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Design Support Material

What is the definition of grid system? A grid system is the foundation of any solid design or a manner of regularly spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Another grid meaning is a template or guide used for positioning and organizing the element of an order to facilitate and ease decision-making.

An example:

One unit equals 20 Ă— 20 pixels. Each unit is further divided into sub-units of 5 Ă— 5 pixels. There are 16 sub-units per square unit. This can then be also looked at from a print point of view where the values would be represented using millimetres rather than pixels.

An example of a text based grid:

A grid is a set of guidelines, able to be seen in the design process and invisible to the end-user/audience, for aligning and repeating elements on a page. A page layout may or may not stay within those guidelines, depending on how much repetition or variety the design style in the series calls for. Grids are meant to be flexible. Using a grid to lay out elements on the page may require just as much or more graphic design skill than that which was required to design the grid. In contrast, a template is more rigid. A template involves repeated elements mostly visible to the end-user/audience. Using a template to lay out elements usually involves less graphic design skill than that which was required to design the template. Templates are used for minimal modification of background elements and frequent modification (or swapping) of foreground content. Before the invention of movable type and printing, most text had been hand scribed, and basic grids were used to identify a margin area along with guides to ensure typography is kept aligned and straight.

Grids & Templates; what is the difference?

The Golden Ratio - what is it?

In simple terms, the golden ratio (also known as the divine proportion or the golden mean), is a mathematical constant that appears repeatedly in nature and artwork. Expressed as an equation, when a is larger than b, (a + b) divided by a is equal to a divided by b, shown in the image below which is equal to about 1.618033987. That number, often represented by the Greek character “phi,” is the golden ratio.


b a+b

a a+b = = 1.618... = φ a b

The same theory can be used to construct a rectangle, called the golden rectangle. An image that follows the golden ratio can be placed neatly inside a rectangle that obeys the ratio. To construct a golden rectangle, choose a number that will be the length of the rectangle’s short side. For argument’s sake, let’s say 500mm. Multiply that by 1.618. The result, 809mm, is the length of the long side of your rectangle. Therefore, a rectangle that is 500mm by 809mm is a golden rectangle. It obeys the golden ratio.




a a+b = = 1.618... = φ a b

The Golden Rectangle example

So how can we use the Golden Ratio?

Divine Composition

How then do you use this magic number in the composition of your web page? The math may seem like a stifling box that your creativity will struggle in, but the golden ratio is simply a useful guideline. Having a basic guideline to build from can end up giving you more creative room by taking some of the guesswork out of proportions and placement. Think of it as a tool instead of a cage. At its most basic, you can use the golden ratio to designate the size and placement of content areas and side bars. A fixed-width layout is the easiest application. Decide on the overall size of your layout via the method for creating a golden rectangle.

For Grids/Blocks

The square created by the a lines would be your content block. The smaller rectangle would be a side or navigation bar. Once you have figured out the size of your rectangle, finding out how wide your navigation bar needs to be is easy maths. For this example; we’ll say your rectangle is 525 pixels by 850 pixels. 525 is a and 850 is (a + b), and b will be the width of your side bar. To find b, we simply subtract from (a + b), which is 325. Therefore the width of your side bar is 325. Remember that your rectangle can be flipped around to suit your purposes, putting the sidebar at the top, bottom, or opposite side. As long as the ratio holds, your design will feel harmonious.

For Text

There’s a faster way to get the measurements you need and it can be applied with text content. Let’s say your context text is size 12. Multiply 12 with 1.618, the golden ratio, and you’ll get 19.416. A header text size of 19 or 20 would closely follow the golden ratio. The golden ratio is a language your mind understands, and by communicating with it, your ideas will come across more effectively. You don’t have to adhere to it exactly; the basic principle is enough. Applying the ratio to image sizes, the relationship between text and image placement and the creation of subdivisions within side bars are all possible concepts.

