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Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type (Design Briefs) Paperback – August 12, 2004


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Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type (Design Briefs) + Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students + Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop
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Product Details

  • Series: Design Briefs
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (August 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568984650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568984650
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Elam has written a well-organized survey of the basics of understanding the grid. The book acts as a course guide... Grid Systems strips the confusion from the mystery of designing with a grid... will surely become a required textbook in typography classes everywhere. " --Be a Design Group

"The grid can appear complex, cumbersome, and rigid at times for young designers and students. Grid Systems challenges these notions with Elam's down to earth approach." --Speak Up, January 10, 2007

About the Author

Kimberly Elam is chairperson of the Graphic and Interactive Communication Department at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

More About the Author

Kimberly Elam is chairperson of the Graphic and Interactive Communication Department at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

Customer Reviews

Design students, design educators and practicing designers should own this book.
Christopher P. St Cyr
And that's not all: all the grids [briefly] explained by the author are square, divided into three equal horizontal and vertical sections.
Erik Fleischer
In this book, Kim Elam explains her ideas on how to produce a good quality design using the grid system principles.
Jemmy Chien

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 189 people found the following review helpful By Erik Fleischer on June 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You may at first be tempted to buy this book for one or more of the following reasons:

(a) if you leaf quickly through it, you'll see lots of grid thumbnails, which may give you the impression that a range of different grid possibilities is carefully explored and explained;

(b) you'll also find several design pieces (pictures of posters, ads etc) with transparent overlays containing grids, suggesting that each piece is carefully analysed and explained;

(c) it's published by Princeton Architectural Press, so hey, it must be good.

Unfortunately, if you do buy the book for one of the reasons above, you're in for a lot of disappointment.

You'll find that the actual text is like a series of quick notes such as what you'd expect to see in a slide show, except that there's no speaker or presenter to give you the actual explanations and help you make sense out of all the images. In other words, you'll be confronted with a few bits of text that don't really teach you much besides a few (very few) basic concepts and which don't even properly explain the images. (And if you really believe that an image is worth a thousand words, good luck deciphering the message.)

Most pictures of ads and such are accompanied by transparent overlays; some of these contain lots of lines, circles and crosshairs. You'd think there's an explanation somewhere as to what all the lines, crosshairs and whatnot mean, but that's not the case.

Take the Nike ad on pages 64-5, for instance. The overlay has a complex grid with four darker areas, and five even darker ones, plus external lines that seem to indicate that some sort of proportion exists (and is therefore going to be explained).
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on November 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I became aware of how important grids are when I was at art college and came across the first issue of a new design magazine, 'New Graphic Design' in 1958. Published in Switzerland in English, German and French and containing dozens of pictures but without a strict grid all the issues of this stunning publication would look a mess. The grid, put simply is a framework which allows several elements (photos, graphics, text, display type etc) to be placed in a rectangle and all work towards one aim, clarity of presentation. Virtually all publications use a grid (in its simplest form it could be called the type area) check out the page number position in a magazine, always in the same place defined by the grid.

Having used grids for years I'm surprised that there is so much confusion but that was before I read through Kimberley Elam's book. The straightforward becomes the obscure despite the good intentions. The most useful parts are the pages that use a see-through overlay, revealing the essence of the grid and nicely some disasters, too. What could be simpler than the two examples shown on page thirty-eight and nine, Christof Gassner's 1960 redesign of one page of a theater program, from the dull and confusing to something so elegant and simple. What is really interesting about the page is that it is all done with type only. Page forty-five uses another overlay for the contents spread of a book (designed by Drenttel Doyle Partners in 1988) the see-through reveals a simple grid but the actual spread is a complete mess with type everywhere, even the three words 'Table of contents' is letterspaced in two typefaces, roman and sans.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful By David Kadavy on January 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
One of the fundamental goals of any Graphic Design curriculum is to understand the enigmatic concept of the grid. When I was in design school, we were given an opaque five-minute lecture about the grid, and were then instructed to do an exercise that was supposed to teach us how to use the grid. The entire lesson was confusing, and I never could get a clear answer from an instructor on exactly how to use the grid, and so I was left to fend for myself on that matter.

If only my instructors had been armed with Kimberly Elam's "Grid Systems." Elam has written a well-organized survey of the basics of understanding the grid. The book acts as a course guide, organized into five sections, or exercises. She opens the book with an introductory exercise that explains the grid, proportions, use of ornamental elements, and negative space. The exercises increase in complexity, later covering horizontal, vertical, and diagonal compositions, and finally explaining the many factors that affect hierarchy. Each of the exercises presents several options that fall within the well-considered constraints of the project. Elam systematically exhausts the design possibilities of each project with well-qualified rationale. Peppered throughout the lessons is analysis of more complex and expressive layouts designed by immortals such as Jan Tschichold and Herbert Bayer, as well as work by contemporary design firms. The analysis of each specimen is accompanied with a vellum overlay page that clearly defines the grid and compositional dynamics of the layout.

"Grid Systems" strips the confusion from the mystery of designing with a grid. It teaches constraint while illustrating the unexpected freedom the grid can afford, and will surely become a required textbook in typography classes everywhere.
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