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The Grid System: Definition, Types, Function, and Benefits

Published on November 27, 2023

Defining a Grid System

Simply put, a grid system is a combination of vertical and horizontal lines that intersect with one another. These points of convergence are later on used to arrange the content on the website or an application. Just like Spiderman’s spider web, the grid acts as an invisible chord holding all the elements together. Even when they are physically separated.

Popular example of grid systems would be in print publications. The news is showcased in the form of grids and text blocks. Although it may appear simple but the entire process is very systematic. The importance of grid systems has even found its way in digital media. The content of website or mobile app must appear consistent to avoid confusion. Failing to do so may even make the website appear unprofessional. Grids are useful to make it easy for the user to navigate what they are looking for.

Like color and typography, layout grids also play an essential role in UI/UX design. The better the visual elements are organized and arranged with regard to their positions, the finer the design appears. The absence of grids create a terrible place, which would shoo away a lot of users. So, when designers are required to organize content in a convenient manner, the grid system ensures that their task is done as smoothly as possible.

Types of Grids

There are 4 types of grids, which are listed and elaborated below –

1)  Manuscript Grids

Also referred to as single-column grids, manuscript grids are the most fundamental edition of the grid structure. Inside a page or format, the manuscript grids are a large rectangular area. When showcasing continuous blocks of text, these grids are very useful. Also, users have the option to use images to fill the blocks. The most general use of manuscript grids is in print publications, for instance, books.

2)  Column Grids
As the name suggests, column grids arrange the elements into columns. There could be a few columns, two columns, or as many as six, all depending on the configuration. Column grids are classified into two types – symmetric and asymmetric. In column grids, images can be placed in one column or across two columns. Examples of column grids include magazines, research journals, online newspapers, and blog posts.
3) Modular Grids

Modular grids are those grids that comprise both columns and rows. The modules of this grid are all equal-sized. Modular grids are most useful when there is a requirement to have more control over complex layouts. Newspapers, for example, use both modular grids and column grids in order to have more control over the layout. Modular grids open up the possibilities of endless variations.

4) Baseline Grids

The baseline is basically the line where the text sits. To provide a certain harmony to the text, a baseline grid can be implemented to any layout grid. The grid makes sure that the baseline (the bottom of each line of text) is aligned with vertical spacing. A primary example of baseline grids would be lined notebooks. They help to maintain the rhythm of the text.

The Function & Benefits of Layout Grids in Interactive Design

There is no fixed size when it comes to interactive designs. The reason is simple. Over the last 20 years, as technology enhanced, people began to use devices of variable screen sizes. For instance, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and desktops. It’s a no-brainer that each of them has a different screen size.

As users shift from one device to another, the elements are required to be re-organized to adjust the varying screen size. To conveniently accommodate these alterations, a layout gride is the best option out there.

In several ways, the grid system refines the quality of design. They are demonstrated below:

1) Clarity & Consistency

Consistency is essential. It is necessary that every element are well-aligned. A little discrepancy can make the user uncomfortable. Especially, with digital media, the importance of consistency becomes clearer. The uniformity allows users to easily understand where the information they are looking for is situated. Considering the little amount of time almost every user has, it’s necessary to help them come across their required information in a few seconds. The foundation for consistency is created by grids and this in turn, although, indirectly, helps to improve clarity.

2) Responsive Design

In today’s digital world, responsive design has become a necessity. If a website fails to be responsive and refrains from being both desktop- and mobile-friendly, then it better prepare a goodbye message to all its users. To preserve the user’s attention, designers use grids to create consistency in design across multiple screen sizes.

3) Easier To Reuse & Modify

The evolution of digital media is inevitable. Changes take place every other day. Most of which plays to our advantage. One such benefit of reusing our creation. Grid design isn’t left out of this spectrum. You’ve the option to rearrange these these grids to create a new, modified version of the original design.

Battle of the Grids?

There is no saying which one is best. Each one works for a particular application. It all depends on the format. For instance, when it comes to books, the manuscript grid is the most suitable. But it’s a total-no-no for newspapers or magazines, which works best with modular grids.

Grids are essential. For centuries on end, they have helped artists and writers to better organize their work. It’s the skeleton that holds every element together. You can have the most amazing designs but if you aren’t able to balance them in your platforms then they will seem out of the place. So, with the knowledge you have gained through this article about grids, make better use of them and ameliorate your designs!