Grid systems are essential in a designer’s toolbox. Even so, it seems like they aren’t utilized enough.

In the very first design class I ever took, we learned about grid systems and their place in design. In short, grid systems were a set of unseen (or sometimes seen) guides to align elements of a design and direct layout choices. They aid in strong composition and the use of negative space. For better or for worse, we also learned that sometimes a grid system is at its best when it’s being broken. One such example is setting a single element off of the grid to draw attention to it and create a focal point.

Despite this, I’ve noticed a severe lack of any sort of underlying grid in a lot of design work, even my own. Organization has been slim, and even though I’ve been forced into moving through projects at a breakneck pace, this is not a good excuse. Good design takes time, and time should be appropriated between sketches and developing grid layouts. I think that many young designers move too quickly to the “breaking the grid” portion of the lesson without realizing that there needs to be a grid in place to break.

These kinds of thoughts about grid systems have come about as I update my print portfolio. There have been a handful of projects that I’ve wanted to get in there for a while, and I’m finally getting around to it. Specifically, I’m redoing the title page layout, so I’m “gridding” it. In doing so, I’ve found that strict grids created the most interesting layouts by far. Grids Are the Greatest (feel free to turn that into a t-shirt slogan), so use them!

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