Grids: Feedback and Improvements

In this group crit my designs were received well and I was praised for my bravery in attempting minimalist designs which are often hard to do well. The feedback I was give consisted a few minor changes. The text throughout all three designs needed to be reduced in size as the leading was very tight. Furthermore my first design (1-2 large images) needed a drop cap or another graphic device added to the right hand side page of the spread in order to add some visual interest. One major change that I did have to make was to redo my last design (3-5 small images), this was because the images were too small on the page and got lost in the empty space. For this design it was recommended that I looked at large scale photo books for inspiration.

To begin improving my designs I visited the library and collated a large body of research into layout design by photographing spread layouts from large scale photography magazines. The magazines pictured below include Foam, Source magazine, Parkett magazine, Art Review and American Destiny.

   I then revisited some of my previous designs for my 3-5 small images design.

The text handing down from the text creates an interesting layout on the left however the page on the right is too similar to the design for 3-5 medium images (seen above)

Breaking the grid on the right gives a refreshing break from the previous designs which all work within the confines of the grid, the image on the left page however may be too large for the 3-5 small images design

Final 1-2 large images design: A drop cap has been added to the body text, the body text has been reduced in size and the background colour has been made stronger to show up when printed as previously it was not visible when printed

Final design for 3-5 medium images: A faint colour has been added to the background to make the paper off white as the paper before was a very bright white

Final design for 3-5 small images: This layout is a combination of the two previous designs I was looking at. By breaking the grid on the right it ensure that the design is not too similar to my 3-5 medium images design, therefore giving the spreads flow and diversity. I have also included the text hanging from the image on the left which creates an interesting composition.


Grids: Final Designs

Karl Gerstner’s 58 unit grid as spread – 6×6 grid

Text with: 1-2 large images including captions

Text with: 3-5 medium sized images including captions

Text with 3-5 small sized images including captions

My three final refined designs for the grids project. Minor changes have been made since my previous posts to make sure that all of the elements are properly aligned to the grid and that the textual information is formatted correctly.

In previous projects it has been made aware to me that I have a tendency to make my designs too big and loud so this time I have tried to keep my designs simple and sophisticated. With my three designs I think I have achieved creating visually pleasing designs with very little, as well as learning a lot about grid systems.

Grids: Design Refinement

Original design

Above is my chosen design for the specification ‘Text with: 1-2 large images including captions’. I have chosen this design for my final outcome however it still needs refinement, on the right hand side there is a large amount of negative space which needs balancing. Below are a series of screenshots where I am experimenting with how I can best use the negative space.

Stepping the heading from the body text

Moving the elements to a more central position on the grid to balance the negative space

Balancing the body text in the bottom left with the heading in the top right

Balancing the heading and body text in the bottom left with a grey block of colour in the top right, however the block of colour ends up being distracting

Attempting to balance the body text in the bottom left with the heading in the top right however the layout is more awkward than balance

Using a small grey solid block of colour in the top right containing the folio to balance the heading and body text in the bottom left, once again the solid block of colour is distracting

Mimicking the tones in the photograph on the left with the heading and body text on the right, through altering the orientation of the heading

Below is my chosen design from my above experimentations. In this design I have moved the body text and caption from the bottom right to the bottom centre, helping to close up the negative space. I have also moved the heading to the top right, in line with the statues head on the left, in an attempt to balance the composition on the right sheet with the composition on the left sheet. Furthermore I changed the title in order to make it longer and add more tonal colour to the page. Finally I added a block of colour to the right hand sheet to reduce the harshness of the bright white paper, the colour I choose was selected from the photograph on the right and then reduced to 40% opacity to mute the colour so that it did not compete with the photograph on the left.

Grids: Development

After creating my 10 thumbnails sketches on both the Muller Brockman grid and the Karl Gerstner’s 58 unit grid I decided that the grid I preferred using was the one created by Karl Gernster as the grid allows for alot of creativity and freedom. From my 10 drawn thumbnails for this grid, I began to develop these designs digitally within the grid template.

For my layout designs I used content based around an article I found on It’s Nice That, the article is about a new series of work being produced by the photographer Catherine Hyland. From this article I took the main body text as well as the information on the author of the article and when the article was wrote.

‘Photographer Catherine Hyland has been travelling the mountainous landscapes of China and Mongolia to capture its vast, yet eerily empty tourist destinations. In her ongoing series Universal Experience, which she will continue to add to, she explores scenes of epic beauty that have been developed to become tourist destinations. Tackling themes of nostalgia and abandonment, she hopes to capture the intertwining of natural beauty and the artificially engineered viewpoints from which people choose to remember it by.

“The aim is to shine a light on both the strange and sublime nature of these spaces,” Catherine says. “Giant Buddhas that exist in small desolate villages in rural China, and expansive mountainscapes with barely any visitors. Whether it’s sites of historical importance or natural splendour each is approached with a heightened awareness of its significance as a place of beauty and grandeur. Landscape is seen primarily as a cultural construct and only secondarily as a natural phenomenon.”

