Ordering Disorder

I came home to an Amazon envelope on my apartment doorstep. Inside was Khoi Vinh‘s new book, Ordering Disorder.

Grids are not anything new; the book gives a two-page history which mentions that the history of grid-based frameworks trace as far back as 9000 BCE. The typographic grid is a trademark of the International Typographic Style. Bringhurst has a chapter on “Shaping the Page”; Josef Müller-Brockmann has a great book on grid goodness in graphic design. Nowadays, look around the web and you’ll find countless collections of “grid web-based design inspiration” and articles of varying levels of quality.

Vinh states in the beginning, “[w]hat’s not yet fully addressed is how the use of the typographic grid applies to the mechanics of digital design for the World Wide Web.” The book is surprisingly focused on this topic, investigating grid design in the context of the web. And even with the plethora of grid design resources, the book feels fresh. There isn’t any discussion of code implementation (phew) and a lot of what is well-covered in other books is left alone.

After a little history and background, the book takes a very hands-on route by walking through the design of a website; the calculations and rationale are explained in detail. The more I play with grids, the more comfortable I find myself reasoning and executing. Practice makes you better but having a little insight into the process of someone so experienced is affirming and educational. It comforted me that the overall tone is very calculated; a lot of numbers are thrown around and everything is logically reasoned. Yet, a well-executed grid design appears simple and inherently correct.

What started as a freeform ramble seems to have turned into happy acclaim. But, the book is definitely worthy of approval in my opinion. There is a lot beyond what is in the book but as a foundation for grid principles on the web, Ordering Disorder gets a spot on my bookshelf.

Comment, please?
  • Khoi Vinh

    Thanks for the thoughtful review, Paul. I’m glad you found the book worthwhile!