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Article: 5 Major Tips for Using Grids in Graphic Design

5 Major Tips for Using Grids in Graphic Design

Grid is one of the most basic elements that graphic designers should understand.
Here are some major tips on how to use it effectively for your projects.
Created by Paloma D'Urbano |

When talking about graphic design, you will find that it is full of wicked ideas and stories. The ideas, models, and stories, later helped craft a popular design element in these modern days. And one of the things that everyone needs to learn about art is the concept of grids. While it does sound pretty simple, the application can get rather awry in a second. 

The concept can come in all sizes, shapes, positions, details, or anything. At some point, you will find that the long, complex history helps create those ideal concepts of grids in graphic design. In this article, you will find the most commonly used graphic design grid tips for the project. However, some pinpoints help you understand better.  


Planning Your Grids Design And Layout 

You are here to find how to use the grids perfectly in the design. No matter what kind of graphic work you are going to do, the first thing to do is the plan. The idea, in particular, is a very simple concept in which you make gutters to separate the content. Sometimes, the concept can get more unique or unexpected with how people adopt the main design. 

So, when you are going to make grids in your graphic design, make sure you know what type, position, layout, and content. The system or the concept can look amazing with a decent pick, model, and layout. But, when there is a lack of planning, the concept will only make your work hard to see. 

In this case, some of the planning ideas you will need to consider are the position, margin, function, and aesthetics. You can make it in the familiar template-looking grids with four rows, 3x3 boxes, mismatched places, or the octagonal model. No matter what you are going to do, remember to match the style with your content.

Created by David Rindlisbacher |

The best example for your grids in graphic design practice should be the magazine and news layout. You can see that the old newspaper used some kind of small vertical grids to complement the content and absorb readers with the flow. The idea of using grids that separate information and add negative space also makes it easier to read. 

However, you will need to know the types before picking one. The organizing layout works with many projects, including for print (magazine, poster, newspaper, book, etc.) or screen (app, webpage, UI, etc.). So, which one should you choose? The baseline, columns, manuscript, modular, hierarchical, or pixel grids?   

Created by Hrvoje Grubisic |


1. Manuscript 

Starting with the very common and the basic style you will ever hear. The manuscript concept uses grids as simple as where you should write or put the content. It is the traditional or classic model for book layout. It has a huge chunk of border or location for your graphic design. And most of the time, people will use it for books-like media. 

It is also very common as one of the simple writing or design spot models. In a book itself, the manuscript has a very distinctive characteristic. It highlights a big layout that means facing pages mirroring one another. It makes the gutters, negative space, or margins around it have a mirroring effect as well. Thus, it helps create a clear booklet work.  

Created by Morgan Schulte |


2. Column 

As you know, in manuscript grids, you will also find one that uses columns. In this case, the column concept goes as the name says. You got some places that split with gutters vertically. So, you have a long vertical space for the content. To make it clearer, you can use the newspaper layout as an example. 

The vertical splitting fields are where you put objects or content. The use of grids in Graphic design helps you align any kind of content while still looking organized. Magazines and newspapers use the column for printed media as a way to increase readability. But, you can also find the current UI, webpage, or digital media also use the same concept.  

Created by Daria Stetsenko |


3. Baseline

Another basic yet common design for books is the baseline type. Baseline style highlights the use of dense grids with equal horizontal lines to determine the text space. It is very useful for books or text content. You can set some text in it and still make it look clear. You can find it in the ruled paper sheet that is used in school books. 

But, when it comes to graphic design, the baseline style can go with other combinations. In some cases, the designer will combine it with a column to help accentuate the place where you need to put the text. The idea is also a great solution that makes every line in the text grids aligned uniformly. 

Created by Anna Haury |


4. Modular type 

The advanced concept that you can try is the modular grids. In these grids in graphic design case, you will find that it adopts the concept of columns and rows. So, your layout will be filled with evenly aligned rectangles. In this case, designers call the intersecting columns and rows modules where you can put information or data in it. 

However, there are cases in which designers use squares as a way to make a unique layout. The modules are moveable, and graphic design makers can govern layout decisions freely. It makes the design more flexible and also fun to read. The best illustration of this style is graphic dashboard visuals, magazines, or corporate reports. 

Created by Sophie Gogishvili |


5. Hierarchical 

When the idea of modular types goes way more irregular, it means you use hierarchical concepts. The idea of grids in the graphic design highlights the irregularity in your layout. Sometimes, the uneven model helps highlight specific contents and needs. That is why you can use it for many graphics works such as magazines or newspapers. 

The key point of hierarchical grids is pinpointing the complete freeform application. You can use different-sized modules or the placement. Sometimes, it also works with varying styling, such as columns and manuscripts. Not only the shape and model but also the position. Sometimes, it composes additional elements or a blend of two overlaid layouts.   

Created by Angel Sanz Correa |


6. Pixel Grids 

The pixel one is probably the current trend in digital graphic design. The point of using pixels is to highlight every single grid pop-up. That is why many digital media, such as pictures, will always use pixels. The best way to explain it is when you zoom in close to a graphic document. In photoshop, you will find that the media will have every single pixel grid visible. 

With that in mind, you will see that this particular style is mostly used for digital graphics. The term is not really known and used directly. It mostly refers to the editing process, in which editors need to zoom in close enough to look at every pixel. Thus, they can alter some points pixel by pixel.  

Created by Schriër |


Starting your design With The Grids Fields 

Why do you think people use grids for their graphic design projects? The first answer is to separate elements and make breathing space between them. That is why the modules or the space should be where the content sits. But didn't a text, images, graphics, or any design element take multiple columns? Yes, they can take a lot of space. 

