Author: Jacci Howard Bear
Grids : Consistency & Unity
Tying Elements of a Page Design Together with Grids
For the most part, people prefer organized visual information
Newsletters, magazines, brochures, annual reports, and books often have many visual elements: columns of text, headlines, photos, illustrations, pull-quotes, etc. Grids allow the designer to build page-to-page consistency into these documents.
Readers expect to find page numbers in the same location on each page. When all the text in a given article — even when it spans several pages — has a consistent look, including column width, it enhances readability. Readers often expect to find sidebars, informational text, and other oft-repeated elements in the same place from page to page.
A grid, used consistently on all pages of a multi-page document, makes it easier for the designer to provide the consistent look that readers often expect. A carefully conceived grid system also allows the designer to introduce variations without forsaking readability or consistency. It also speeds layout because it takes the guesswork and “look back to see what we did before” out of where to place elements from one page to the next.
The pages, below, are examples of how you might combine text and graphics in a 7-unit vertical grid (such as for a newsletter). Notice how page 1 (Figure 1) and 2 have a consistent (reversed) layout. Text columns are two-grid units wide. One grid unit provides an extra wide column of space separating the main text from the sidebar elements. Page 3 (right hand page of the 2 page spread, Figure 2) is quite different from the first two pages but if you look at the underlying grid struction (Figure 3) you’ll see that all three pages use the same grid system.
FIGURE 1: left-hand page of newsletter with 7-unit vertical grid
FIGURE 2: two page spread of newsletter with 7-unit vertical grid
FIGURE 3: two page spread showing the underlying 7-unit vertical grid (blue)
Grids can unify a series of dissimilar documents
There are many ways to establish visual unity throughout a series of related pieces. You probably use your logo on all your marketing pieces. You may have color coded brochures for different aspects of your business. Grids are another way to bring unity and cohesiveness to a collection of brochures, sales sheets, display ads, spec sheets, and other elements of your marketing arsenal.
As we said in part 1 of this series, “In a series of single, but related pieces (such as a series of posters or information sheets for a single ad campaign or single product line) a common grid can help unify the separate pieces.” Let your grid help you place repeating elements in the same place from piece to piece. Let your grid provide a consistent guide for mixing graphics and text.
The informational sheets in Figure 4 have a common style for the headline treatments but don’t all use the same number or size of graphics. The 3 unit grid (Figure 5) helps to unify these pieces. This is a fairly simple, straightforward example.
FIGURE 4: 3 informational sheets that share a common 3 unit grid
FIGURE 5: A three unit grid helps unify a series of information sheets containing varied elements
Grids have been accused of creating boring, static designs. It’s not the fault of the grid. Used properly, grids can offer a variety of creative design options. Figure 6, below, shows how a 4×4 (16 unit) grid system takes on different lives using the same four graphic images and varying amounts of text.