Grid Work: The Rule Of Thirds

If maths isn’t your cup of tea, the concept of the golden ratio can be simplified. The rule of thirds governs the placement of points of interest in a scene. Divide any given image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. You’ll get 9 grids.

According to the rule of thirds, the vertices of those lines (where the lines cross) are the ideal placement for points of interest. People scanning the page are more likely to notice things placed near the points, and the division is comfortable to view. More complex design is possible by breaking down those thirds into further thirds. In short, the eye can be lazy and not have to search for important details. Our brains like this. Major images, news boxes, search bars and any other points of interest can be nestled on or near the vertices. This little shortcut will give you a design that is both easy on the eyes and makes people drawn to key pieces of data.

Evolution of the Modern Grid After World War II, a number of graphic designers, including Max Bill, Emil Ruder, and Josef Müller-Brockmann, influenced by the modernist ideas of Jan Tschichold’s Die neue Typographie (The New Typography), began to question the relevance of the conventional page layout of the time. They began to devise a flexible system able to help designers achieve coherency in organizing the page. The result was the modern typographic grid that became associated with the International Typographic Style. The seminal work on the subject, Grid systems in graphic design by Müller-Brockmann, helped propagate the use of the grid, first in Europe, and later in North America. (via Wikipedia)

Consideration of the use of grids within typographic design work must relate to both the content and the context of the work to be produced. It is impossible to prescribe at which point in the design process a grid system should be introduced. This will be towards the earlier stages of the process certainly, but perhaps not before the initial concept is worked through. This may take some working backwards and forwards between the overall design concept in relation to rationalizing aspects of the design such as the choice of typeface and line length. The latter will give an indication as to dimensions for column widths of the grid, for example. Remember, the design should take priority – the grid must be used to guide, not to constrain.

Use of Grids in graphic design layouts

What grids can I use when designing?

Simple Typographic Grids These may consist simply of a number of vertical columns used to position text and image matter, and may include the space between columns – the gutters – and the margins of the page, which must be given consideration. It may be necessary to produce grids with narrower sub-columns to enable a greater degree of fl exibility in the design and layout of pages. Text widths can be set to multiples of the narrower columns, allowing the design to accommodate different matter thus allowing for a change of pace, rhythm and style from one page or section to the next, while still relating the content. Modular Grid Systems Modular grids are associated with Swiss typography or the ‘International Style’ of the 1950s and 60s. As well as a vertical division of space, modular grids divide space horizontally too, creating units or cells. The depth of the cell may depend upon the size of the text type and leading being used. Multiples of the line depth (leading size) form a good basis on which to construct the cells. For example, ten lines of 10pt type on 12pt leading could allow for a cell height of 120pt within the grid. Again, each cell division is spaced by the equivalent of a gutter both vertically and horizontally. Vertical columns still appear, but further rationalization as to the position of text and image in relation to the depth of the page can be made via the grid. Symmetric Grids Symmetric grids sit centrally on a single page (folio) so that the left and right margins are equal. The term can also be applied to a grid system used across facing pages where the position of the margins and text areas are symmetrically refl ected or mirrored. Margins are not necessarily equal but run both left and right of the text area on single pages and are mirrored across the spread. Asymmetric grids These grids may have an off-centre appearance either as single pages or combined in spreads. If used in spreads, the grid is not mirrored from one page to the next as in symmetrical grids, but is more likely to appear repeated in a single position from page to page. Again, as with all grid systems, attention to the relationship of the margins is important. It can be this element alone that determines the success of the eventual layout.

Grids are often constructed as simple columns of vertical lines but may be devised as more complex modular systems allowing for greater  exibility.