No matter your grids in graphic design style, your content should always be inside it. Even though it does take a lot of columns, remember the function is to separate content. So, don't ever put your images or text across the gutter. The gutter is the separation between the sections, and they are meant to add breathing space. 

To make it simpler, the gutter is the line. And you need to write down, start, or end your content right at the edge of the column. In other words, not in the gutter. If the content is a lot, you can make the module or the grids bigger. No matter what, don't ever go across the line. It will only make your work messy. 


Created by Tim Arnold |

If you ever use a guided writing book exercise, you will know that the place you write is on top of the baseline. You are not writing on the line. That is the key. You can see clearly how newspapers use grids. But does it mean you are restricted in applying your graphic design element? You should take the positive effect on the constraint in design. 

The idea of constrained creativity sometimes goes bad things since you cannot express yourself. However, the idea of creative constraint is a valuable mindset for your project. The concept help designer finds the starting point and invest their mind in working with grids in graphic design. At some point, this restriction and constraint bring you close to the project's requirement. 

Remember that grid design helps you get better visual and layout organization. The constraint and restriction will force you to nail the requirement of legibility. Not only that, but it is also a great way to start your creative thinking process. Especially considering how modular style can give you never-ending layout options.  

Created by Foxrabbit Studio |


Avoiding Grid Design Template

This idea is pretty explanatory. The key takeaways are to choose and make your grid's design work with your graphic project. Yes, indeed, the template can save your time, and you can simply use the usual setting. But, it is better to consider the use, content, focus, and goal. So, you will not feel locked into the same style and force your work to follow it. 

To help you get some ideas on how people or designers use it in their works, there are three options that you can refer to. You can say that in graphic design projects, you learn by watching and learning through other people's works. You can see from the old implementation in the newspaper or the new trend and how it evolves in the modern days.  

1. Learning The Old Uses Of Girds 

The use of grids in graphic design has been part of a long history. The most basic baseline style goes as helper lines, which you can see in the ancient book. It mainly helps people to write in a straight and evenly spaced layout. From that, you can find that the same ideas of gutter, spacing, and columns appear in early printing presses. 

Newspapers in the late 19th and early 29th started to use the same column style for their book. Some alteration comes from the dimension, which is larger to hold more information. The bigger paper or the broadsheet newspaper use columns to add smaller fonts and add more details. With those ideas, the modules and gutter help maintain readability.  

Created by Vrints-Kolsteren |


2. The Change Of Trend Against The Grid Design 

While the grids model took a lot of role in the early printing broadcast, the computerization and design software made a huge change in the trend. The new tools and techniques present more experimentation and opportunities for designers to work with their graphic design ideas. Thus, digital print and freedom make the concept more flexible. 

One thing that has been highly altered during the new digital era is the content or design constraint. The editing software allows designers to rotate, change the size, layer, and many more. Thus, the idea of using balance, contrast, proximity, and prioritizing make the grid's reputation better. You can see David Carson's Ray Gun design as an example. 

He notices that it does not limit his creativity. Instead, it makes a new touch on how to use grids in graphic design. He uses the standard style as well as adding visual organization wits. He put contrast to highlight. He re-aligns and makes free touches in each of his layouts. Thus, creating a guttered, separated content that is visually appealing to modern eyes.  

Created by WANG SHUO (王爍)|


3. The Way It Evolve And Applied In the 20th Century 

With how grids appear as part of design graphics elements, the style turns into a helper in creating something new. It gets more interesting since new generations love to experiment and disrupt the unseen law of graphic grid layout. In this case, the design evolution in graphic work covers more elements. 

You can see how the use of the concept helps add functionality and uniqueness and highlight an artist's signature graphic arts. Sometimes, the experiments and the models can get as crazy as tilted, blends, or even circular models. The idea of grids in graphic design also reaches 3D spaces, as it is also usable for interior or exhibition spaces layout. 

There is also a chance when the graphic designer or artists take the strict rules from the concept. The modular gutter design comes as a way to enhance typography. Take a look at the Unigrid system by Vignelli; it helps accommodate a range of document sizes and formats. At some point, it is just a visual touch. So, be creative and adjust your grids.  

Created by Lucas Machado |


The Baseline Is Also The Key Element

No matter what kind of grids style you are up to, it is better to remember the baseline function. It might be one of the concepts or styles, but using a baseline helps you understand the sense of organization and harmony. How does it work? Remember how ancient book graphic baseline helped writing the clear and aligned text? 

That is what you need when using grids in graphic design. Keep your content stick and sit in the consistent baseline. So, the overall graphic will still look crisp and fancy. It is especially vital for your web page graphic planning. So, be careful when you put text or context in your modular, column, or any style.  

Created by Daria Korotovskikh |


8px Grid For Web Or UI Design 

Talking about web graphic planning, the best design consideration is using the 8px grid. What is it? The idea relates to the pixel style, which is better used for digital screen resolution. In this case, the 4px and 8px grids are the current common term for UI or web planning. It is clear enough that even users or viewers need to zoom out or use a high-resolution screen. 

The use in UI and web design also range in many ways. But the use of 8 px can decrease the chance of a broken picture or graphic. The dimension and spacing in digital use mostly affect your web transitions. And by using the 8- or 4-pixel grids, the visual will still look systematic and clean in many possible displays. 

In the case of using grids in graphic design UI, you need to remember that digital graphic has more leeways. People can zoom in and out when watching your work. Using the proper pixels will help capture the ideal retina screen scale. In other words, your graphic will look the same or not broken even in the higher resolution display. 

Created by Riccardo De Capitani |


Final Words

Those are the tips that you will need to start working with grids in a graphic design project. It is very simple if you consider how easy and flexible the concept is. It is also applicable in many works, including print or screen. You can underline it to plan, learn the type, start designing within the sections, remember the baseline, and check the usage. And you are free to improve it.

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