AMA: Khoi Vinh

almost 7 years ago from Khoi Vinh, Subtraction.com, Principal Designer at Adobe

  • Jacob HaltonJacob Halton, almost 7 years ago

    This is a dumb question, but I'm just wondering your opinion since I encounter this frequently and was a huge fan of your book on grids for web. What do you have to say to designers who are opposed to using grids?

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    • Khoi Vinh, almost 7 years ago

      @Jacob: Not a dumb question at all. I'm obviously a big believer in using grids; I tend to feel lost when I'm not using one. But I'm not really dogmatic about whether everyone needs to use one or not. I tend to think that what works for you, works for you. That said, I rest assured in the knowledge that even if a designer thinks he or she doesn't design with a grid, they really are. A grid isn't just a tool for designers; it's a subconscious expectation that the audience/reader/user brings to any design solution. So whether you say you do or not, you're still using a grid.

      I'm curious to hear: when you say that you encounter this frequently, are you actually meeting/working with designers who are actively advising you not to use grids?

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      • Jacob HaltonJacob Halton, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

        I think I feel the same way as what you're saying, once you put 2 elements on a page, they have some kind of relation to each other, so these designers are essentially making a grid as they lay things down. It sounds like that's what you're saying. The issue I have with that is when they don't follow the structure they've begun establishing.

        No one's actually advising me not to use a grid, but when I've talked about it with designers at various places I've worked in the past (or just design friends), some people will say they don't need them. It's a hot issue on my mind whenever I see grids not being followed where they already exist, because it makes sites harder to update for future designers when there isn't consistent spacing.

        Usually these conversations come up when people ask me for feedback and the most obvious fixes I see are adding structure by aligning objects more to a grid, then the person I'm reviewing either seems to not understand how grids work and/or thinks they just don't need to establish that structure and follow it for all their pages.

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        • Khoi Vinh, almost 7 years ago

          Some very talented designers produce wonderful work without any substantial adherence (or understanding) of grids. You can't argue with that. There's nothing inherently wrong with a designer's work just because he or she does not use grids—the absence of a grid does not make a wonderful work less wonderful somehow.

          On the other hand, learning how to use grids is, for most of us, a great method of becoming a better designer. It's just a really valuable, useful, rewarding tool for almost any designer. And, I would say, there are lots of designers who would do much better work if their practice was underpinned with a nuanced understanding of how grids work.

          So I dunno maybe some of those designers you work with who don't use grids are geniuses who don't need them. Or maybe they're not! I'm pretty sure I know which classification I would put money on if I were a betting man. You?

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          • Jacob HaltonJacob Halton, almost 7 years ago

            Yea, I think that's the best approach, that it's important to learn how grids work, then afterwards decide whether to use them or not. I think that applies to most best practices in any craft.

            The only real problem I encounter from people not using grids is when it's a large group of designers are making pages for a site and someone doesn't follow the grid so there needs to be custom code for that page, and other globally used elements / widgets don't fit, which then cause other issues that need custom fixes + custom code—which is a little more of a team work flow issue than something a single designer would have to deal with on their own.

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