September 9th, 2008
When I first crossed the great divide from print to web, one of the earliest things I tried to do was introduce a flexible multi-column grid (you know, like a magazine). We tried various options, but in the end the most successful was the classic 12-column which has graced so many great magazines from Twen (above) to, well, Guardian Weekend.
The magic of this grid lies in its flexibility. The single column is too narrow to be used practically for much other than space but 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 columns are all useful measures, and mixing them up can add a lot of rhythm to a page.
I was wary of suggesting it because I didn’t want to enforce a print-based approach in a digital environment. But as soon as I realised that we could make an MPU ad (300px x 250px) occupy 4 out of 12 columns there was no looking back. We first used the grid on the launch design of comment is free, and then rolled it out across the whole network.
So imagine my delight at seeing that telegraph.co.uk (one of our main UK competitors) has paid us the compliment of adopting not only the same grid, but an identical article structure too.
Which makes me wonder if there’s any other medium this grid can conquer. I think I feel a 12-column Berliner newspaper coming on….