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Grids and how we as graphic designers use them.

As graphic designers working with the formatting and creative programs that we use today must be able to use and understand the grid. We use them for ease of reading and handling we use them because it helps make our designs more ordered and helps with hierarchy. Yet as creative people how are we supposed to be regulated by a grid? Now days we have complex grid structures comprising multiple columns, fields, baseline grids, and more. But before we had all of these set grids built into us by our tools the programs we use there were commercial artists, printers, and scribes that dealt with and thought about content, proportion, space, and form. Even before typesetting and printing there was published documents meant to be read. The scribes that wrote religious texts used more than one column, with lettering that was ranged left, and color and variations in letter size used for emphasis which are things we still think about and use.

Some of the most interesting facts about the grid are its original purpose of establishing proportion and geometry. The idea behind the grid is the “golden section” a section of the page that is most pleasing to the eye because the proportions of the pages and margins were determined by geometry, concerned with the relation of points, lines, surfaces, and solids to one another rather than their measurement.

The idea of adding two numbers to find the next in a series is also the behind the Fibonacci sequence. A combination of the golden section and Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc) was often used to determine the overall proportion of the page and margins of the classical book.

This diagram shows how to draw a golden-section rectangle using only a set square and a compass. The resulting proportions are considered to be some of the most aesthetically pleasing. Start by using a set square to draw a right angle. Place a compass in one corner and draw an arc to arrive at a square, and then draw a line horizontally through its center. Use the compass to join the two points shown to complete the rectangle.

This spread from The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, published in 1792, uses the golden section to determine the text area, and the Fibonacci sequence to arrive at relative margin sizes (inner margin 3 units; top and outer margins 5 units; bottom margin 8 units). The gutter is treated as the central axis, and there is one column of text. The outer and bottom margins are larger than the inner and top. These optical adjustments ensure that the text doesn’t appear to be falling off the bottom of the page.