Understanding Grids

I read the book “Making and Breaking the Grid” by Timothy Samara so that I had a better understanding of grids in general. There are many many uses for grids and layouts and I will be able to implement what I have learn’t in this book into almost every aspect of my work.

There is a massive history of grids that date right back to the Romans and Greeks, and whilst this isn’t completely relevant it allows us to understand where the grids came from and how they became what we know and use today.

Early uses of grids were used in architecture to get the correct proportions, which then moved on to design furnishing and everyday household objects, and then into print. In print, grids were used to give structure to a document both visually and spatially. Every grid is split into different sections, these are margins, flow lines, spatial zones, markers, modules and columns. You can see a diagram of what each section represents here;

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Using different combinations of these sections is what makes every grid slightly different to the other, for example if you have maybe 3 columns with a smaller line length surrounded by large margins and spatial zones, you would have a easily readable page rather than having just one column with a longer line length with smaller margins and spacial zones which would make it much harder to dread and take in. Something to take into consideration due to it’s importance is not only the typeface you use but some of the attributes like size, line height and letter spacing.

Manuscript, Column, Modular and Hierarchical are the four main types of grid, of course there are variations within these categories but they are different enough to understand they have their own use and purpose.

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The manuscript grid is the simplest of the four as it’s structure is designed to accommodate large amounts of text so can be seen in textbooks most commonly, it is also the same structure that is used for writing essays. It doesn’t even have to just consist of text though, images can be used to implement space into the text to give the eye a rest of reading.

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The column grid is probably the most common because of it’s functionality in wide range of aspects, both images and text can be placed within a column grid, and you find that there is a large history of this style of grid in newspapers and magazines and this has seemingly been transferred to the web with such templates as the 960 grid:

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This grid allows for up to 12 columns on a page, which allows the designer to have much more control over the layout of the page.

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A modular grid is very much similar to a column grid but different in the sense that it also has horizontal flow lines which divide the page into columns into modules. A group of modules can be put together to create spacial zones, which can be allocated different content in a way of having an overall order.

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The hierarchical grid is the last of of the four, it is probably less commonly used grids too. It works much less systematically based on the fact that the elements have their own constrains so they are arranged in such a way they look right on the page but the layout probably wouldn’t work for any other purpose. By using spacing and equal margins you can make elements that are somewhat unorganised become arranged in a presentable manner, you usually this type of layout within posters.

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