Grids & Columns tutorial

A column-grid system is a particularly useful tool for any designer wanting to create perfectly aligned typography. It can be used in both print design projects and in your web designs, to help you achieve pixel-perfect website layouts. As Swiss graphic designer and teacher Josef Müller-Brockmann puts it: “The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee.” It permits a number of possible uses, and each designer can look for a solution appropriate to their personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art that requires practice. As a general rule of thumb, the more columns you have, the greater the layout possibilities. I typically use columns vertically, but for additional layout options you can also place rows across the page horizontally, to create ‘modules’. This tutorial will show you how to set up a column-grid structure the old-fashioned way. Of course, InDesign enables you to create columns (the quick way) with margins and gutters when you create a new document, but by mastering column-grid structures in Illustrator, you can gain a real understanding of the mathematics and principles involved in creating the perfect grid-based design.

01 In Illustrator, create your document for an A2 portrait poster (mine’s 420x594mm high). Decide how many columns you want for your poster – I find that multiples of four are ideal for this (so 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and so on). I’m going with 16 in this case, since it should give me plenty to play with. But when designing an A4 brochure or magazine, for example, it would probably be more like eight or nine columns. 02 Decide on the size of your margins (the distance into your design from the edge of the artboard) and your gutters (the distance between the columns). I’m going for a 20mm margin on each side, with 4mm gutters. This will allow for a decent amount of ‘safe space’ between the borders and the artwork. 03 Now work out where to put your guides – to do this, take your page width (420mm) minus 40mm (the 20mm left and 20mm right margins), which equals 380mm, in this case. Now multiply your gutters. Quick hint: this will be one less than the number of your columns, so in this case 16 columns means 15 gutters. Each gutter is 4mm wide, so I’ve multiplied 4mm (gutter width) by 15 (number of gutters), which equals 60mm.

04 To work out your column width, take your gutter width total (in this case, 60) away from your artboard width, excluding margins (380, here) – so 380 minus 60 leaves us with 320. Divide this value by the number of columns (16) and you’ll get your individual column width (20mm). If you’re bad at maths, like me, use a calculator for this. 05 Show your rulers (View>Show Rulers) to help you measure, and drag a vertical guide onto the artboard. Using the X co-ordinates, set your first guide to zero. Repeat this again to 20mm (your left margin). Remember that you’ll need to make sure your guides are unlocked (View>Guides>Lock Guides) at this stage.

06 Continue setting guides at 40mm (first column), 44mm (first gutter), 64mm (second column), 68mm (second gutter), and so on. Your penultimate guide should be set at 400mm and your last at 420mm. You can repeat this process horizontally, if required, using the Y co-ordinates to create ‘modules’

07 The first step to designing your poster is gathering content and pasting it into individual text boxes. In this case we’re designing a poster using the London Underground tube lines as the subject, and I found all of the information I required online. Copy and paste your text into separate text boxes – I’m using the name of the tube line and each of its stations – and loosely start laying out the content. 08 A lot of design inspiration comes from the 50s and 60s International Typographic Style, made famous by the likes of Wim Crouwel and Josef Müller- Brockmann. The use of grids and large titles were commonly used by the ‘godfathers of design’, so to echo this style I’ve opted for an apt title name in of AG Schoolbook, at a font size of 190pt. 09 For the central visual element of my poster, I want to design something new that will symbolise all 12 of the tube lines. First, draw a rectangle. Hold and click on the object while pressing Opt/Alt+Shift, and drag the object directly below to duplicate it. Using smart guides, line it up perfectly underneath the original – then hit Cmd/Ctrl+D to duplicate the object until you have a total of 12 rectangles.

10 Draw a large rectangle, then use the Rotate tool to set it to -45°. Place the rotated rectangle above the 12 rectangles on the left-hand side (Object>Arrange>Bring To Front) and use the Direct Selection tool to select all 13 objects. Open the Pathfinder panel, select Trim and cut the rectangles at 45°. Doing this will automatically group the objects together, and give them one sheer face, so you’ll then need to ungroup the objects (Object>Ungroup). 11 Repeat this process for the right-hand side of the rectangles to again get a diagonal line across, then change each rectangle to a different tube line colour. Now select alternate rectangles and drag them to the right to achieve the offset look seen here. Lastly, select all 12 objects, group them together (Object>Group), rotate the whole shape by -45° and then centre it to the artboard – both horizontally and vertically. 12 Once you have all of the individual elements required for your poster placed in the document, set about laying out the type around the central design element. Setting type is a bit like piecing a jigsaw together: it takes a while, but eventually you’ll find a basic layout that you’re happy with. Using the 16-column grid enables you to ensure all the text and elements are perfectly aligned with each other.

