Guide to grid layout design with examples

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13 Jun
6 Jun
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Chaos and disorganization in the workflow can all too easily spill over into your design, with visitors scratching their heads, wondering where to click next. Before you know it, your site’s bounce rate skyrockets. That’s the last thing you want, right?

So, when you decide to make a design pop, it all starts with a blank page. Thanks to the right grid layout, that void becomes a structured playground, inviting creativity and order to join hands. By doing so, you tweak structure, placing each element in its perfect place and making the design not just seen but felt.

What is grid layout design?

First off, let’s define the term. Grid layout design is a technique that helps keep your page elements from playing a hide-and-seek game. This approach divides pages into sections using columns and margins that don’t just throw text and images into a visual mashup. Instead, it organizes them in a way that looks good and makes sense.

In addition, this strategy is widely popular across many fields. In graphic design, grid layouts help balance a creation so it doesn’t end up looking like a chaotic art project. When you’re into web design, they are your best pals for making sites that look great on any screen, keeping everything user-friendly. And for print media grids make sure that a magazine or brochure doesn’t give readers a maze to navigate through.

With grid layout, it’s easier to make everything in your design feel like it’s exactly where it needs to be.

Main types of grids in design

From the get-go, it’s important to know that not all grids are created equal. They come in different flavors, each tailored to tackle specific design challenges and projects. So, when you’re crafting a complex magazine layout or a sleek website, picking the right grid is your first step toward design greatness.

Grid diversity means there’s a perfect fit for every project

Manuscript grid

The manuscript grid is all about keeping things straightforward. It’s the go-to choice when your project involves a lot of written content and you want to keep the reader focused without any fancy distractions. Perfect for documents, ebooks, and some types of articles, the manuscript grid offers a clean and organized way to present text-heavy information.

Column grid

Stepping up the complexity a bit, we have the column grid. It slices your page into multiple columns, giving you the flexibility to arrange content in parallel columns, perfect for presenting information side-by-side. It’s a popular choice for websites, magazines, and layouts where you want to showcase different elements like text and images in a structured and organized manner.

Modular grid

The modular grid takes things a step further by introducing both rows and columns. This structure creates a series of “modules” that become the building blocks for your design. Text, images, and other elements can then be placed within these modules, offering flexibility and control. This grid type is fantastic for projects that require a high level of control over where elements sit, such as complex magazine pages or detailed infographics.

Hierarchical grid

The hierarchical grid breaks free from the rigid structure and embraces a more fluid approach. It prioritizes elements based on their importance, giving them more prominent space. Take a magazine layout, for example, where the main headline might occupy a larger area compared to the supporting text. This grid system creates a dynamic visual hierarchy, guiding the viewer’s attention and creating a captivating layout. 

Hierarchical grid is a popular choice for websites, presentations, and marketing materials when you want to prioritize specific elements and capture user interest.

Baseline grid

The baseline grid might seem minimalist at first glance, but its power lies in focus on text alignment. It uses subtle horizontal lines that correspond to the baselines of your writing content— essentially, the invisible line where characters sit. By matching information to these lines, you achieve a clean, consistent, and visually pleasing flow throughout the design. This is particularly beneficial for layouts with multiple elements, like brochures, reports, or even websites with heavy text content, ensuring a professional and polished look.

Some considerations in choosing the right grid

With so many types of grids, choosing the right one for your design project can feel overwhelming. But fear not, as in this text section, we’ll cover some key considerations to help you pick the perfect one for your specific needs. Let’s explore what to keep in mind and how to transform your ideas into stunning visual stories.

Content type

When selecting a layout, content type plays a crucial role. If your project is heavy on text, like an in-depth article or a report, a manuscript or baseline grid might be your best bet, keeping things readable and flowing. On the flip side, if you’re juggling a mix of text, images, and other visuals, a column or modular grid can offer the flexibility you need to keep everything in balance. And for those projects where hierarchy and emphasis vary throughout, the hierarchical grid steps in to spotlight the key elements.

Visual hierarchy

Beyond the content itself, consider the visual hierarchy you want to establish. Do you want certain elements to grab attention first? The hierarchical grid excels at this, allowing you to emphasize key information through size and placement. If you prefer a more uniform presentation, modular or column grids can still achieve a sense of hierarchy through subtle variations in element size and color. That said, the grid should support your desired visual flow, guiding the viewer’s gaze and ultimately enhancing the design’s message.

