January 7, 2009

[Design Fetish] Grids

Graphic design Wim Crouwel said, “A design should have some tension and some expression in itself. I like to compare it with the lines on a football field. It is a strict grid. In this grid you play a game and these can be nice games or very boring games.” Whether you view grids as a tool of liberation or a prison, grid-inspired works marked 2008:

Controlling interest and other grid-influenced artwork by Daniel Lefcourt (via swissmiss):

Graphic designer and typographer Antonio Carusone created The Grid System, an “ever-growing resource about grid systems, the golden ratio and baseline grids”:

Paul Armstrong of Wiseacre Design created web.without.words, a weekly showcase where he takes a popular website and strips it down to an arrangement of blocks:

By doing so, he practices his “core belief that hierarchy, grid systems and uniformity ultimately lead to a more natural user experience. By showing the overall structure of any website, by stripping naked all the distractions of text and ads and images and showing a site for what the eye unconsciously perceives.” Armstrong’s project reminds me of Internet Soul Portraits (I.S.P.) by Mark Callahan, an Artistic Director of Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) at the University of Georgia.

Beginning last November, Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective was fully installed and opened to the public at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) and will be available to be experienced for the next 25 years. Reminiscent of the work by the geometric abstract art of Kazimir Malevich and the grid-based paintings of Piet Mondrian, LeWitt’s fascination with geometry connects with grids like his composition of rectangles and squares in Wall Drawing 792:

Photo: Hallie Scott

Described as “non-representational,” the work of Lewitt and his predecessors does represent something that’s kept alive the form-making communion with the world. Grids are getting back to basics and, at the same time, are vehicles that agitate the threshold between simplicity and complexity.

What is emphasized in these creations is an underlying structure that helps bring clarity to the overall form (Massimo Vignelli would agree in his downloadable Canon). Grids are usually associated with order, and a sense of order can be comforting, or, per Crouwel’s stand on grids, dull. In either case, they’re a way to makes sense of phenomenon, visual or otherwise.