Aplicación de la Retícula en Diseño Gráfico • Ilka Perea Studio

Applying Grids in Graphic Design

The grid is a structure based on lines, which help to order coherently all the elements within the composition. Applying grids in graphic design responds to criteria that must be known in advance for its correct implementation.

Applying Grids in Graphic Design: Proserv Website Design
The implementation of the grid in web design has become so essential that no website is currently created without this tool. Photo: Proserv Website Design

One of the easiest ways to achieve an organized design is to apply a grid system. This is a tried and tested technique among designers. A grid represents a frame of spaced bars that are parallel or intersect with each other. Grids can also help provide a consistent experience across multiple projects. To learn more about the benefits of using grids, I recommend this post: Importance of Grid in Graphic Design.

Generally, a grid is an arrangement of horizontal and vertical lines used to subdivide a page vertically and horizontally into margins, segments (columns), spaces between columns, lines of type, and spaces between body text and images. These subdivisions lay the foundation for a modular and systematic approach to design, especially when working with multiple pages, which speeds up the layout process and ensures visual consistency between related pages.

For applying grids in graphic design, designers consider the content and concept of the design project. The goal should be to create a grid that establishes the relationships between the elements in a way that stays true to the concept.

The hierarchy of information should also be very clear and should reveal which information is more important and which is less relevant. A well-done grid, of course, will allow the designer a wide margin for variation in image style, text size, and graphic style. Therefore, it is important to know the parts of the grid, their classification, and some rules for their implementation.

Grid Application

Applying Grids in Graphic Design: Grid systems • Ilka Perea Studio
Grid systems. Manual for Graphic Designers. Josef Müller-Brockmann.

How to use a Grid?

Faced with the dilemma of how to implement or build a grid, one must begin by establishing certain criteria related to the project to be developed:

  • grid type
  • the format
  • the typography
  • the number and types of images
  • the medium (print or digital)
  • the volume of the project (one page or several pages)
  • …among others.

The choice of the type of grid will depend on its purpose, what type of project it is intended for. Most importantly, it is necessary to recognize the different types of grid in order to choose the most appropriate one.

Types of Grids

Among the best known types of grids are:

Manuscript grids are used in documents, e-books, PDFs, and full-text presentations.

Applying Grids in Graphic Design: Manuscript Type Grid
Manuscript Type Grid
Example of a Manuscript Grid.
Example of a Manuscript Grid. Photo: Egypt’s National Library Manuscript Museum Branding

Column grids are used for magazines to organize content into columns to make it easier to read.

Applying Grids in Graphic Design: Column Grid Type
Column Grid Type
Example of Column Grid.
Example of Column Grid. Photo: Áurico | Controversial Photographers edition

Modular grids are like a grid that can show many things to make it easier to organize the elements. It is mainly used on websites.

Applying Grids in Graphic Design: Modular Grid Type
Modular Grid Type
Example of Modular Grid.
Example of Modular Grid. Photo: Proserv Website Design

Hierarchical grids are used by organizing the content according to its importance.

Applying Grids in Graphic Design: Hierarchical Grid Type
Hierarchical Grid Type
Example of Hierarchical Grid: World Time Store – Valentine’s Day Catalog 2014 - COVER
Example of Hierarchical Grid. Photo: World Time Store – Valentine’s Day Catalog

Format

The grid is developed from the size and orientation of the format. The grid used on a letter-size page (8.5×11 inches in portrait) will not necessarily fit a 14×8.5 inch landscape trifold.)

Margins

Before applying grids in graphic design projects, take into consideration the margins. Since I explained earlier in Anatomy of a Grid for Editorial Design, establishing the size of the margins is the first step in building the grid. Therefore, this step is not random. It responds to both technical procedures and aesthetic issues. The cutting process is automated in newspapers, magazines, and any high-volume publication. Often the trimmer is out of calibration and may start cutting more than necessary. If not enough margin is left, it can even cut text, making it impossible to read properly. It is recommended not to use very narrow margins for this purpose.

Josef Müller-Brockmann explains that: “If the margin area is too small, a possible incorrect cut will be immediately obvious. The wider the gap, the less technical inaccuracies (which must always be taken into account to a greater or lesser extent) will affect the overall impression generated by a well-developed page.

On the other hand, the margins have an aesthetic value. It is evident in the visual elegance and pleasure of reading that well-proportioned margins offer.

Likewise, there are cases in which the image does not respect the margins and reaches the edge of the format. This, of course, responds to the designer’s criteria.

Importancia de la Retícula en Diseño Gráfico y su Aplicación - Portafolio Fotográfico de Moda
The use of wide margins around an image gives it visual elegance. But when the margins are ignored and the image is brought to the edge of the format, it stands out with a prominent appearance.

Josef Müller-Brockmann comments: “In picture books, whenever the page needs to look impressive, the layout without blanks is preferred. On such pages, the illustrations are laid out ‘in blood’, taking up as much space as possible on the printed page, … these blood-illustrated pages are combined with those with margins. If a good guideline is followed in doing so, the layout takes on a more generous appearance”.

Sketch

During the design process, the development of the project preview through sketches is crucial. The sketch must also contemplate the grid. Thereby, it is advisable to make a sketch with a scale grid in order to maintain the same proportions of the design being developed.

As a result, making sketches should not be taken lightly. Details are important even if it seems to be a cumbersome and time-consuming process. Well-done sketches prevent errors that could later cost time and effort in correcting the final design.

Proceso de reticulado de un portafolio fotográfico
Proceso de reticulado para un portafolio fotográfico.

In the sketches, you must decide on the type of grid, size of margins, the number of columns. Once these parameters have been established, you can proceed to place titles, subtitles, body text, images, image captions, etc.

Application

Most design programs have tools to create a grid: guides, grid, margins and bleed. There are some more publisher-oriented ones that can even set the size of columns, rows, and gutters.

Anatomía de la Retícula en el Diseño Editorial • Ilka Perea Studio
Among the programs for DTP (Desktop publishing), Adobe InDesign is the trend in the market.

Bibliography

Libros de diseño: Sistemas de Retículas • Ilka Perea Studio
Books for Graphic Designers.
  • Sistema de Retículas. Un manual para diseñadores gráficos. Josef Müller-Brockmann. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 2017.
  • Diseño y Comunicación Visual. Bruno Munari. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 2016.
  • ¿Qué es el diseño? Isabel Campi. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 2020.
  • Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics That People Understand. Connie Malamed. Rockport Publishers. 2009.
  • Fundamentos del Diseño Gráfico. Richard Poulin. Promopress. 2016.
  • Gramática Visual. Christian Leborg. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 2013.
  • Fundamentos del Diseno. Wucius Wong. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 1998.
  • Diseño gráfico: Nuevos fundamentos. Ellen Lupton. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 2016.
  • Becoming a Graphic and Digital Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design.  Steven Heller y Veronique Vienne. 2015.
  • Diseño gráfico. Fundamentos y prácticas. Dabner David. BLUME. 2014.