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October 15, 2010 / Kuan

Not physically flat, nor experientially flat, nor dimensionally pure

I recently read a book called The Grid Book, and yes, it’s all about grids. As author Hannah Higgins puts it, grids “are not physically flat, nor are they experientially flat, nor are they dimensionally pure” (276). Grid is, not to be sketchy or anything, alive.

Look around and one will pretty much find that grid is everywhere. Look at what I found, a poster of Debbie Millman’s speech in SVA, School of Visual Arts in New York City. It is interesting to look at this poster and realize what grid is, comparing to what we’ve been taught about grid.

Alex White in his book Elements of Graphic Design says, “…the grid helps make ‘clean downstreams,’ that is, clear design relationships and clean, understandable pages… Grid development must provide a variety of predetermined sizes that artwork and type will be made to fit” (5-6)*.

Over the course of my study in graphic design, this used to be all what I understood about grids. They’re the fundamental structure of a graphic design piece, they’re the rule, they’re… I’ve heard numerous remarks on grids, similar to what White said. However, not until I saw this poster did I understand what grid truly is.

Yes, grid is the structure or the bone to design, but it is much more beyond that. It is what we take for granted in our everyday life. My books on the shelf is a grid, the pattern on the floor rug is a grid, toys are usually in a grid. In this poster, grid is the design itself. I guess what I am trying to say is that we sometimes overlook the simplicity of a grid, or even design. We sometimes try too hard to re-learn something we already knew.

Although I understand and agree what White has to say about page architecture, I think it is necessary to look at design as something alive, because grid, structure, form in design aren’t flat, nor technical. There is nothing to be scared about design, and we all are designers–as cliché as it sounds, it is the truth. Our own unique handwriting is a typeface, our closet arrangement is a grid of our very own. Some of us may not do graphic design as a job, but all of us practice it in everyday life.

Relax, breath, and design is right there. It is not physically flat, nor experientially flat, nor dimensionally pure.

*I read 10 pages of the book for one of my classes, and I can’t really see the page number in the pdf, so I just cite the number of the page appeared in the document.

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