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.
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.
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.
Column grids are used for magazines to organize content into columns to make it easier to read.
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.
Hierarchical grids are used by organizing the content according to its importance.
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.)
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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