Grid systems establish a set of guidelines for how elements should be positioned within a layout, this creates rhythm and defines the meter. Rhythm and meter are important as they allow the viewer to understand where the next piece of information lies within the layout, making the design accessible. It sets expectations and defines the rules. Breaking the grid is also important as it can be used to highlight specific areas of content. The viewer can identify where the grid has been broken and will naturally be drawn to those areas, this gives the design the opportunity to play with hierarchy of layout or change the meaning of the piece. A key aspect of the grid is to help define and determine proportion. In print proportions normally reflect the reflect the size, shape and orientation of the media. Reflection is not as important on the web and can be more fluid but grids can still be used to anchor content to the screen.
Margins and Columns
- Margins and columns define the type area. The area within which most of the text and images will be contained. I have the department head, the folios and this image, all of which go outside of the type area. In the example below the department head, the folios and the bottom left image all go outside of the type area.
- The layout grid below was created using the Create Guides feature. The layout grid divides the type area into eight rows and 12 columns. By subdividing the page in this way, there is far more flexibility over how the image and text frames are sized which can create far more dynamic layouts.
- Separating the rows and columns are gutters. The size of the gutters correlates with the size of the body text leading.
- The intersection of the rows and columns creates grid fields. The more grid fields there are the more flexibility however they can also create more visual clutter.
- When you place an element according to the grid field, generally speaking, it will be placed in the top left hand corner of the grid field. A notable exception is when a caption is put above an image, in which case it would be placed to the bottom of the grid field, as opposed to the top.
- The baseline grid can be turned on with the keyboard shortcut. Cmd+Opt+’, it can also be turned on in your view options, or using the view menu and the baseline grid increment will correlate with the body text leading which in turn correlates with the gutter spacing.
- To turn on the document grid, Cmd or Ctrl+’. The document grid will divide the page and your paste board into graph paper. The size of each of the grid squares and how many subdivisions they have can be determined in the preferences.
Golden section – Grid based on the golden ratio that has been used in Western art and architecture for more than 2000 years.
Single column grid – You can set your page dimensions and margin widths before creating your document (designing outside in) or you can create a document with no margins and place guidelines and guidelines onto the document (designing inside out). This allows you to experiment with margins and columns before committing.
Multicolumn grid – Flexible formats can be created for publications with complex hierarchies or that contain both text and images. The more columns the more flexible your grid becomes. The grid can be used to determine hierarchy in the publication and text or images can fill one column or span several. Hang lines can also be added, this is where vertical zones are added within the columns. For example, an area at the top can be reserved for images and captions and the body text can “hang” from a common line.
Modular grid – There are consistent horizontal divisions from top to bottom as well as vertical divisions from left to right. This dictates the placement and cropping of pictures as well as text.
Baseline grid – Horizontal guidelines are created in relation to a baseline grid which anchors all layout elements to a common rhythm. Choose the type size and leading of your text then create a baseline grid, use the line space increment to set the baseline grid in your document preferences.
Adjust the top or bottom page margin to absorb any space left over by the baseline grid. Determine the number of horizontal divisions, count how many lines fit into a full column of text and then choose a number that divides into the line count to create horizontal page divisions. If your line count is not neatly divisible, adjust the top and/or bottom page margins to absorb the leftover lines.
To style headlines, captions and other page elements, choose line spacing that works with the baseline grid. Where possible position all page elements in relation to the baseline grid, although some page layouts look better when you break the grid.