Flexibility needs

Don’t forget to account for your flexibility needs. If your design is going to adapt to various screen sizes or accommodate future content additions, a column grid with its inherent flexibility might be your go-to choice. For layouts primarily focused on text and aiming for a classic, static feel, the manuscript or modular grids offer a good balance. Ultimately, consider how much adaptability your project requires and choose a grid that can accommodate your needs and potential future growth.

Medium and format

One more factor to consider is the medium and format of your design. Are you crafting a website, a printed brochure, or perhaps a social media post? Each medium has its own unique constraints and considerations. For printed materials like brochures and posters, modular grids offer flexibility, while the manuscript grid can be a timeless choice for text-heavy books or reports.

Design style

Don’t underestimate the power of your design style when choosing a grid. While grids provide structure, they can also subtly influence the overall aesthetic. A manuscript grid naturally leans towards a classic, minimalist style, while a modular one offers more flexibility for exploring playful or modern layouts. The hierarchical grid can lend itself well to bold and dynamic compositions once the baseline grid maintains a clean and professional look. Ultimately, consider how the grid’s structure combines with your desired design style, ensuring the chosen layout complements your overall vision.

User experience

Remember, the ultimate goal of any design is to create a positive user experience (UX). As you ponder your grid selection, keep the user in mind. A well-chosen grid fosters a sense of clarity and organization, making it easier for users to navigate your design and find the information they seek. The grid’s structure should guide the user’s visual flow naturally, avoiding confusion and ensuring a smooth and intuitive experience. This way, you can increase the time users spend on the site and drive conversions.

5 tips for working with grids in design

By now, you’ve explored the landscape of grid types and might even pick out the perfect one for your project. All that’s left is to start bringing your design to life. But hold on a second — before you do, we’ve lined up a handful of pro tips to enhance this design process.

A well-chosen grid can help make the most of the design

1. Establish clear columns and gutters

Kicking off our design journey with grids, the first pro tip is all about establishing clear columns and gutters. This is where your design starts to take shape, quite literally. Columns act as vertical containers that hold your content, while gutters are the spaces between them. Getting these dimensions right sets the tone for a balanced, easy-on-the-eyes design.

Too narrow gutters can make your design feel cramped, while overly wide ones might scatter attention. Think of it as setting the pace for how your audience interacts with the design. By carefully planning columns and gutters, you make every glance and every scroll through your design an intuitive journey.

2. Use grids as a guide, not a rule

While grids offer structure and organization, they shouldn’t stifle your creativity. Remember, they are meant to be guides, not rules. Don’t be afraid to experiment and break away from the grid when it serves your design best. This approach encourages innovation, allowing for elements to overlap or break the grid where it serves the design best.

For example, you might intentionally break the grid by using an oversized image that spills out of its designated space, creating a sense of dynamism. Or, you might use a slightly unconventional gutter size to emphasize a specific element. Embrace the flexibility of a grid and allow it to be a springboard for your creative vision, not a rigid cage that restricts your design potential.

If your design’s screaming for a bit of rule-breaking, go for it, but make sure you know what you’re doing.

3. Balance consistency with variation

Moving on to our next tip, balancing consistency with variation is keeping harmony between elements that guide the viewer’s eye and those that make the journey interesting. While a well-defined grid ensures a cohesive and organized layout, incorporating subtle variations can add visual interest and prevent monotony. 

For instance, within a modular grid, you could maintain consistent column widths while utilizing different module sizes for text and images to create a sense of hierarchy. Or, you could subtly vary element spacing within the grid to create a dynamic flow. Here, the key is to find the sweet spot where consistency provides structure and controlled variations add a touch of personality.

4. Consider modular design principles

For our next tip, let’s explore the modular design principles. This means thinking of your design elements as reusable modules that can be arranged and combined within the grid system. By approaching design this way, you unlock a new level of flexibility and efficiency.

Using modular principles allows you to easily adjust to different content types, user needs, or even completely new formats without starting from scratch. So, keep these principles in mind, and watch how the design process becomes more efficient and your outcomes more dynamic.

5. Design grids with responsiveness in mind

As we round out our tips, it’s crucial to focus on designing grids with adaptability. This means your chosen system needs to be flexible enough to adjust to different screen sizes. If you skip this step, the layout that looks perfect on your desktop might become a jumbled mess on a mobile phone.

When working with grids, keep an eye on responsiveness from the start. Consider using flexible units like percentages or viewport units (vw, vh) instead of fixed pixel values for defining column widths and element spacing. This allows your grid to adjust automatically to different screen sizes, keeping the design visually balanced and user-friendly across all devices. 

