We present the design and performance parameters for a compact x-ray light source (CXLS), which is presently under construction, based on inverse Compton scattering (ICS) of a high brightness electron bunch on a picosecond laser pulse. The flux and brilliance of this source are orders of magnitude beyond existing laboratory scale sources. The accelerator operates at a repetition rate of 1 kHz with 100 bunches of 100 pC charge, each separated by 5 ns, in each shot. The entire CXLS is a few meters in length and produces hard x-rays tunable over a wide range of photon energies. The scattering laser is a Yb:YAG solid-state amplifier producing 100 mJ pulses at 1030 nm. The laser pulse is frequency-doubled and coupled into a ringdown cavity to match the linac pulse structure. At a photon energy of 12.4 keV, the predicted x-ray flux is 5×10<sup>11 </sup>photons/second in a 5% bandwidth and the brilliance is 2×10<sup>12</sup> photons/(secmm<sup>2</sup>mrad<sup>2</sup>0.1%) with a RMS pulse length of 490 fs. Novel concepts for improving the performance of the CXLS with the generation of relativistic electron beams having current modulation at nanometer scale and below are also discussed. This tunable longitudinal modulation enables the production of coherent hard x-rays with ICS.