A grid, in graphic design, is used to structure the content and is made up of various straight or curved intersecting lines. They basically work as the structure which a graphic designer can use as a framework for arranging the graphic elements in such a manner that it is easy to read and/or absorb.
A grid is made up of different parts like column, modules, gutters, margins etc, and they can be combined in various ways to form different types of grid.
Before discussing about hierarchical grids, let’s look into the definitions of a few terms related with the grid.
Format: An area over which the grid is built or fits. It is basically an area in which all the content and images are set up in the specified manner.
Margins: The spaces between format edge and outer edge of content. It basically helps to ease out the space in the design composition of the grid. Margins should be set in such a way that they help to focus the attention on the content without making the arrangement look too tight or too loose.
Modules: Modules are what grid is basically made of. Or we can say that modules are the building block of the grid.
Spatial zones: The fields of modules adjacent to each other are called spatial zones. Their shape is decided according to the type of function assigned. Like horizontal space can be for images, vertical for texts etc.
Columns and Rows: The vertical arrangement of modules form column and horizontal arrangement forms rows. Their height and width are decided according to the content specified.
Gutters: The spaces separating the modules are called gutters. All the spaces between rows and columns are called gutter.
Now that the basics have been discussed, it is convenient to move on to discuss the types of grid.
So basically there are four types of grid
- Column grids
- Manuscript grids
- Modular grids
- Hierarchical grids
The most common type of grid found on the web are manuscript grids. They are good for long continuous blocks of text. Column grids divide the space into columns and modular grids divide that page into even modules marked by rows.
What are hierarchical grids?
Hierarchical grids can be categorized as the ones in which the other grid forms do not fit. They are not arranged according to rows or columns. Hierarchical grids do not have equal spaces between the modules. So basically it can consist of rows as well as columns, often overlapping each other, thus creating more scope for content and creativity.
Hierarchical grids are commonly found over the web. They are made by putting the data and arranging them in an instinctive manner i.e. basically according to the need of data.
The columns can shift according to the location of the flow lines and customized parts are also counted in as a part of hierarchical grid.
When are hierarchical grids used?
When we need a super hierarchical structure where any type of grid forms do not fit well then hierarchical grids are used. Various kinds of elements are fitted into this grid irrespective of their type.
They can be loosely or tightly bound depending on the type of data or elements. But at first the elements are placed in a loose manner over the frame. Then the design elements are placed to develop the grid. After the placing of design elements, they are intuitively arranged in their proper co-ordinates to get the required hierarchical grid.
Binding of hierarchical grid can also be done in various ways to get a different type of grid. Their rows, columns, flow-lines, margins, modules etc. everything can be varied according to the need of the data required. Also, hierarchical grids give us the flexibility of collaborating with other designers to discuss about the placing of data more creatively and neatly.
A few advantages of using a hierarchical grid is that they are flexible, easy to absorb, can incorporate more elements and they do not have fixed boundary lines.
So now that you know everything about a hierarchical grid arrangement, if you come across a site where data are arranged not according to any of the other grid types i.e. column, modular or manuscript, then you can say that if is a hierarchical type of grid arrangement.