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Looking through grid-tinted glasses

Grids are everywhere in the world. Appreciating grids can give you a visual language to understand how many designs work and in my opinion can help you greatly improve your own designs.

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Grids, Grids, Grids

Grids are everywhere. They are present in nature, engineering, art and town planning. Look at this photo of honeycomb for example. The honeycomb is appealing for its visual rhythm but it also serves a practical purpose. The shapes make maximum use of the space and makes access and maintenance very straightforward. Photo by justus.thane


The human eye understands and interprets rhythm, probably from shapes it has seen in the natural world. As such grids can serve both an aesthetic and practical purpose. Take this example of the roof at the British Museum for example. There are echoes of the honeycomb here and from a practical perspective it holds the roof up. Photo by See Wah

Grids on the British Museum Roof

Grids are also extremely valuable for organisation. Time after time town planners use grids to maximise the space they have and to provide a logical system for residents. Coming from London, which has little organisation, I found getting round Manhattan extremely simple largely thanks to the grid system.

Map showing grids

Newspapers are a great example of a medium that needs to get a large amount of dense copy into a tiny space. I illustrated in a previous article how grids are used extensively to organise content. Pulling an item out of the grid is a common technique to give it prominence.

Graphic showing Grids in Newspapers

Learning to look

As you begin to understand that much of the world is organised through grids you will begin to look at things differently. Look at billboards, posters, cars, nature, packaging, maps. You will find that there are grids everywhere. Grids that you can learn from, interpret and understand.

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