There has been a healthy discussion based on this post, please read the edit I added summarising these discussions at the end of the post.

I don’t use a pre-defined grid. I never have. I don’t design to a grid in Photoshop. I don’t code to a grid and I don’t use a grid based framework.

If you have been reading my previous posts you’ll already know that I don’t use an HTML & CSS framework. It’s not that I’m not a fan of grids, I am. They have their place and they are needed.

What I don’t like about grids is the formulaic and lazy nature of their usage

What I don’t like about grids like is the formulaic and lazy nature of their usage, for me design isn’t always about convention and what has gone before. Design is about breaking some or all of the rules. I don’t want every project to be the same, I want to design every single element. I’ll come up with new and consistent padding and margin rules for each project. If I come up with a grid layout it may not be 33.333% and 66.666% it may be 43.3333% and 56.6666%.

Why

Well it’s simple really, I work really hard to make sure every project I work on is different. When I sit down with the client be it face-to-face, on the phone or skype/hangout, I like to get down to the bare bones of what the client wants, down to every detail of their business and what they need from me. I get particularly excited when I have the opportunity to break the mould or do something quirky with the layout. If the project doesn’t need that kind of flavour I can still design to their brand, business needs and their content by using a different approach to their layout with padding, white space and margin than I perhaps would have on the last project.

Trends

I want to be a trendsetter with my design work, I’m not there yet, but it doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying.

As designers, surely we are trying to push the boundaries, try new things and get a higher level of engagement from our audience?

That being said, trends tend to dictate design and this is pretty sad, grids are not helping us break away from the trends. There are so many websites with the same grid setup, so many. You can argue convention, UX and design patterns here – but what are we really trying to do? As designers, surely we are trying to push the boundaries, try new things and get a higher level of engagement from our audience?

Don’t use grids by default

For your next project don’t use a pre-defined grid. Clear those guidelines, make them up as you go, delete the .col-1, col-2, .one-third, .two-thirds classes from your CSS. Break the mould, do something different, be creative. Be the next trendsetter.

Tell me what you think

I’d love to hear what other designers are doing in the wild world of web design. Do you always use a grid? Do you never use a grid? Do you have an awesome layout you want to share? Please let me know in the comments below.

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* EDIT 13th June 2016: I’m getting some heat on a few things over Twitter, Comments on DesignerNews and in the comments here for three things…

  1. All the negative feedback on this post seems to originate from the sensationalist title I’ve given it. This was actually me trying to be clever and referencing the film The Matrix with the “There is no spoon…” line. This post could equally be called “Why I don’t use pre-defined grids and why I don’t use the same grid on every project, preferring to roll my own each time and often even beginning a project without one” – not as snappy but probably more accurate! If you actually read the post, I’m not telling people that I don’t use any grids and that grids don’t exist, I am however saying that I am a fan of them and if the project allows breaking them is worth thinking about. My main issue with grids is their implementation, designers need to think about what they are using to design with and whether they even need to start with a grid in the first place.

  2. I’m egotistical because I want to be a trendsetter. This is a tongue in cheek comment, people that know me and followers of my blog know this. I’m actually pretty wary of attention, I don’t particularly like it. I hate birthday’s for this reason, I do not like being the centre of attention.

  3. I wrongly or rightly claimed that “Design is Subjective” on DesignerNews and people have jumped straight onto that comment. I’m not really going to debate my stance on design being subjective, inherently humans are subjective but I can see the point of view that design is an objective tool. I need to think about this properly before I make a decision on that one.

I do want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment, even the people who vehemently argued their points of view. I’m glad I sparked some discussion, even if some of it came from misunderstanding my original point of view.

Please also read Daniel’s rebuttal blog post called There is Definitely a Grid.