Inspired by typographic magazine layout grids more and more web designers are starting to embrace grid-based design siting cleaner and more easily digestible web pages as a benefit.
The concept of typographic grids employed to arrange text cleanly on pages goes all the way back to even before the days of movable type and printing. Originally the grid was used simply as a means of assuring text on the page was presented in a clear and organized manner. As grids became more and more accepted and wide-spread (mainly through a heavy reliance placed on them by newspaper and magazine publishers) designers began to experhyment with the countless variations available for grid layout design. Many designers embraced the layout grid system as part of the post modernist design movement that flourished in the 1970s. Grid system adherents feel that there is a psychological appeal to designs based on the grid system, claiming the predictable and coherent structure use of a grid lends to a design that is subconsciously associated with professionalism, honesty and reliability.
With the advent of computer design the grid system fell out of favor for a number of designers as the computer allowed for new avenues of experhymentation without sacrificing clean structure and coherency. In the past few years however a movement among influential designers has begun to re-ignite the popularity of grid system designs, particularly in web design.
Many websites designed today are run on top of a content management system infrastructure, with individual page design frequently based solely on CSS and XHTML templates. Grid system design works quite well with the template concept and is easily digestible as a concept to website designers of all skill levels. Free grids of any dimension can be downloaded for free from a quickly growing number of design websites, including a few online grid creation tools that can create a grid for users based on their specifications.
Even simpler still, a wide variety of WordPress and Joomla templates can be found online based on the grid system, allowing website designers to utilize the flexible practicality of the system without having to design the template yourself in photoshop or fireworks.
With the exploding popularity of digital photography amateur photographers have started looking to classical inspiration to improve the composition of their photographs. The rule of thirds is among the simplest composition guidelines where as photographers are told to break down an image into a three by three grid composing of nine squares. Studies have shown that people looking at an image tend to look first and most intently not in the middle of a photo, but around the middle at the points of intersection caused by four squares meeting in a corner. No doubt an offshoot of the human being’s binocular vision, we are more responsive to logical arrangements of space. This natural sense of comfort makes people enjoy and examine longer images which correspond to the grid system, and this includes web pages.
Website designers are working in a very creative and flexible medium, but it also a business. Using design aids like the grid system to bring viewers into a more open and accepting frame of mind makes good sense when putting together any kind of business site.
Perhaps the least expected benefit of using a grid system for design is the amount of creative inspiration it can provide. Designers can often find themselves stuck, overwhelmed by a variety of possibilities. The grid system can impose on a design slight, suggestive limitations which can in turn inspire creative thinking. Instead of being asked to fill a blank page with any of billions of possible creations the designer is presented with a puzzle, a challenge that prods a creative solution to a logical problem. For many designers this can be just the slight change of perspective they need to become truly creative.