Mark Bloom walks through how to create a flexible modular grid system that will change the way you approach design
- Software Illustrator CS4 and later
- Time needed 5 mins (grid only)
- Structure type and illustration more efficiently
- Create a modular grid system in Illustrator
Made famous by Swiss graphic designers such as Josef Müller-Brockmann and Wim Crouwel as far back as the 1920s and 30s, the use of a grid system can be hugely beneficial to all creatives, especially designers and illustrators. Grids can act as an aid to achieve ordered structure within your design. In this tutorial I’ll talk you through my personal approach to applying a modular grid system within Illustrator, working with simple geometric elements in a poster design.
Although the grid created in this tutorial is intended for use in print, similar grid systems are equally beneficial in web design, particularly when laying out text and images. Designing to a grid will not only strengthen your typography skills but will change the way you approach design.
Discover the 10 new features we'd like to see in Illustrator CS7, over at Creative Bloq.
01 In Illustrator, set up a document for a flyer. In this example, I’m creating a slightly shorter A5 document measuring 148x208mm (normally 210mm). Now decide on your margins – I’m going with 10mm as this should give plenty of ‘safe space’ between the borders and the artwork.
02 To create your grid, first draw a rectangle measuring 128x188mm. To calculate how big this rectangle needed to be, I subtracted the margins (10mm each side) from my page size. So in this case: 148 minus 10 (left margin), minus 10 (right margin) equals 128mm. Place this rectangle in the centre of your page (Align To Artboard>Horizontal Align Centre>Vertical Align Centre).
03 With the rectangle selected, go to Object>Path>Split Into Grid. I want modules that measure 4mm2, so to work out the number of rows take the height (188mm) and divide it by four. This gives 47, so input this in the Rows>Number field, and change the height to 4mm, gutter to 0 and total value to 188. For the columns, take the width (128mm) and divide it by 4. This gives 32, so enter that in the Columns>Number field. Change the width to 4mm, gutter to 0 and total to 128. Tick Preview to see the divisions.
04 Once you click OK, you’ll have a rectangle that has been divided into 4mm squares. To turn this into guides, select the squares (Cmd/Ctrl+A). Then Cmd/Ctrl+click, select Make Guides and this will transform your grid into guides. Now you have a flexible modular grid to align your design to.
05 Now that your grid system is in place, start mocking up a rough layout using 4mm rectangles. This flyer design is inspired by the same lines and angles used in the BVD logo (Bike v Design). Using smart guides (Cmd/Ctrl+U), drag each rectangle into place ensuring they all sit within the 4mm grid. Guidelines can be distracting, so it might help to turn them on and off throughout this process (Cmd/Ctrl+;).