The Best Modern Books on Layouts and Grid Systems

The Best Modern Books on Layouts and Grid Systems

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Grid systems are a mainstay for all design disciplines – graphics, architecture, industrial products, UI, textiles, and more.

It's no accident we find Josef Müller-Brockmann's classic book on the subject – the aptly titled Grid Systems in Graphic Design – in every designer's library.

Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann

First published 1981, Müller-Brockmann's work was an innovative resource that taught a highly systematic approach to designers worldwide. A pinnacle of design learning in the 20th century, this is the fountain that our teachers and mentors drank from.

Since then, it's been more than 40 years, and designers have kept developing their methods and teachings.

Below, we present 5 modern books on layouts and grid systems which provide value to designers beyond the 1980s classic, even surpassing it in many ways.

Editor's note: Not only do I own a physical copy of every one of these books, I keep them within reach from my desk at all times. These are the sources that give me the competence and confidence that I need in my craft.
Typographic Systems by Kimberly Elam

Typographic Systems

Kimberly Elam's reference book on layout systems presents 8 structural frameworks for organization in graphic design, of which the grid is only one. A brilliant reference to discover inspirations beyond the grid.

Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type

Layouts and grid systems go beyond typography in disciplines like architecture and product design. But for graphic designers and digital creatives, more often the grid is the stage, and the actors are the words.

For the uninitiated, Ellen Lupton's Thinking with Type is the perfect introduction to typography. For veterans, it's a brilliant reference book to find inspiration, as well as the words to articulate our layout and typography ideas.

Grid Systems by Kimberly Elam

Grid Systems: Principles for Organizing Type

With all due respect to Josef Müller-Brockmann's canonical volume, we feel that to improve on it is possible. And that's exactly what Kimberly Elam's Grid Systems does. Packed with quick tips, snappy frameworks, and deep case studies on designs in the wild, this book is the perfect modern sequel to the 2oth century classic.

Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara

Making and Breaking the Grid

If we could have only one book from this list in our library, it would probably be this one – a definitive overview on grid systems and what lies beyond. Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara takes us on a tour of highly practical lessons, from the history of graphic design and the anatomy of the page, all the way to dealing with art-driven modern layouts for digital compositions.

The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems

While Josef Müller-Brockmann's orange-clad classic is easy to spot in every designer's library, it's his earlier and rarer work on The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems that excites us more.

Published some 20 years before he dropped the orange book, this is a deep dive into the master's own portfolio, packed with examples of his own corporate and artistic work. Every book on this list has its place in our library, but this one, we keep the closest.

Mehmet Aydın Baytaş

Mehmet Aydın Baytaş


Mehmet is the founder of Design Disciplin. He has been designing and building since 2005, and spent 10 years as academic computer scientist and design researcher.