13 Now draw some lines using the Pen tool, joining the central element colours to each tube line description with routes that resemble the map of the London Underground system. Clicking on your start point, plan a way out from the central element to the tube line title – holding down Shift will enable you to draw straight lines and 45° angles. Next, round off the angles between lines by creating extra nodes near to the bends – using the Convert Anchor Point tool (under the Pen options), adjust them to achieve a smooth bend.

14 Now convert your main heading text to outlines (Type>Create Outlines), and then begin interweaving the letters into the central design elements. I’ve done this by both trimming (as in step 10) and bringing the tube lines forwards or backwards on layers (Object>Arrange>Bring To Front, or Send To Back. When converting text to outlines, remember that this is a destructive process so keep a copy of the previous version, just in case.

15 To finish off the poster I’ve added some final touches, including circles of colour to represent the interchanges at each station and junction points to join different coloured tube lines to each other. Lastly, check the alignment of individual elements to your column grid to ensure everything is perfectly aligned

Final finished design

Get Inspiration Before you start your magazine, go to a newsstand and purchase a few magazines that catch your eye. Take them home and try to decide WHY they caught your eye. What is it?... the photos? the layout? the subject of the magazine? Use elements you like in other magazines to inspire your magazine’s layout. And do your best to not let the computer dictate your layout. The software works for you not the other way around. Design a Great Cover A well-designed cover can get your magazine noticed and even more importantly, picked up! Therefore, all cover photos must be of a good, high quality photo (in the proper resolution). Choose a photo or illustration that is interesting to your potential readers or which tells a story. Showing the unexcited face of an unknown person will not do much to get the potential customer to reach for your magazine. Choose a photo that is recognizable to your target readers or shows action, unusual colors, taken from unusual angles, or combinations of all these. Remember, your magazine only gets one chance to make its first impression. Photos are powerful in making a good first impression. Careful Font Usage The choice of fonts can have a major impact on the overall professionalism a magazine conveys. Using too many font faces is visually confusing to the reader. He/she may have trouble distinguishing the stories from the ads. Not to mention that too much “stuff� can be tiring on the eyes. Consider using only one to two font families in your articles; one for the headlines and subheads, one for the body text. Research shows that serif fonts, especially small ones, are easier to read than san-serif fonts (serifs are the little tick marks at the end of lines in the letters). The eye tracks across the serifs of the letters making reading easier.

Magazine Design ideas and hints

ALL CAPS are difficult to read. If you want to emphasize a word consider using bold versions of that font as an alternative. Stretching/compressing fonts look awkward. Consider the extended or condensed version of that font or even another font family.

Multi-column Layouts One trick for having your stories look professionally built is to use a multi-column grid to the page. For regular sized magazines try using three columns, digest sized mags use two. Not only does it look more professional but text will flow better on the page and you will have more options for placing photos. Don’t Be Afraid of “White Space” Although it can be difficult, consider leaving some areas of the page blank. Stuffing as much as you can onto a page is visually overwhelming to the reader. Experiment with leaving some column white space in your new multi-column layout. Try running text in one of the columns only with a photo or graph covering the other two columns. Try starting your article halfway down the page with the top half being reserved for a photo. Experiment - computers make that easy. Stay Away from the Edge Many magazines that come through our facilities have layouts with text too close to the edge of the page. Again, don’t try to fill up the entire space. 10mm margin is the minimum suggestion but better 12mm or even more, page margin is suggested. Again, it looks more professional adding more white space and you will not worry about the possibility that text might be cut off when the magazine is cut down to size after printing. Avoid Clip Art Market research has shown that cartoons do not sell to adults. In this case you are selling the story to the reader. He has not read the story and is deciding whether to or not based on the graphics. If poorly designed cheap clip art is used there is a good chance he will not read the article.

