Book Review – Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles Using Grids

Introduction

As a UI designer / information architect, I’m often asked to create layouts that are ‘easy to read’ or ‘efficient’ or ‘more intuitive’ for a client’s digital audience. When I purchased Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Using Grids by Beth Tondreau, I hoped that it would uncover new grid guidelines while avoiding redundancy with other grid styles publicly available on the web. Layout Essentials does that and more…
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Not just a reference guide

Beth Tondreau makes very few assumptions about readers’ foreknowledge of grids and jumps right into the fundamentals in the first 20 pages. Tondreau provides a vocabulary for grids that might seem obvious at first (i.e. columns, modules, margins, spatial zones, and flowlines), but she also explains complex grid systems (i.e. hierarchical grids, modular, multicolumn) and methodologies for implementing them (i.e. typography, color, media forms, etc). What makes the book interesting and eliminates it from simply being a reference guide is the constant use of real world projects that demonstrate the relevant grid principle being addressed, and the projects themselves as a good source of inspiration. Tondreau makes a conscious effort to inform readers that there is a difference between ‘principles’ and ‘rules’ and designers should not ‘lock’ into a paradigm that stifles creativity.

Conclusion

I strongly recommend that this book be read not only by designers, but also by any person that builds interfaces (desktop, web, mobile) that will be viewed by large audiences. It can only improve the quality of the final product and make the information displayed more comprehensible.
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