Grids; the foundation for a cohesive design
What’s the purpose of grid use in graphic design? In order to develop a striking and organized design piece, it’s crucial to build a good foundation. One who builds a house would never consider skipping the foundation. Nor would they “wing it” in order to get to the next step. A good builder simply wouldn’t proceed without a detailed plan of the overall project.
The foundation of a good design is its grid. There are many layout possibilities that allow artists to create balanced designs in any amount of space. By using grid systems as a framework, a composition can be designed that directs the eye with ease along an appealing hierarchal order.
The importance of using a grid as the basis of your graphic design can not be overstated. And learning to work with one is worth the effort for any serious graphic designer. They provide organization, consistency, and balance to your design. Surprisingly, a grid will often make way for more creativity rather than fence you in as some might assume.
Before using a grid for your graphic design, there are several factors you should consider:
- Purpose or focus of design piece
Intention is important. You need a clear purpose or message before laying down a grid. Without it, design elements may be constrained by thoughtless or forced decisions. The grid should serve the designer, not the other way around.
- Priority of content
Consider all of your content and prioritize your text and elements in terms of hierarchy. This allows designers to guide the viewer’s eye through the design, drawing attention to key elements and creating a sense of visual flow. Without hierarchy, a design can become cluttered and confusing, making it difficult for the viewer to understand the message or purpose of the design.
- Size of your design
Determine the size of your design and various elements, and how the grid will fit within the space. If you’re designing a magazine layout, you might need a more complex grid to accommodate your content. While a smaller design might only need a simple grid.
- Flexibility for use
Consider how flexible the grid needs to be to accommodate different types of content in a layout. A more flexible grid might be necessary if you’re designing a website or an app that will have multiple pages.
- Branding enhancement
Be mindful of your brand identity and how a grid can help reinforce your brand’s visual style. Using a consistent grid across different designs can help create a cohesive look and feel for your brand.
When presenting large quantities of text, the single-column grid is a classic approach for providing a simple framework. Typically the interior margin is half the size of the outer, and the given space of a page is defined by the width of the margins. Be sure to think about your design elements and typeface size for readability and adjust the margins for ease. Most often, the pages in the spread mirror one another. For a more contemporary feel, repeat the column position on the following page to create an asymmetrical layout.
Multiple Columns and Modular Grids
You can arrange endless compositions when you increase the number of columns on your page spread. Consider your visual elements as well as the length of copy to determine your arrangement. Multiple columns are typical in newspapers, magazines, or any layout where you need lengthy text and or multiple graphics. Playing around with a several-column grid allows for the creation of rhythm, movement, interaction, and tension of elements. When designing with a grid framework, color fields that run off the page and images that span multiple columns become effortless.
Divide vertically as well as horizontally creating “bite-sized” spacial units allowing more component variation. The flexibility gained by the designer increases as the units or modules do. Again, assess the length of text, image, and element sizes to determine the scope of the grid. Oftentimes, multiple unit modules are used for complex, several-page publications where lots of designers are involved. The grid gives a solid, easy-to-visualize base that makes it easy to incorporate various needs and complex designs.
Symmetry and Asymmetry
You can make a design symmetrical by using grids with an equal division of space creating a natural balance of parts. Two common types of symmetry in graphic design are Bilateral and Radial. You can produce Bilateral Symmetry (a butterfly’s wings for example) by placing a mirror reflection on a central axis. An arrangement of uniform elements which rotates around a central point creates Radial Symmetry. The outcome is a proportional 1:1 ratio, comparing one surface area to another.
Asymmetry, on the other hand, is a complete lack of symmetry. A design is asymmetrical when you disperse elements roughly around the axis point. While balance and beauty can be found in asymmetrical designs, it takes a good eye and practice. You can balance your design by highlighting the focal point with size, and color, or adjusting text and images according to size and weight proportionally on opposite sides of the page. Always be sure to keep in mind the hierarchy of information, of course!
None of the grids that you develop are absolute, but simply guidelines for providing options for design. “Breaking the grid” can take place thoughtfully to create contrast with its proportional elements. Breaking the grid is not the same as disregarding the uniform divisions of the layout altogether. The underlying structure should remain virtually intact. Be careful, however, if you take too many liberties, the design will become cluttered, sloppy, and imbalanced.
So, the key is understanding the logical structure of the grid and proportional systems, then learning how to modify them with confidence and freedom. On the flip side, if a designer rigidly binds themselves to the grid, the piece will surely reflect it. When used properly, the framework will effectively drive the informational hierarchy and create a flowing integration of type, color, and graphic components.
Intro to The Golden Section and Golden Rectangle
The Golden Section, also known as the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion, is a mathematical concept that describes a ratio that has been observed in many natural phenomena, such as the spiral patterns of shells and the branching patterns of trees. The ratio is approximately 1.618 to 1 and is often denoted by the Greek letter phi (?). It is a rectangle whose sides are in the Golden Ratio. This means that if the length of one side of the rectangle is a, then the length of the other side will be approximately 1.618 times a. Viewers consider the proportions of the Golden Rectangle to be aesthetically pleasing as artists and architects have been using it in their work for centuries
Take a look at the following tutorial by Adobe Illustrator on How to Design a Logo With Golden Ratio:
To incorporate the Golden Ratio into grid design, divide your grid into sections using the ratio of approximately 1.618:1. Then, place your content within these sections, size elements using the ratio, and experiment with different layouts to find a pleasing balance. Remember that the Golden Ratio is a guideline and not a strict rule, so don’t be afraid to adjust things to fit your needs.
Although grids and proven frameworks are powerful tools for creating a harmonious design, they are not a goof-proof guarantee for total success. Whether your design is minimal or complex, you not only need an understanding of layout and proportions but a firm grasp of typography and hierarchy as well.