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Modular grids and the baseline – what is correct?

Discussion in 'Graphic Design Forum:' started by milson, May 6, 2015.

  1. milson

    milson New Member


    I have a quick question about modular grid systems:

    In some publications (such as Josef Müller-Brockmann's Grid Systems) The ascender and descender touch the top and the bottom of the module. The images thus line up with the ascender or descender. This is the way I was taught to build a grid system.

    In other publications however (such as Ellen Lupton's Grid chapter in Thinking with Type) the advice is to align the text along a baseline grid, which aligns with the bottom of the module. This means the images align with the baseline rather than the ascender or descender.

    So, my question is: which of these systems is actually best practice?

    Ascenders touching the top of the module:


    Grid aligned to the baseline:


  2. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    I think it really depends on what you're designing.

    Generally speaking I will always use a baseline grid for body copy when designing a book or publication, basically anything with pages that will have text on opposite sides. Aligning the type to a baseline grid makes it easier to read the text on the page as the text on the opposite side of the leaf isn't bleeding through into your leading.

    For something like a poster that perhaps has 'blocks' of text rather than solid columns, then the JMB option is fine.
    milson likes this.
  3. milson

    milson New Member

    Thanks for the reply Paul.

    I have another quick question:

    If the margins were to remain the same throughout the document, the text on the opposite side of the leaf shouldn't bleed through the leading with either system right? I mean, as long as the leading was consistent (i.e. multiples of 12 or whatever) everything would all still line up?
    Last edited: May 6, 2015
  4. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    It depends on whether you've aligned the baseline grid to the top margins or the top of page. If you align them to the margins, then changing the top margin on an individual page will offset the baseline on that page, and may then cause bleeding. I tend to stick to page alignment and keep them uniform throughout, but like I said it depends on what you're designing.

    Using a baseline grid and aligning type to it via a paragraph style will actually override the leading. This can sometimes lead to annoying issue with paragraph spacing and such like, so I tend to half my baseline values (i.e. have twice as many lines as default) so that there's a little more room to manoeuvre with things like that.

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