Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating unequal modules within the grid, part of Typography: Working with Grids.
Grids are a great starting point for any project. But once you feel confident about working with grids, you can begin to go beyond the grid. This handsome book jacket plays a strong grid against the delicate botanical illustration. Each component of its text is compartmentalized. Each piece of text has its place within the grid. At first glance, the design appears centered. But at the bottom, the modules are unevenly divided in order to give prominence to the author's name, and to accommodate the longer credit for the illustrators.
In all of your projects, the grid structure must always serve the content. Your content should always be the starting point for developing the right grids for your projects. Unequal modules within your grid can be a good solution to fit disparate amounts of text, while still retaining a sense of organization. This playful infographic looks organized. Every component is clearly contained in what appears to be a strict grid. But on closer inspection, there are six separate panels which contain multiple elements.
There is no consistent underlying grid. It works because it appears organized. This app has a brief intro paragraph, which segues to a short sidebar within the same grid space. Then, it slides down to a diagram with heads and captions. These appear to be built on a grid, but they are different widths to accommodate specific copy of different lengths. These unequal modules, also had to be carefully positioned to work with the underlying illustration.
A flexible grid will allow variations in a multi-screen or multi-page document. Varying the pacing and flow of text, images, and other text elements like sidebars, infographics, and other graphics enrich the viewer's experience, and encourage the viewer to remain engaged. This app for Kids Discover is a good example of how a variety of grids can vary the pacing and flow of content throughout an entire project. There's a lively mix of full-screen images, two-column grids, three-column grids, and four-column grids.
The entire project has consistent graphic elements, a consistent color palette, and one typographic superfamily which binds it all together visually. One last example of unequal modules within a grid is this spread from Fast Company. I love the way it mixes and matches widths and lengths of its typographic modules, and still looks structured and easily accessible for the reader. It does take quite a bit of typographic finesse to pull this off well. This is a good moment for a reminder about what I call the typographic theory of relativity, that every element exists in relation to every other element.
That means that there is a balance, an equation that governs the overall appearance of the elements including size, weight, style, position, color, and spacing. When one changes, the others may have to change in response in order to maintain a good visual balance. Working with unequal modules within your grid might be a good solution for your specific project. As long as you are starting off with a grid of some kind, you can divvy up your internal modules within the grid with unequal dimensions, and still project a sense of structure and organization for your readers or viewers.
Try starting out with a strict grid and see how far you can go.
Designer Ina Saltz walks you through how to use grids effectively in both print and screen-based projects, offering examples from websites, books, magazines, and even comic strips. Ina touches on using grids to solve issues with hierarchy, proportion, and variation, and points out occasions that might warrant breaking away from the grid, to give your compositions more visual tension and interest. Start here and learn how to add this powerful tool to your typographic arsenal.