Notes on design

Grid Systems with Mark Boulton

A fast-paced and practical workshop on getting to grips with grids.

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Grid Systems with Mark Boulton

#Return On Investment

In 2010 I passed up on the opportunity to attend Mark Boulton’s design workshop at dContruct. It was £350 and I didn’t feel that I could justify the expense. I later came to feel that I had been shortsighted, and that I had missed the opportunity to learn from an expert whose perspective I admired.

I’ve spent a good bit of time studying grid systems, read key books by Josef Müller-Brockmann, Timothy Samara and Khoi Vinh.

These books are great, however when I tried to apply what I had learned I had trouble with niggly edge cases and realised there were gaps in my understanding. I found workarounds but I have always had nagging doubts about them. So when I saw that Mark Boulton was presenting a workshop on grids at this years dConstruct I decided to take a risk. And I am so glad that I did.

Despite being only a day long, a third of which seemed to be tea-breaks, I learned a lot. Many of the gaps in my knowledge have been filled and that I have a strong practical foundation to take my work forward in this area.

#Work and Critique

After a whistle-stop primer on the history, benefits, goals and challenges of implementing grids we got down to work. Most of the day was spent working on a layout task, putting together a web page using a compound grid.

For most of us this was the first time that we had used a compound grid. While we worked Mark wandered around the room providing pointers and answering questions.

There were two rounds of iteration and critique on the layouts. Initially I bottled putting any work forward for critique, noting that there was some serious design talent in the room. I realised however that the best bit of the day was the opportunity to to get peer review and critique from a room full of designers led by Mark Boulton. So, with a degree of trepidation, I put my work up for the second round of critique. And I am so glad that I did. Apart from being pleasantly surprised with the positive response, I got some useful critique about an aberrant pull-quote that had been bugging me and was able to quickly fix it as a result of the crit.

The format was great: Fast-paced, practical and challenging. Critiquing a bunch of different solutions to the problem you spent the day trying to solve is a great way to consolidate your learning. It also proved to be a catalyst for Mark and the other designers in the room to share tips, tricks and solutions to common problems and niggly edge-cases.