advice and your hard work will be more focused and efficient. You'll develop skill and instinct. These will benefit your business far more than the fad topics on popular design blogs. | @studiofellow