is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
When debuting new logos, designers often share a supporting illustration that superimposes a grid on top of the logo forms, as if to demonstrate how structurally sound the design is. I’ve always viewed these skeptically, as they seem more fanciful than evidentiary. That is, I find it hard to believe that many such logos were truly designed with a grid in mind; if anything, it seems likely that once they were created, the designer went back and retrofitted their shapes to fit into some sort of master grid. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course, but for me it seems a bit like cheating. The grid is a framework for decision-making; it guides designers from start to finish. To go back and nip and tuck a design so that it conforms to a framework that suggests itself after most of the decisions are made seems somehow antithetical to what grids are truly intended for, at least in my view.
That’s probably too strict of an interpretation of how one should use grids, though. If a grid can be employed to help a designer at any point in the design process, then that constitutes a legitimate use. Grids are little more than just suggestions or guidelines, and at the end of the day they’re not ends in and of themselves, but tools to help designers produce an intended effect.
I won’t presume whether these examples from Tokyo-based designer Hiromi Maeo were done in what I regard as “the right way” or not, but they provide a useful look at the role grids can play in developing logo forms nevertheless. I recommend examining them closely in an app like Photoshop, where you’ll see that the regularities of the grids in use are not as straightforward as they may appear; there are slight tweaks here and there, and some unexpected nonuniformity of grid spaces that, at first glance, you’d expect to be uniform. The basic takeaway is: cheating is okay.
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