Design 3

Visual Organization + Communication Design

Grid Systems

A grid is an instrument for ordering graphical elements of text and images.

Before we even begin to tackle designing grid systems we need to have a basic understanding of what they are, why we use them and where they came from.

In the context of graphic design, a grid is an instrument for ordering graphical elements of text and images. The grid is a child of Constructivist art and came into being through the same thought processes that gave rise to that art movement. Clear links can also be drawn between the Concrete–Geometrical art of the Zurich school in the 1930’s and several notable artists of this movement made important contributions to typography through their fine art. It was around this period that the grid system moved from the domain of art and into one of typography and commercial design. More

Anatomy of a Typographic Grid

Recto vs. Verso – Right vs. Left

Manuscript Grid

Modular Grid

Examples of Grid Systems

A chart illustrating some of the American National Standards Institute paper sizes.

Jimmy Kontomanolis: Museum of Modern Art – Fall 2005

Brietta M. Yung: South African National Foundation
for the Conservation of Coastal Birds – Fall 2005

Rachael E. Szporn: MAC Cosmetics for AIDS – Fall 2005

Sophia L Campana: Keith Haring Foundation – Fall 2005

Ely Latner-Assaraf: My Skinny Black Jeans – Fall 2006

Paula Scher’s poster for Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk for the Public Theater, ’95 season.

Jessica Meek

Andrew Nilsen

Michael Ruehlman


Before we even put pen to paper, let us ask ourselves some questions about the project, the answers to which will inform the grid and our design.

  1. Content: Familiarize yourself with the content as much as you can. If you are designing a book, try to read the manuscript if you have the content or if you are researching the content then know what the over all message you are trying to deliver.. The content can always inform the grid design.
  2. Audience: Consider what the audience will be using the book or design for. If it is a guide book they will no doubt be using it for quick reference and will be task focused. Guide books are not coffee table books. Grid design can help increase legibility and the access structure.
  3. Illustrations / Photography / Icons: Does the book make use of a wide variety of illustrations and photographs? What about icons? If this is a guide book there will probably be maps and associated icons. The grid must be designed to make sure they are as usable as possible.
  4. Format: Once you have a good idea of the content, photographs and intended audience you can begin to make informed choices about the format of the book. You should also consider the usage of the book. A guide book will be carried around in a backpack or a pocket. It should be easily handled and not too large, comprehensive, but not expensive.
  5. Typography: Typography is another important consideration. Clear, concise typography using legible typefaces is extremely important in any book design. The typography shouldn’t get in the way of the word. For example the reader shouldn’t notice the typography in the book, the typography exists purely to help separate and categorize the information. A well designed book, doesn’t look designed.
  6. Grid Structures: Once you have answered most of the questions regarding the content, format and typography, you should begin sketching out grid structures based on the appropriate page sizes and formats. You should first begin by defining the Type Area. The Type Area is the area where your grid will be contained. It is surrounded on all sides by margins and in some cases running heads and page footers, numbers, marginalia, etc.

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This entry was posted on October 6, 2011 by in Grid, Heirarchy, Organization.

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