Grids have been used for centuries, starting with the hand-drawn monastic manuscripts, as a way of organizing information in a readable and pleasing format. With the advent of movable type, the typographic grid became an inherent part of the printing process. Following World War II, Josef Müller-Brockmann championed the use of the modern typographic grid. As the printing process has changed from hands-on to digital, grids have evolved to give even greater flexibility to designers.
According to Alan Swann, “a grid is a geometric division of a space into precisely measured columns, spaces, and margins.” Using a grid allows a designer to quickly and easily create a cohesive layout for books, magazines, and websites. The grid also offers a designer a balanced structure on which to hang the design. Rather than confining design, grids allow infinite variety. They offer a tangible rationale for placement of graphical elements, while giving the designer the opportunity to break the grid to add an element of surprise.
Designers who Modern designers who use grids are in all aspects of the graphic design industry include Khoi Vinh, Mark Boulton, and Tobias Frere-Jones.
How to Understand and Use Grids, Alan Swann, pub. 1989