I'm starting my education in Graphic Design soon (once I finish my current degree) and I'm pretty much immersed myself information in preparation including textbooks that I will be using and websites (like this one) to improve my knowlege base.

I also work at a retail store where I do graphic design on a daily basis in the print shop. Which has helped me in figuing out what I can and can't do and how long it takes me to complete a task.

The one hurdle that I'm facing right now is the ability for me to come up with layouts for designs and to be able to visualize compositions. I know that most of this will come with practice, my friends who have completed thier degrees have said that layout and composition are pretty straight forward and there are plenty of resources to learn or get inspired on how to layout graphics.

What are some of these resources? There are no books that I can find at my local library or Barney Nobo as thier graphic arts/design sections are very limiting.

I have purchased the Layout Index, but I find the book really....dated. I can kind of see what they are trying to do with the book, but all of the layouts that are in the book don't really inspire me.

Are there better places that explain layout? Perhaps mathematically? I do really well with math.

I also ask for print media specifically because there's already a good question asked about web layout.

  • The Layout Index book is great, but the key is to not use it literally. Instead use it to mix and match concepts.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 2:30

1 Answer 1


If you enjoy math, put it to use developing grid and proportion systems. Experiment with various geometries all you like (I hinted at that in this answer). In the end, it comes down to having or developing an eye for the end result but experimenting will help. Try classical systems like pentagons, golden triangles, golden rectangles, circles, etc.

Grid Systems analyzes products and layouts to expose their underlying geometry. It's a nice mix of visuals and analysis. As a bonus, Princeton Architectural Press did a lovely job with vellum grid overlays on the artwork.

The Form of the Book is a favorite of mine written by Jan Tschichold, a master of book layout. Tschichold spent years in analysis of classical book proportion and layout and documents his findings succinctly in this collection of essays. It's hard (or expensive) to get your hands on these days.

Grid Systems in Graphic Design is the classic on the subject of layout systems from Josef Muller-Brockmann. It's very much International Style in it's approach, but widely applicable even today. In fact, despite it's age, one of the best applications of his principles today is on the web.

Making and Breaking the Grid is one I've never read myself, but I've heard good things about it. From what I understand, it's more of a look book than Brockmann's or Tshichold's.

Books like Layout Index are really a step in the wrong direction. What you need isn't solutions to copy but principles to learn and develop in your own unique way.

  • Yeah, I really want to learn principles and I'm finding that the Layout Index was just not what I was looking for. I didn't learn anything. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 1:56
  • I don't have my copy of the Layout Index in front of me, but from what I recall, it wasn't a book where you copy layouts, but it was more of a brainstorming tool. It'd been a while since I picked it up so I may be remembering it wrong.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 2:38
  • @DA01 That's what everyone is saying about it, but when I looked at it, it didn't give me any inspiration. I wanted the book to be more bare bones. Like wireframes where I wasn't destracted by the visuals they had. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 3:56
  • Now I'm on a quest to find my copy of that somewhere!...
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 4:15
  • The whole "index" series was just junk, imho. I stay clear of design and advertising annuals for the same reason: I'd rather be out studying other fields or learning new skills than staring at a bunch of reprints someone else made. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 5:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.