It would be fanstastic if we all as designers had the knowledge to just just straight on a mac and design an effective, creative and innovative magazine (or any design) straight away. Unfortunately, design is always evolving and you should always take into consideration the way that you design should be constantly evolving too! The only way we can do this is by researching, and then using our findings from research and analysis to inform our initial ideas. When we talk about initial ideas, especially within the area of editorial design, we generally use sketches of layouts to help convey our ideas quickly and effectively. These do not have to be a realist style painting; nor perfect in every way! Usually a quick, well proportioned sketch is sufficient to help inform our development in a clear and concise way. To the right you will be able to see a few examples of what I mean; both are good examples of quick sketches that can inform our further development.

Creating Ideas for Magazine design

Developing ideas using InDesign

1. Open InDesign and go to File>New or click the Create New File icon on the welcome screen. Set the settings shown here, all the default settings, except set it to 4 pages.

2. Let’s set up the master pages. That way we can add a header and page numbers automatically. Double-click on the A-Master icon on the top of the Pages pullout palette to open up the master pages. Make sure that you double click on the first page to take you back to your working document!

3. To be able to adjust your margins, column number and gutter size; you will need to select layout>margins and columns.

4. Inside this menu box, you can change the values for the margins on all four sides, along with defining the number of columns you may want to use, and finally setting the measurement of the gutter between the columns. We use a gutter as it allows there to be enough space between the columns of text so you can read the text easily. (see how much easier that was to do in InDesign rather thean Illustrator? You had to do no maths at all!)

5. After setting up your column system, you then might want to put some text into the page to see how it looks. You will need to click on the type tool on the left toolbar, then click and drag to create a text box that you can fill with text.

6. The main difference between Illustrator and InDesign is when you come to change the colour of the text you have put into the layout. Instead of just clicking a colour swatch, you will have to highlight the text, then in the swatches menu click on the little ‘T’. This means that you will be changing the colour of just the text rather than the container itself - a common mistake to make but better if you can get the hang of it now!

7. Placing a picture into your layout couldn’t be easier! All you need to do is at the top menu bar go; File > Place. Your image comes into the document attached as a little preview connected to the cursor. You can then click and drag to place the image in the right place, and at a size which fits your design. If you click once it places your picture where you clicked and will be the full size of the image 8. To resize your image, you can use the free transform by just press ‘E’ on your keyboard to get the bounding box to appear for resizing like in Illustrator.

9. When filling your text into your text box, you may find that the text over runs the box - this isn’t a problem as InDesign will draw your attention to the overspill by putting a little red box on the bottom of the text box. To continue the text into another text box, you click on the black arrow of the left tool bar, then click the little red box. What you will see is that the text will link to the cursor again - just like the image did! Click and drag to create a new text box with the overspill text in the right empty column.

10. You can experiment further using different shapes and text to help improve the creativity of your design and make certain elements such as the header and subheader stand out from the reast of your text. Remember to reflect on keeping your designs within the columns that you have created, and always reflect on where there is any overspill of design outside that document area, as when exported this will not be printed. 11. To export the document to print, you must go File > Export > PDF - this is due to the printers not having the right drivers to print directly from InDesign. You will have to poen the PDF up in Preview to print the document off.

Experiment further with different ideas!

Examples of creative editorial design There are plenty of good examples of editorial design that you can find on the internet these days - there are many examples of well designed and creative editorials on Look at them and try to decode the way that their grid system and layout has been put together.


Design Support Material

Editorial Design:  

Support Material HND

Editorial Design:  

Support Material HND