Can the grid really be broken?

N-Jay-G's picture

From what I have read about breaking the rules/ abandoning the grid, Im not sure it is completely possible to escape. Discussions of the designer being, well you could say, unleashed from the grid to result in a more creative and unconstrained piece of design. Though I have noticed, if not a grid then a form of structure/control is needed and used , to produce a functional piece of design. So is the grid really being broken or just recreated into another form?

James Arboghast's picture

Cop this!

I threw the grid out the window to make this font, not that I use the grid when designing a straight font anyway. The above font is a functional piece of design and I'm not aware of any grid being broken or recreated into another form.

Besides, your last sentence is a logical fallacy. If a grid was recreated into another form it wouldn't be a grid any more, would it? It would be something else, and you could do something sensible, like call it something other than "grid".

Why people can't just accept most things and leave 'em alone is beyond me. I mean, it's only a grid innit?

Like it matters?

Who needs a grid? It (the font) either looks right, or it doesn't. I've done a small pile of grid-like fonts without ever having the grid switched on, so apparently I don't need the grid even when I'm supposed to use it.

j a m e s

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Are you talking about type design or layout?

N-Jay-G's picture

I am talking about layout, not type design.

AtoZ's picture

The grid is very useful for organizing large numbers of elements so that the reader can find his or her way easily, but when things aren't so complex, it's quite possible to design well without a grid.

I've designed several books that consisted of full bleed photos with small amounts of text on each. Each block of text was placed over the photos without regard to any underlying grid -- instead the shapes within the individual photos determined the placement of the text.

When to use a grid, and when to break out of it, is a judgement call that designers must learn to decide for themselves. Experience helps.

When trying to go from A to Z,
I frequently end up At Oz.

Chris Dean's picture

Müller-Brockmann, J. (1981). Grid systems in graphic design. Verlag Niggli AG.

If you haven't already, buy this book.

Tim_process's picture

For layout the grid is everything.
If you say you are ignoring the grid then all you are really doing is creating a unique grid per page, your page layout will entirely benefit from keeping with consistent grid even if you break out of it. By all means come up with new permutations of the grid but I feel to ignore it completely is knieve.

aluminum's picture

I suppose you could argue any piece of design has a grid. The only difference being whether it was designed to fit a pre-existing grid of if the design, itself, defined the grid.

Caleb Ramsey's picture

Superficially, check out Ray Gun Magazine and David Carson. They always discussed escaping the grid and such in the nineties.

For richer study:

If you start looking at design as visual connections you can create a visual language without grids by making paths of direction for the eye. Armin Hofmann was good at this. Many Basel designers are good at this even though known for working within grids as well.

Just because you abandon the grid does not mean you are in some sort of nirvana within anarchy. Of course, there must be some sort of organization. For instance, Rothko and many of his generation would make a painting of dark violet and other tones only to shatter it with red. The red provided a focal point. So, there are many ways to create order. Creating visual order is a different task with perhaps different intentions that a grid is not necessarily a solution for. You should start looking at designs or art or whatever you think looks good and ask the question: "How is it this is working successfully." Discover different approaches to organization.

Another approach I have seen is when designs have an object of such shock or allure that your eye is directed to the information the designer wanted you to see. Lots of ideas out there.

Caleb Ramsey's picture

A simple game:

When was in school instructors had us take three black squares of the same size and find the correct ways to organize them on a 1ft square. Maybe the squares were about 2.5 inches. By doing this assignment I realized that given the context of a situation there are solutions that look optically correct and visually pleasing. Even when given freedom to organize them as you may you will eventually see this is true. No grid necessary.

If you add words or content everything changes.

Step two? Add a quarter inch red dot.

dezcom's picture

Of course you can break the grid if you have a reason which makes the layout work better. The grid is a tool, not a straightjacket.


speter's picture

The grid is a tool, not a straightjacket.

So it's not a grid lock?

dezcom's picture

Nor a Chase belt :-P


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