Design Hacking: Resourceful Innovation and Sustainable Self-Reliance [PDF Version]


“Exceedingly well written and comprehensive.”

– Core77

Design hacking is the resourcefulness of the individual stepping in when the products and systems we are offered fall short.

Design hacking creates new realities, options and possibilities from those we are given, whether commercial, social or civic.

A hardcopy of the publication is available on Amazon US, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan.


“Hacking is really just today’s name for the personal creative spirit that has always underpinned human ingenuity,” writes Scott Burnham, and throughout this essay he traces the evolution of hacking from the digital to the analogue world and shows how the resourceful spirit behind hacking is improving everything from design products to cities and public space.

The essay features insight Burnham gained from years spent researching and working with design and urban hacking projects around the world. From this observation he details the benefits a hacking ethos can bring to products, services and cities:

  • Hacking creates new engagements between the product and the consumer.
  • Hacking mandates relevance and necessity in design.
  • Hacking is resourceful.Hacking creates abundance from limited resources.
  • Hacking finds the truth in systems.

The text closes with “14 Ways to Get Hacked”, showing how product makers or service providers can build in ways to encourage a more playful and resourceful relationship with your offering.

From the text:

Hacking creates new realities, options and possibilities from those we are given, whether commercial, social or civic. It offers forth the notion of a democratization of design, by enabling the end user to be part of the process and not only on the receiving end of it. There is a triumphant message of individual resourcefulness and direct engagement when a hacker sensibility is applied.

Most of all, hacking is evidence of our fundamental self-reliance in spite of professionalism, bureaucracy and industrial supply. In many ways, it is a return to, or a rediscovery of, the skills which saw us through our pre-consumerist times, when ‘making do’ with what you had to hand required inventiveness. To relegate such activity to the realms of ‘amateurism’ is a dangerous dismissal, for it not only further deepens the ‘us and them’ disconnect between design and society, but ignores the vast potential of the creative energies at work outside established channels.


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