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camera 15 032This book The Grid was published by the Van Nostrand Reinhold Company in various editions. Ours is a first edition 1978 copy, it is a true graphic designer’s resource.

The author Allen Hurlburt (1910-1983) was a former Art Director among a few other positions he held at Look Magazine from 1951 through 1972.

He was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame in 1978, and was also a winner of numerous awards and several annual gold medals at the Annual Art Directors Club Exhibitions in New York.

Perhaps more than any other graphic designer, Allen Hurlburt changed the perception of the importance of the work of an Art Director and the job of a Graphic Designer outside these professions, according to testimonials by such graphic design icons as Saul Bass and Louis Silverstein from the New York Times.

What is this mysterious Grid we are talking about here? It was also known as the “Swiss Grid” for the early adaptation of a grid in the various publications printed and designed in Switzerland. The Grid was used by many outstanding European designers a bit earlier than in the United States. The slim volume with its 96 numbered pages and illustrated in black and white explains this Mondrian like concept of designing by using a certain proportion/ratio known in architecture to divide space as the “golden section”. Graphic designers adapted the same principle, not necessarily the same ratio to work off a modular grid.

Architects like Le Corbusier also used this rational system in their publications. The book is divided into several chapters applying the modular grid, with outstanding examples, to the designs for newspapers, magazines and books.

The grid system is made easy by showing examples that at first sight do not reveal an obvious grid to an untrained eye.

Naturally, the modular system is not only applied to true paper products, but also to record covers. An example is below from our collection designed by Ronald Clyne (1925-2006) where the color is carefully balanced with the size of the type, and clearly showing the outlines of the grid. This uncommon Clyne design was done for Columbia Records.

ronald clyneThe new invention in book making, the “paperback”, provided new opportunity, but also special problems in using a modular grid. Outstanding examples are found in early Penguins after extensive new guidelines established by Jan Tschichold. A discussion of these guidelines is beyond the scope of this post. In our paperback book cover collection, we have several examples showing below a grid on the cover.

Allen Hurlburt lived in Great Britain from 1973-1982  and lectured extensively on printing and graphic design and wrote five books:  Publication Design 1971, Layout 1976, The Grid 1978, 1981 The Design Concept . He also wrote a title unpublished at the time of death.

Anyone of these publications is a must have or read for a serious approach to design.