The Unigrid


As my colleagues work on the Harbor Park Pavilion and its exhibition design with the National Park Service, I was once again struck by the brilliance and versatility of Massimo Vignelli’s design for National Park Service print materials.

In the late 1970s Vignelli developed a “unigrid” for park service publications. This modular system determines everything about the design—from paper size to graphic layout to illustration formats. The grid is driven, at least in part, by the economics of printing. It offers ten basic brochure formats with length-to-width ratios determined by paper sizes that can be cut from one larger sheet of paper. Thus, the park service can order paper in large quantities for maximum discounts, and produce ten different-sized brochures from the same-sized paper stock with great efficiency.

The unigrid sets up an open framework for design. Within the grid, between the black header bar with the strong white font and the black bar at the bottom of the unfolded brochure, text, photos, maps, and illustrations can be organized in a variety of ways. It’s a robust framework that supports a wide range of graphic possibilities.

Economical, flexible, and with a clear visual identity, Vignelli’s unigrid is just plain good design.


See the unigrid in action in this flickr album.
For some of Vignelli’s words of wisdom, download the Vignelli Canon.


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