If you use a grid, the worst-case scenario is that your design will be solid but formulaic and unimaginative.
If you don't use a grid, the worst-case scenario is that your design will be amateurish, confusing, and unstructured.
Use a grid – unless you really know what you're doing.
Design is subjective though Sacha, one persons gold is another persons pile of dog doo doo!
That's a whole lot of words to not formulate an argument. I thought the article was without content of value.
You lost me at:
I want to be a trendsetter with my design work.
There is not a single reason for a designer to have that as a goal, apart from inflating your ego. And ego is what makes a crappy designer.
There are so many things in the past of the design industry that we can learn from. Grids have been around for a very long time, because they provide value in many situations. Just going around shouting "we need to do something different because we are designers" is utterly stupid.
That's not ego speaking, surely every designer wants to be recognised as being a "good designer" or a "trendsetter" or "one to watch" or "upcoming" or whatever term of recognition you want to use?
I didn't say don't use a grid and I didn't say do something different because we are designers. What I did say is don't use a pre-defined grid by default without care and consideration and as designers we should be looking for ways to break the mould, improve experience and push design forward.
Thanks for your comments though, you've got great passion.
It depends how you define your success as a designer.
By how other designers view your work, or by how real people respond the products and services you design.
I have come to find the latter more satisfying and motivating.
I think his point is that grids - possibly - can prevent a designer from thinking beyond traditional structures. If you create your own structure, it forces you to think why something is the case, and as a result, you have a more firm understanding what can be done. I think it's a good way to think. If you only read Robert Frost because you're convinced that's how sentences are meant to be formulated, you're missing out on the beauty of E.E. Cummings. It's my opinion that Robert Frost can be a great way to understand the beauty of E.E. Cummings - and vice versa. Both have tremendous value.
+1 Exactly my point below, except with a little less "be nice or else applied" :-)
Well there are two types of designers in my opinion....artists and architects. Let's take the car industry as an example: the artists are the ones coming up with crazy futuristic concept cars that would never be allowed on the roads, and the architects are the ones bringing these concepts down to earth and making sure they work in real life. Artists are trendsetters and likely never use grids, while architects are UI/UX/usability people who likely use grids.
Nothing wrong with wanting to become a trendsetter. Personally I'm an architect, but I would be nothing without artists fuelling my creativity.
Wow, wow, wow. No. Hold it right there horsey.
I applaud your anti-grid stance. I don't follow it, but I think a few less grids here and there would be welcome. I don't normally take sides as much as argue in favour of both options. We're not digital creatures (IO) we're analogue. There is no absolute right and wrong.
But then you go and say:
Design is subjective
... ART is subjective. Design can be argued, measured. There are rules for design. Not rules you can't break, but rules that you should know, so they can help you achieve your goal.
Design is a way to convey a message. If you really want to call it art, call it "the art to convey a message". And it either comes across, or it doesn't. Nothing subjective about it.
Or at least, that's design in B2B and B2C. Which I'd argue is 99% of our jobs.
How about this Dirk... EVERYTHING is subjective. Now don't fall off your horsey! ;)
No, art is subjective. Design is not, design is communication or use. Those can be measured on how effectively they are understood, grids increase that effectiveness.
Art is subjective. Design isn't, it's not open to interpretation, if the meaning is ambiguous then it doesn't work because design first and foremost communicates.
There is NO WAY you can design anything that makes sense without using a grid. The grid might be implicit, you might not be using a set of guides, but some sort of grid is always necessary to maintain rhythm.
Yep, and it's not like you're always stuck with one grid for everything. You can always develop your own grids, and refine based on what you're designing for.
- This book was published 11 years ago: https://www.amazon.com/Making-Breaking-Grid-Graphic-Workshop/dp/1592531253
- This book was published 55 years ago: https://www.amazon.com/Grid-Systems-Graphic-Design-Communication/dp/3721201450/
And Modernism vs Post Modernism is almost 100 years old.
I wrote an entire article about how much I disagree with this.
