Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is the practice of taking something apart, figuring out its basic components to later be able to reconstruct it.

Learning how to break things down is a very quick way to learn new things. It also helps you develop critical reflection, and as you hone your deconstructive skills you’ll notice that you can start breaking things down in your head.

Beware though, once you lear this, it is hard not to do it.

Example

As a graphic designer, maybe you see a poster that just really, really works for you. What is it about this particular poster that you find so intriguing?

  • Does it use a grid? Draw it.
  • Does it use type? What typefaces? What sizes? What are the relationships between the sizes?
  • How many lines of text are there?
  • How many words? Words per line?
  • Does it use colour? How many colours? Have you placed them on a colour wheel? How do they map out? Are they analogous? Complementary? Tertiary?

Take a photo or scan of the poster. Draw on top. Annotate it. Break it down.

What you are left with are some rules, some constituent parts that you could use to construct your own poster. If you put the original away and try to construct your own using the ‘rules’ you just created, you’ll be surprised that the result might look good, but not at all that similar to the original.

What is reverse engineering in Norwegian?

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