Grids are critical as they help designers better understand the proportions of a composition, offering guidelines to assist with structure, order, and visual unity. They can assist with a message’s rhythm and pacing, or help designers organise the narrative and visual content of a composition, ensuring all elements are arranged in a way that is rational, accessibly, and aesthetically pleasing to audiences.
History and Function
The humble grid has been a guiding organisational principle since time immemorial. Renaissance artists and architects used grids for scaling sketches and images to align the proportions of their work. Cartographers use them to plot and draw map coordinates while typographers use them to create consistency when designing letterforms.
Prior to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type in printing, simple grids based on various proportional relationships were used to arrange handwritten text on pages. As the grid evolved and developed, it primarily remained the same in its structure and usage, particularly its relationship with the golden ratio.
The basis of all visual communication is how certain design elements are organised and arranged – grids help designer ensure their message is clear, consistent, and immediate. Placing a grid on a page provides the compositional framework to design since its lines offer a guide for establishing consistent proportions. It’s also really simple to create grids on PowerPoint to align design elements.
The construction of grids can be orthogonal, angular, irregular, or circular. Grids can be an invisible and functional feature of a compositional layout or an obvious and active visual element. Either way, grids are essential for organising and presenting complex, multifaceted information in a more coherent and systematic way.
Applications of Grids
Grids are a vital feature for composing and organising content, especially in print media since grids help ensure continuity across multiple pages. It’s the reason newspapers still set out text in columns, since it assists readers in reading the correct story whenever content spills onto another page. It also helps individualise the stories and show the reader the length of each article.
Publications, websites, sign systems, advertising campaigns, and corporate communications are all made up of multiple pages – each requiring a slightly different composition due to their varied content. If a grid is well planned and conceived, it provides an efficient way to create multiple layouts while maintaining visual consistency, continuity, and cohesion.
Web designers have adopted grids to standardise online content and layouts. The most commonly used grid is the 960px system as it can be divided into by many whole numbers, which provides a lot of flexibility in terms of column width and consistency across the internet – especially since there are many different screen sizes and devices for audiences to view online content.
Grids in PowerPoint
Within presentation design, the grid can also assist in creating balance and cohesion. Borrowing elements from newspapers (and later news websites) we can still see grids help to presenters organise text and images. Whether with visible lines and blank space, grids help the eyes distinguish and different visual elements by putting words and pictures in balance through contrast.
Grids value in aligning design elements cannot be overstated. We’ve even built grid and guideline templates so you don’t have to struggle aligning text and images or ensuring they’re are in the same place across multiple slides. Grids help guarantee consistency, so why waste time building them from scratch?
You can select all of the objects you want on a slide by clicking on one of them, holding ‘Shift’, and then selecting the rest. In the menu click Arrange > Align or Distribute > chose the type of alignment you want. You can also choose Align Left, Align Right or Centre. For horizontal alignments, you can also choose Align Top, Middle, or Bottom.
If your objects aren’t evenly spaced from each other, choose Draw > Align or Distribute > Distribute Vertically or Horizontally. To make sure you have a good overview of your content and how it’s organized, select the Grid/ Gridlines/ Guides option in the View menu.
The key to incorporating grids into PowerPoint is to right click your slide, then ‘Grids and Guidelines’. This will bring up faint guidelines that objects will snap to when added, thus aligning perfectly each. From there hold CTRL, click, and drag those guidelines to create new ones.
Placing those guidelines into exact thirds can be a little difficult, but here’s a cheeky cheat code. Draw a line on one edge of the slide, hold CTRL click and drag that line, repeat three times with the fourth line on the other edge of the slide. Select all four lines, click the home tab, click arrange, and then click distribute horizontally.
With your lines now dividing the slide into exact thirds, align your guidelines along each of those drawn lines. Be sure to put these guidelines on your masterslide so you don’t accidentally move them during your design process. And voila… you now have an exact 3×3 grid to help your designs implement the sacred rule of thirds.
Historic Beauty and Simplicity
We’re all about living clutter-free here at Synapsis Creative. Life goals for me is somewhere between Diogenes and Marie Kondo. Grid help eliminate clutter and create balance because they show how much space you’ve got to work with on your slide. No more jamming in too many elements since the grid demonstrates dimensions and ideal focus points.
This is where the rule of thirds become critical. We’ve discussed the rule of thirds before, but essentially, content is divided to sit in a 3×3 grid system and points of interest are placed along the grid lines or at their intersection points. The rule is basically a simplification of the golden ratio, which found by dividing a line into two parts so the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. In equation form it looks like a/b = (a+b)/a = 1.618033988…
Ancient architects understood the golden ratio as evidence in the Great Pyramid of Giza, Stonehenge, and most structures built in ancient Greece. A grid sets the template so your design abides by a classic rule of design that found prominence during the Renaissance and remains vital to our understanding of aesthetics.
If you don’t have time fiddling with different presets and configurations for your designs, download our free Grid and Guide templates – start your creation process with ease.