I must say this written response brings me back to the golden days of blogging when communication bounced back and forth between different blogs.
Always love reading your posts. Good counter-point
Great article Daniel but I do think you've entirely missed the point of my original post. I've said do not use a pre-defined grid and do not use the same pre-defined grid every time - think about why and when to use grids and roll your own. I think people are getting confused with the title of the post which I guess is a little confusing but is purely a play on the "There is no spoon" line from the Matrix film. As for the strikethrough reference on link hover - I think people are intelligent enough to realise this is a visual style :)
As for the strikethrough reference on link hover - I think people are intelligent enough to realise this is a visual style :)
Test it. That will be your first step in realizing that design isn't subjective; it can be measured and because of that, when you design with ego or intuition (as you've advocated for), you're inherently disadvantaged.
Daniel wrote an entire article about it. I wrote two. And now I'm giving entire speeches about it.
Developers must love you....
I'm a developer as well as a designer and I've managed many projects - I've covered this above in my responses. But... I do love developers and the developers I work with know that and the love is reciprocated :)
Grids help to communicate. It helps development. It helps the design development. It destroys creativity. So what kind of an designer are you? You work in a big team? Use grids. You are one designer and have the clients who pay for an creative design approach? Don't use grids or use grids.
Grids are helping to create a vertical and horizontal rhythm to your design, specially when you design with a lot of text. Grids are crucial on a macro typographic level so you should use it. Without grids you can easily design crap that nobody understands.
So it depends on what you up to.
I didn't say don't use grids, I just said use them when needed and don't always stick to the pre-defined ones, break the rules once in a while - you might like it :)
I think there is a reason why to use grids. And when you alter the design process in a team and all agree on "lets do this without grid – woohoo" that will lead into development chaos. Good designers always knows what happens with their designs in the beginning and afterwards. A good designers knows the constrains that came from development. Designers are always a part of a product development cycle not the center of it. So when you loose grids and constrains you loose in communication and furthermore product quality.
I completely disagree here. Design shouldn't be handled by what the development team can achieve. If the dev team aren't capable, get a new one
This is pretty telling of how good of a team player you are. Designing something that can be technically implemented in the scope and budget of the project IS design.
This approach probably works for you on smaller projects with one or two person teams, but in the scope of large projects this is very short sighted
I'm a team player people, honestly. I've worked in big teams and I've managed big teams but Jan's comment sounded like they were constraining the design process for development wins. I'm not in to that. What I do think is that decisions should be made on a project by project basis and the whole team needs to buy in to what they are trying to achieve and do it together.
Than you should not design you should create art. Design is always constrained.
Even when you don't, you are still sticking to some kind of order your brain is superimposing to the elements of your design. While that might not be an "explicit grid" there is still some form of order to any piece of good design. We also need to remember that grids used for the web and UI development are really a small subset of all possible grids used in print design and painting. I encourage everyone to explore them!
Agree. We do use grids, but we make a bespoke one for every project and it's not always an even number of equal width columns - so they're more guides than grids I guess? You need alignment aids to help with structure, but you can't blindly pick one out of a box and design around it, your grid/guides should be born of the right design solution for the interface you are designing.
Overuse of standard/the same grids is also a major contributing factor of the homogenisation of web design.
Spot on Jon, maybe I should have gotten you to write the article, that was much more eloquently put!
To me it sounds like you're talking more so about art than design. In design, there is nothing wrong with repeating a solution if it truly solves the problem.
You can argue convention, UX and design patterns here – but what are we really trying to do? As designers, surely we are trying to push the boundaries, try new things and get a higher level of engagement from our audience?
As a designer, your goal should be to come up with a solution to a problem. As an artist, your goal should be to push boundaries and ask questions. I think this quote from John Maeda says it well:
"Great art makes you wonder; great designs make things clear."
I think as a designer you can solve solutions and push boundaries.
