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My Life is Organized by Grids

June 23, 2016
I'm a huge control freak, obsessed with neatness, so organization is often something I turn to to cleanse my mind and my environment.

Life as a designer is incredibly hectic, and often feels like a constant stream of panic swirling around stress and deadlines. I frequently find myself working on a dozen projects at the same time and my brain has to jump back and forth between ideas, concepts, and visuals 24/7. Tension and anxiety are typically high, so it’s necessary to find outlets to alleviate that anxiety, big or small things in my life that bring me comfort. Honestly, even straightening a pen lying on my desk can bring me a tiny piece of joy.

I’ve learned that the only way I can navigate and organize my designs, my living space, and my brain is by using grids.

A grid is the framework or skeleton that holds the content of a design together, and the essence of grid theory is proportion. Proportionate divisions create balance on a page and the use of proportional grids dates back to Renaissance painters using the Golden Ratio to compose their paintings. My logical mind quickly latched onto the idea of mathematical proportion as an aesthetic practice.


Photos by Kate McDermott

In short, grids are used to organize visual space into neat and tidy segments. When managing data, copy, colour schemes, and other information, division of space in an orderly manner with an underlying grid can bring order to chaos. Grid theory is taught and touted throughout design school as a key tool in compositions, and sometimes it can feel like a stuffy old tradition that puts structure above personality and expression. Knock it if you want, but I think the modern designers were on to something!


Not only do I use grids to order my visual space, but also to organize my physical space. The same model that provides balance on a page helps me feel like I have balance in my life. I have grid patterns all over my room, on my clothes, as my phone background, I even own a product called “Grid-It“. Grids seem to be trendy in the virtual world and are cropping up more and more in fashion too, so I don’t have to look far to find my precious grids.

No matter how tightly wound I get, there’s something about putting things into a system of order that just loosens all the knots in my body.

This organization allows my mind to relax and decompress (okay, maybe Netflix too). The neatness, cleanliness, and order calms me. The act of organization is like taking a great big breath, and seeing my things all have a home in a rightful place is like letting that breath out slowly and sinking into the sweet, sweet abyss.


Grids are thought to be the foundation of a composition, a grounding mechanism – maybe having grids all around me makes me feel like I am grounded even when my brain feels like it’s spinning out. What do you use to organize your life and control your anxieties?



Kate is a cross-disciplinary designer and craft lover, known to worship at the shrine of minimalism, and gaze lovingly at the moon. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her work!