Catherine’s large-format photographs, shot on film, show the awesome landscapes together with their barren tourist-targeting additions, contrasting the natural and man-made elements. The dusty mountainous shots are particularly striking, with their gradated colours and uniformly dusty tones.

Words by Jenny Brewer,

I then went on to the photographers own website and saved all of the photographs from the series mentioned in the article, this gave me a wide range of imagery to work with in my layout designs. When deciding upon what content to use for my layout designs I specifically choose to focus on photography, this is because the final spreads will be printed at A3, therefore I wanted access to high resolution imagery that would still maintain their quality when increased in size.

For our layout designs we had to produce 3 final outcomes each with different specifications:

  • Text (body copy) with: 1 – 2 large images including captions
  • Text (body copy) with: 3 – 5 medium sized images including captions
  • Text (body copy) with: 3 – 5 small sized images including captions

The text must also include a major title to the spread plus main headings and subheadings, as well as page numbers. Graphic devices such as typographic rules, shapes and symbols could also be included.

Below are my 12 digital developed designs (4 per specification)

Text with: 1-2 large images including captions: Design 1

Text with: 1-2 large images including captions: Design 2

Text with: 1-2 large images including captions: Design 3

Text with: 1-2 large images including captions: Design 4

Text with: 3-5 medium sized images including captions: Design 1

Text with 3-5 medium sized images including captions: Design 2

Text with 3-5 medium sized images including captions: Design 3

Text with 3-5 medium sized images including captions: Design 4

Text with 3-5 small sized images including captions: Design 1

Text with 3-5 small sized images including captions: Design 2

Text with 3-5 small sized images including captions: Design 3

Text with 3-5 small sized images including captions: Design 4

Despite me basing my layout designs on the article wrote by It’s Nice That, in some of my designs I did choose to use dummy text. In some of my layouts I wanted to include larger amounts of body text however the original article is quite short, therefore I replaced the article text with placeholder text generated by Adobe InDesign.

From my 4 developed designs for each specification I believe that the most successful was design 1 for the large sized images, design 1 for the medium sized images and design 3 for the small sized images, however I do believe further refinements could be made. Design 1 for the large sized images the right side of the spread is too empty, therefore the addition of another image, graphic devices or altering the layout on the right could aid the design.

Grids: Technical Research

Grid Systems

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.

Layout Grid

  • 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.

Grid Fields

  • 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. 

Active Corner

  • 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.

Baseline Grid

  • 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.

Document Grid

  • 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.

Grid types

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.

Grids: Page Layout Research

Brief: To develop an understanding of the use of grid systems in graphic design and to develop and awareness of spacial arrangement, structure, harmony and graphic coherence.

Part 1: Produce mood sheets of visual research relating to grid systems and master grids. Include technical advice and sensitive and refined graphic design page layouts.

Part 2: Produce thumbnail double spread sketches based on Joseph Muller-Brockman’s master grid and Karl Gerstner’s 58 unit grid. 

Part 3: Create 3 different double page spread designs using the same material and the master grids provided. The first spread should consist of text with 1-2 large images including captions, the second spread should consists of text with 3-5 medium images including captions, and finally the third spread should consists of text with 3-5 small images including captions. 

To begin this project I visited a number of sites to collect research on publication and layout design, some of the sites visited included Behance, It’s Nice That and Creative Review. Below are a series of mood sheets I produced documenting my finds.

Designs I found myself particularly drawn to were ones where images or text would go right up to the edge of the page, text and images would be printed going across the two pages, text had being overlaid on top of an image, layouts playing with the orientation of top, and layouts where not all the elements were perfectly aligned. I would like to incorporate some of these features when it comes to producing my thumbnail double page spread sketches.

Grids Workshop

Exercise 1 – Proportion

 Josef Muller-Brockman and Dieter Rams are both designers who had systems and rules for approaching their work which would allow them to quickly produce good designs. Grids are a form of system that allow designers to effectively organise content for their work. The Fibonacci sequence is a system of numbers commonly seen in nature, with a ratio of 1.6 between the numbers. The numbers are as follows 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, etc. This ratio can be utilised to create visually appealing designs. The golden spiral uses fibonacci numbers to create a grid that is meant to be visually appealing, the impressionists were particularly fond of using this grid in their designs.

For our workshop we were giving a template with a 233 x 144mm spread marked out, then using cut up paper we had to create compositions within the template. The elements we could create using the paper however had to have Fibonacci numbers as the measurements for their height and width. This meant that all of the elements were using the golden ratio. Below are contact sheets of the spreads that I produced. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this and believe layout and spread design will continue to be an area of interest for me.

Exercise 2 – The Golden Section

Exercise 3 – Van De Graaf Canon 

Exercise 4 – Layout

To explore composition we were tasked with drawing a 9×9 rectangular grid, onto this grid we then experimented with the composition of text and shapes of varying sizes. Above are my experiments, initially we used only text of the same font size, then we went on to introduce a variety of font sizes as well as some shapes.

Overall I found this workshop particularly useful in helping to understand layout and composition, especially through the application of grids which I had previously not worked with before. This workshop will greatly aid me in my current project exploring the use of grids for layout design.