Yes, but solving the problem is the only true measurement of success as a designer. A design can be successful when it solves a problem at the expense of all else. A design cannot necessarily be successful when it focuses on pushing boundaries.
That is not what your blog post says.
The overall impression that I get from your post is that you are more focused on pushing boundaries than solving problems.
Design is about breaking some or all of the rules. I don’t want every project to be the same, I want to design every single element.
You can argue convention, UX and design patterns here – but what are we really trying to do?
Parts like this, while not explicitly saying that pushing boundaries is more important than solving a problem, certainly give off a feeling of that notion.
I see, well I think you've taken a point of view from that which isn't actually stated. Design is problem solving and sometimes you get to push the boundaries within this.
Interesting post, thank you.
Of course, its another case of "it depends", there is basically no element in design process that is ALWAYS appropriate for every project. Aside from talking to your client and users about their problems and goals.
Also I'm interested in your motivation to be a "trendsetter", some might say that putting your own needs and biases into your work so much, is a little egotistical. Although I only say this because I am actually probably motivated by the same thing, but more in denial about it :-)
Thanks Bevan :)
I have no motivation to be a trendsetter, I'm not setting out to be one. It would kind of be nice to be one though as a by-product of my efforts :)
Fair enough, it was a bit of a douchebag comment to be fair.
I'm just particularly interested in the subject of what motivates different designers. Especially around the area of uniqueness and homogenisation in design and my theory that many designers today selfishly over emphasise the need for uniqueness when it's only a by-product of seeing the world though a designer's eyes.
I think design should be unique because every business is unique more than anything. If you've understood the client, their needs and their business each project should stand out for that.
I agree, the content/service/product/experience will always need to be unique and suit the problems you are trying to solve.
The visual/graphic style however doesn't ALWAYS have to be so unique, awesome it can be, but spending time trying to create this, when the business/user need isn't there, can be a waste of resources, and I've seen it happen.
It's certainly nice to do something crazy once in a while and not always use the same grid but...
Grids are also used to make sure the design is maintainable. Sometimes it's impossible for other designers/developers to know all about the philosophy/values/importance of the design. However, they're always able to 'learn' the grid or how the UI kit works. It also introduces a big risk for both the designer and the client.
Most importantly if your own 'brilliant' design doesn't perform as well as you'd like. Do you approach the client to recommend changing it to something a bit more 'normal'?
Iteration is always needed on any living and breathing website.
Design != Art.
We use systems because they make sense. Different for the sake of different is trivial at best, dangerous at worst.
Having said that, if the work isn't commercial, or the work is just for you, go nuts.
I use flexbox and I can't go back
Almost agree, but totally disagree. Make your own grids, experiment with modular scales, try applying that same harmonic ratios to your spacing as your type hierarchies and see what starts to happen. Build a grid to establish pattern and visual harmony, and then intentionally break that pattern for emphasis and surprise. Yes basic grids are boring, so don't do that. If you really know what you are doing, you will use grids.
Hi Blake I think that's what I was saying, wasn't it? I'm saying don't just throw the same old grid at every project without thinking about it, don't stick to it unless you need to, break it if you have to, etc. I think we're on the same page as I agree with everything you've said :)
Haha ok ya, I just had an immediate visceral reaction to the headline... and then i was fired up and i read your post through that context and had a different takeaway, saying to just freestyle it. I think if you elaborated a bit more on what to do instead of the default "1-col, 2-col" then i wouldve agreed right away.
Absolutely use math in design. its fuckin' awesome.
Ah sorry, I didn't actually mean it to be a reactionary headline, it was just a reference to the "There is no spoon" line in the Matrix :)
I thought this was going to be about thegrid.io.
Thanks Joe, surely it would have been called there is no thegrid.io ;)
When it comes to visual layout, I think you will never ever escape employing some sort of 'grid'. While one may not purposely be 'using' it while doing their design or during execution, I would argue that it's still not detached from working within the same framework. Foundation courses on visual communication and systems always have grids in its curriculum and for good reason (read Josef Müller Brockmann). As they say, the more you understand something, the better, easier and more potential there is in breaking it, but it is never, i think, without its influence. Visual design is all about rhythm, scale, repetition and so on... use it or not, you're bound by this 2D 'force' on whatever it is you're creating– a la gravity. And there is no escaping the influence of what we've seen before. Elements on whatever it is we are making are playing by the 'rules' we design.
