The Typographic Grid

A grid is a skeletal framework used by designers to organize information within a spatial field. It is a system characterized by the dualities of freedom and constraint, simplicity and complexity. It provides a strategy for composing text and other visual information in two- and three-dimensional space, including those of printed materials, film, computer screens, built environments, and typographic installations. Grid systems aid designers in making information clear and optimally accessible—highly desirable traits in a world increasingly inundated by visual noise. When used effectively, typographic grids provide form and space with proportional harmony and aesthetic beauty. The final result is clearer and more accessible communication.


The grid as we know it today is rooted in the earliest written forms, from columnar cuneiform tablets impressed by the Mesopotamians as early as 3000 BCE, to hieroglyphic writing on papyrus (see Figs. 1-5 and 1-8).

The mechanization of printing in Europe during the fifteenth century led to structural conventions and typographic principles that have survived for centuries. The architecture of movable type and the mechanics of letterpress printing yielded rectilinear structures—text set into blocks framed by margins. Gutenberg's forty-two-line Bible was Europe's first typographic book; other similarly structured books were created during the Renaissance in Germany, France, and Italy (see Figs. 1-38, 1-49, and ...

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