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Before we move on to the lab, I want to leave you with some of my favorite tools and resources for working with grid-based designs. And I've included this file for you in the 05_06 directory; it's the grid_resources.htm file. Now, the first site I want to take you to it is Design by Grid. Now, this is a great collection of articles, tutorials, and resources on designing with grids, and they also have a nice showcase of sites that focus on grid-based design. Perhaps my favorite site in dealing with grid-based layout is The Grid System, and you can see they have different articles.
They have some tools that can help you design with grids. They have different books, links to grid-based templates, and a blog. Now, you'll notice from these dates that they haven't updated in a while, so I'm not really sure what the long- term prospects for the site is, but the articles and the information and the tools that you'll find on the site are invaluable. So even just because they're a couple of years old, it doesn't devalue what this site has in terms of resources, so this is a site you should definitely check out. Now, I also recommend reading through The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.
It's a very long title, but this is a web adaptation of Robert Bringhurst's famous The Elements of Typographic Style book and again, it's being adapted for web typography. Now, it's slow going. They're going all the way through Robert's book, and right now they're just sort of beginning on Chapter 3 and work kind of comes and goes with this, but this is an absolutely fantastic resource. It's not just for grid-based design, but since typography is such an important part of your web site and understanding how to control typography correctly and how to style it correctly for the web is going to help you in great type into your grid-based design.
So this is definitely a resource that you need to spend some time with. I'm also a really big fan of the Golden Ratio Calculator. I love designing with specific ratios, and there's a lot of different ratios you can use, but probably the Golden Mean is the most famous. And with this you would just enter a width or an important number. Let's say, for example, we're going to do a 12-column design. I can type in 12 and I get a couple of different sets of measurement. This one says, okay, if you're going to use a 12-column design, a 7:5 split fits that golden ratio.
On the other side of it, it says, if one of your columns is based on 12 units, the column on the other side should either be 7 or 19, or you could even do both. So this is a really neat tool for you to help understand what the ratios of your different page elements and grid- based design should be based off of. I'm not a huge fan of grid systems. I'll be honest with you, I don't use any of the grid systems that are out there. I prefer to make my own. But that doesn't lessen the impact that they've had on the design world, and probably the most famous grid system out there right now is the 960 Grid System.
A ton of people are using this, but if you go out to Google and you search for CSS grid system, you're going to find dozens of these out there that people are using. So a grid system is essentially a collection of styles that are sort of preformatted to help you design on a grid, and they'll include classes that you can use in order to control the widths and the layout of the elements on your page. So they're very handy to have, but they do add a little bit of bloat to your CSS. But what I like about the 960 Grid System site is there are a lot of really cool things on here.
They have a custom CSS generator. They have nice documentation that will help teach you a lot about grid-based design, not just using this particular system. They also have a Grid Overlay Bookmark, which will help you design a longer grid, even if it's not this one, and they have some neat resources like this demo. For example, if you were designing on a 960 grid, it helps you understand the different column breakdowns that are possible and some of the different measurements for columns so that they will fit within the system. Now, of course their spacing here is based off of 20 pixels. So if your base unit of measurement is going to be different, it's not going to fit exactly into this column spacing, but you get a good idea of what's possible within 960 pixels.
They also have a nice gallery, or showcase of sites, that are using the 960 Grid, and one of the things that this will help you do as a designer is it's going to help inspire you and going to help you see that designing on a grid doesn't have to be restrictive. You can really have just an amazing variety of layouts created off of a single type of grid system. So the 960 Grid System, I would encourage you to go check that out and read a little bit more about it. Now, I also have another gallery site here, Grid Based, which has a gallery of grid-based designs. And again, this is a great place to go for inspiration or just seeing how certain people have designed on the grid.
A very similar tool to this is the 960 Gridder tool, and this 960 Gridder tool actually is just a bookmark. So if I take this and make a bookmarklet out of this particular file, then I have the ability, anytime I click on that bookmarklet, to have this overlay. And what's really nice about this one is you get a lot of control over the opacity of this, over the number of columns that you're going to be using within this grid, so you can just kind of modify this at any time. And then using the keyboard shortcut of Alt+Ctrl+C, I can just toggle that grid kind of on and off once it has been enabled.
So again, that's another resource that will help you develop grid-based designs by allowing you to sort of test within the browser and overlay the grid that you've established right on top of it. I want you to keep in mind that grids are just tools. They can help you create harmonious designs and they certainly make the process of planning things like fixed layouts a lot easier. However, don't see them as just rigid structures that restrict your ability to design. Now, at the end of the day, you're the designer and your design has to work on a level that's acceptable to the client, and perhaps more importantly, to the audience.
Incorporate them into your design process, but don't be afraid to go outside the grid if the demand warrants it.
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