Grid layout design examples

At Halo Lab, we put our passion into practice, and through various projects, our specialists turned theory into stunning, functional design reality. We’re thrilled to pull back the curtain and show you how we’ve applied different grid techniques to breathe life into our work. So, join us on a tour of real-world designs, all crafted with care by the dedicated design aficionados at Halo Lab!

Develop Health 

Develop Health is a US-based company, aiming to revolutionize the way we use medication. They’re all in on creating smarter healthcare processes and better patient outcomes with some seriously clever AI technology.

Dynamic grid guides users with visual cues

For their website, Halo Lab designers went for a dynamic grid layout that’s anything but static. It’s designed with visual guides and lines of force that draw the user’s eye across the page. There’s a central line that acts like a tour guide, showing users where the content starts and ends. Also, it is visible throughout the site and utilizes free space in order to avoid overwhelming visitors. 

What makes this grid so engaging is its use of full-width blocks — like vivid background cards and text content — that inject life into the layout. This approach keeps the viewer’s eye moving, dynamically engaging with the information without getting stuck on a single visual track. And by intentionally breaking the visual line here and there, it adds an extra layer of dynamism, keeping the pace lively and the content engaging.

Praiseworthy

Praiseworthy is a platform where anyone, inside or outside of a company, can drop some positive vibes and feedback. It’s the Individual Feedback Management software that takes a personal approach to reviewing employees. By fostering an environment of appreciation, Praiseworthy aims to pump up performance levels and sprinkle a little more joy into the workplace.

A simple grid improves the perception of content

For their platform, the Halo Lab team used a simple grid design, keeping things simple and easy to read. There are three vertical columns that can merge into one when needed. This flexible system is utilized for tables in a single column and split into three for lists and items. Clear spacing between them ensures everything looks neat and easy to navigate.

The grid is also split into two horizontal rows, dividing the screen into two main sections. The top part is highlighted in a sharp dark green and serves as the header, packed with extra account info and key metrics. It stays put, so you always know where to find it. Below that, the larger, lighter section holds the columns and additional metrics, making it easy to digest more detailed info.

Commit

Commit Swimming is a digital assistant for managing your swim club. They’ve taken the whole concept of club management and given it a serious improvement. It’s the go-to platform for keeping everything from practice schedules to swimmer performance in check, all without breaking a sweat.

The grid here plays it cool by sticking to the sidebar, not the center. As you scroll, that panel sticks with you while the content on the main stage switches up. The sleek, fixed widget is always in view, with a narrow column for navigation and a broader one for all the juicy content. We’ve kept text lengths to a frame-friendly 800 pixels max to make things nice and readable.

But there’s more — three-level navigation that adds a whole new layer of smooth sailing. Click on something in the sidebar, and bam, a new column with options pops out. Choose one, and you’re greeted with even more info. This approach keeps users easy to navigate, ensuring they find what they need without any backstrokes.

Relocate

Relocate is a company born out of real-life moving challenges blended with the magic of technology. They’ve gathered a diverse team of experts from law, tax, accounting, and management to tackle every aspect of relocation.

A flexible grid creates visual harmony

We built their website on a 12-column grid but played around with a 4-column principle, creating pairs or standalone setups for a neat visual experience. Take a glance at their homepage, and you’ll see it split into two main sections: one for text and one for images, dividing the screen evenly to balance information with visuals. 

As you scroll, the layout transitions to a central focus, then cleverly uses four columns that merge and separate, adding a layer of organization. The design includes strategic breaks with photos to keep the user engaged, ensuring that the page is dynamic yet coherent. The grid cleverly combines sections, either with dropdowns or unified blocks of text or graphics, making the whole site not just a place to visit but an experience to navigate through. 

How can Halo Lab help with your project design?

Starting a design project means placing elements onto a clear canvas. But keep in mind that you should craft a space where every piece of your message clicks into place, looks great, and reaches out to the audience on any platform. Getting the hang of grids, from picking the perfect pattern to laying it all out with finesse, is what turns a good project into a standout one.

At Halo Lab, we get that every project has its own vibe and story you’re eager to tell. That’s why we’re all about getting cozy with you, figuring out what makes your project tick, and then laying out the grid game plan that hits the mark just right. Need a website that wows on every screen? A mobile app that’s as slick as it is smooth? We’ve got you. Together, we’ll nail down those columns and gutters to make the grid as agile as you need and ensure the project’s style sings in perfect harmony with its substance.

Ready to make your design pop with precision and personality? Let’s chat and make it happen!

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