Join Dave Schultze for an in-depth discussion in this video Grids and axes, part of Design Foundation 3D: Shape and Form.
- A grid is a fantastic organizing tool and is especially helpful with larger scale projects in architecture, landscape, and urban design. An axes is simply a particular grid line or a set that has been highlighted like for an entry. Let's start in graphics and print where the grid is everywhere. You wouldn't want to read anything unless the text was organized into some sort of simple grid. In fact, the more information you have, the more organized it needs to be. Layered grids need to be consistent. A grid that changes from page to page is confusing and almost always a very bad idea.
Of course, I have an occasional student that disagrees on the basis that this is too predictable, but a grid on your portfolio that keeps changing will interrupt the flow of the content. Keep the focus on your words and your work. In city planning one of the best bad examples, according to my college urban planning instructor, is San Francisco. Many critics point out that much of the street grid completely ignores the natural topography. This makes for some really awkward but still pretty memorable, in my opinion, street scenes like this one.
Good news, grids don't always have to be straight, cross at 90 degrees, or even be continuous. Painter Piet Mondrian first used a rigid grid then broke it and then filled in some special areas with bright primary colors. His work was ground breaking and original but not so much with his names. This painting from 1900 was called Composition No. 4 with Red, Blue, and Yellow. Catchy, his new abstract style inspired a wide variety of work in other fields.
My favorite is this dress by Yves Saint Laurent. From their Paris 1965 collection. It's all wool so it might get a little hot, I've been told. We can also think of a grid as a network of connections. In Paris where Mondrian lived for three years, this city street grid added a layer of diagonals and axes pointing on important monuments and parks. This makes the focal points all the more special and visible for long distances. Practically, this creates new landmarks and helps visitors get around town.
In product design, a grid can be used to organize elements. Designed by Dieter Rams in 1955, the Braun SK2 radio transforms a grid into a pattern of holes for the speaker. Even though the speaker occupies a small portion of the front face, the perforations continue everywhere on the front up to all four edges where they use a perimeter trim as a frame for this pattern. The radio's stark simplicity was the designers attempt to strip away what they called inflated grandeur seen in other traditional styled radio designs from this era.
In architecture, one of my absolute favorite buildings, really a small village, is The Getty Center in Los Angeles by Richard Meier. It was a 13 year process to design and build but the end result is spectacular. Grids are used to organize everything from the site plan to the buildings, railings, and the exterior metal and stone work on the facade. Here we can see the precision of the metal panels as every seam is carefully thought out. Minor contrasts, the smooth metals panels with occasional rough stone but still keeps the tightly detailed joint pattern to match.
If you ever visit LA, make sure to go. It cost a billion dollars but it's free to get in, parking is extra. Let's also mention that grids are not always helpful or even present. In this famous example from a 1509 wood cutting, Luca Pacioli sees a grid where no one ever thought to look, on the human face. I think no one ever looked because it's not really there. Grids and axes are powerful tools and we've seen them critically modified for just about any use.
So keep this in mind the next time you're asked to design a city plan or make a print for a dress.
First, see how the same idea can be applied in a smaller 2D scale—like graphics and print, fine art, and advertising. Dave then blows it up in 3D, and showcases examples from product design, furniture, architecture, and urban planning.
Projects and concepts are presented in an engaging and sometimes irreverent manner with images, videos, and personal and professional stories from Dave. Check out this fast-paced tour as it covers topics ranging from grids and axes to designing with humor.
- Design exploration with sketching
- 3D exploration with organic forms
- Grids and axes
- Defining space
- Color and contrast
- Texture and patterns
- Minimalism. Less is more.
- Retro. It's back!