Now if we're going to talk exclusively about grid frameworks and systems employed on the web , e.g. the 960 grid, or designing thinking about the end-format (responsive etc) which is why these 'grid frameworks' exist in the first place, then i do agree that by using them it seems to come with a pre-packaged design. The results are obviously similar– homogenised indeed. This whole 'homogenisation' of the web thing is a different conversation altogether. But a lot of the 'edgy' and 'cool' sites are heavily based on print and visual design paradigms (just take a look at site inspire, and those really neat typography driven sites). Um, so yeah, we're all using grids subconsciously.
TL DR; be happy, love life, drink beer, smile ¯_(ツ)_/¯
so much for my first post/reply ever on DN! :cheers:
Good points there!
I've known web designers who didn't use a grid to lay their stuff out, just willy nilly with the stylus. No surprise to me, they made terrible stuff.
Willy nilly, haven't heard that term in a while and it isn't something I am condoning I've just voiced my thoughts on pre-defined grids used by default and maybe they aren't always the best solution
Yeah I know yet this is the sort of thing that just falls under the "it depends" category. Maybe a bowling ball falls on my head or I can't see out of one eye and all of the sudden I can design better. Who the hell knows.
Hey if that works let me know ill give it a try ;)
You need to start with a Grid to have an educated understanding of when and where to break it. This has been a fundamental part of graphic design since the birth of print which is now translated into digital design . This is a good book on the subject - https://www.amazon.com/Making-Breaking-Grid-Graphic-Workshop/dp/1592531253
Grids help us to structure and organise information so that users can digest information more comfortably.
I do however agree with avoiding css grids. I follow a grid with my designs visually but I do not use a css foundation for any of my websites.
Your design agency's site uses a grid: https://weare2ndfloor.com/ There's literally a class named "main-grid".
How many people just read the title of the post and then let that cloud their judgment of the post to come? I said I don't use pre-defined grids and I don't use the same one on every project. The post was only intended to make people think outside the grid not to avoid it altogether.
"It’s not that I’m not a fan of grids, I am. They have their place and they are needed. What I don’t like about grids like is the formulaic and lazy nature of their usage"
That section right there sums up the whole post. I was merely trying to make people think a little bit more when they started a web design project or build and to break the grid a little or roll their own, not to ignore grids and design principles altogether.
Next time I'll make sure I haven't inadvertently given the post a sensational title as most people who have commented negatively don't seem to have been able to get past that and actually read what is in the post.
Thanks everyone for reading though and I am pleased that I've sparked some discussion. It's good to know there is still a heavy passion from designers and that can only ever be a good thing.
You should read/look into Hundertwasser. I often wonder what the world would like had his ideas caught on, and put an end to modernism/modernist architecture:
I haven’t found one single visual design in the entirety of Western design history that does not imply a grid structure.
I disagree. Use a grid, but know when to break the rules. I always start with a grid for all my print and web design work but I also know that there are times I need cheat a block of content and I figure out the best way to doit within the reasonable constraints of my grid and current layout. The one thing to never do is use the SAME grid for everything you do. Let the content drive the design.
"what is a sword without the hand that wields it" -Thulsa Doom
In my experience it has usually been more about how I use tools and not the actual tools I use. Of course there are instances where the wrong tool for the job will result in bad work.
That’s why I wrote Gridless.
It starts with a base cell of 20px where you can build anything on. Usually buttons have 30px height, borders are 2px and padding is 4px (2*4+2=10). Every dimension (width, height) is divisible by 10.
The idea is not to have a predefined grid system, but to build one each time.
Interesting idea, thanks for the link I'll check Gridless out!