Organizing Form and Content


The three graphic illustrations/diagrams were created as part of my first year of graduate work at the Maryland Institute College of Art and featured in the GRID chapter of Graphic Design The New Basics edited by program director Ellen Lupton. The purpose of the work(s) was to create new examples of design methodology in effort to stimulate the education of design principles.

Organizing Form and Content

Design Problem 1
  1. Working in Illustrator, InDesign, or another page layout program, draw nine squares on a page.
  2. Divide each square into nine more squares.
  3. Fill in the nine square with color to create different compositions within the same structure. Use color to suggest overlapping and intersecting forms.
  4. Repeat the exercise, using the nine–square grids to layout boxes representing text and image. Imagine each gridded box as a page in a publication. Create variation from page to page.
  5. A grid is a network of lines. It is a tool for generating form, arranging images, and organizing, information. The grid can work quietly in the background, or it can assert itself as an active element. The grid becomes visible as objects come into alignment with it. Some designers use grids in a strict, absolute way, while others see them as a starting point in an evolving process.

In the design of printed matter, guidelines help the designer align elements in relation to each other. Consistent margins and columns create an underlying structure that unifies a document and makes the layout process more efficient.

A well-made grid encourages the designer to vary the scale and placement of elements without relying wholly on arbitrary judgments. The grid offers a rationale and a starting point for each composition, converting a blank area into a structured field.

Grids are part of modern urbanism and architecture. The facades of many glass high rises and other modern buildings consist of uniform ribbons of metal and glass that wrap the building’s volume in a continuous skin. The street grids used in many modern cities around the globe promote circulation among neighborhoods and the flow of traffic, in contrast with the suburban cul-de sac, a dead-end road that keeps neighborhoods closed off and private.

The grid imparts a similarly democratic character to the printed page. By making space into numerous equal units, the grid makes the entire page available for use; the edges become as important as the center. Grids help designers create active, asymmetrical compositions in place of static, centered ones. By breaking down space into smaller units, grids encourage designers to leave some areas open rather than filling up the whole page.

| Edited by Ellen Lupton

GD BASICS [dot] com

Nine-square Grid: Color Fields

Grids Organize Content The nine-square grid divides the page into spaces for images and text. Although each layout has its own rhythm and scale, the pages are unified by the grid’s underlying structure. The book you are reading is built around a similar nine-square grid. [pg. 176]


Grid Organizes Content

Nine-square Grid Color Fields The grid provides a structure for organizing fields of color that frame and overlap each other. Complexity emerges against a simple armature. [pg. 177]


Coffee_Broken Grid

Broken Grid The rectilinear photographs overlap and misaligned to create a sense of movement and depth. Individuality, each image is static, but together, they convey action and change. [pg. 179]


Graphic Design The New Basics. Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips
Princeton Architectural Press, New York and Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore
© 2008

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