The Grid is Good

The grid is good, folks. Why use it? It makes for dynamic layouts that are easy to read and quick to make. When you create a layout you are managing the form and space, on a page, online, on your desk—it’s both practical and aesthetic. There are many ways to create a grid, to start off here are some general guidelines on column numbers.

Wide columns of 60 or more characters puts the reader in a “novel-reading” mindset. It suggests taking your time.

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Medium columns of 45 charaters/line are good for feature articles and can be read at a reasonable rate while allowing for more play in a layout
dwell-blog
Narrow columns of 25 characters/line create a much busier layout that are conducive to quick scans, snippets and lists, i.e. classifieds, table of contents. In general I try and keep columns to about 9 words in width, any longer and you’re asking your reader’s eyes to do a lot more work than they’d like.

dwell011

In choosing a number of columns I recommend placing rows in as well. Rows will allow you to create common hanging points and improve consistency. You’ll be able to place things without having to measure the exact location each time. For a quick tip on how to make a grid in InDesign, click here.

The beauty of a grid is that it takes a blank space and turns it into structured fields. Here are some ways to explore and and expand on a great layout

  • Balance: Try symmetry, rotation, reflection of text and imagery.
  • Golden Proportion: Thanks to Fibonacci, the greatest default to a decent design is a grid of 5 columns by 8 rows (1:1.68 ratio), and place your heading 5/8 of the way up the page. Build from there.
  • Rule of 1/3’s: Divide your page into equal thirds and choose an intersection as your focal point and build around that axis.
  • Rhythm: Regular spacing and consistent size create a natural flow for a reader. Emphasize the regularity or create an obvious flow and then make a conscious decision to break it.
  • Hierachy: Give your reader an obvious place to start.

Great resources, and where I pulled most of this information:

The Fundamentals of Creative Design by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris.
Graphic Design: The New Basics by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips
The Designer’s Desktop Manual by Jason Simmons

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