The book grid

A4 grid

What is a book grid?

It’s the PRE prep work before the actual work… if that even makes sense. The grid establishes things like what the baseline height will be, how many columns to use, the page size setup and which typeface would look good together. It’s a page spread/s – see example above – on what some of these terms look like.

Body text

First step towards a grid setup is to choose your typeface and size of your body text. Typeface is the font family you’d like to use throughout the book. And body text is the main running text throughout the book. Choosing fonts takes a good working knowledge of which font styles work best with each other. I never use more than 3 typefaces in a book. More than that, and the book will start to look unprofessional and messy. But, this is dependent on the style of book you publishing, and the market you designing for. So do your research!

Side note: Kerning is the space between characters/letters. Leading is the space between lines of text.


Columns is a vital part of a grid setup. You can have a 3, 4 or even 6 column grid (see image above). Again, you’ll need to know the basic structure of the book. The heavier the text or box features in a book, the more columns you may have. This allows for design flexibility – especially within tight page extents. The lighter your text in your book – the less columns you may have. The grid allows for a consistent flow of text throughout the book and gives a good indication of how many words per line you can manage. A very important aspect if you want your book to stay within its page extent.


Headings usually (not always) are sans-serif, and body text is serif. But this all depends on the kind of book you publishing and whether it’s an online or printed format. ‘They’ say sans-serif reads better online compared to printed material. Heading size work in conjunction with the body leading size. Each component in book design is wired together in some manner. Nothing in book design works in isolation. It’s a connected bunch of wires working together to makeup one entity in the end.

Footer and Running heads

A header or footer is text or graphics that is usually printed at the top or bottom of every page. A header is printed in the top margin; a footer is printed in the bottom margin. That’s the basic explanation. Some of these can get quite creative, like having your headers running down the side of your page. For something like this, you’ll need to work closely with your printer or check visibility is clear on an electronic device. Nothing irritates a reader more than not being able to read the text. Especially page numbers! They are important in a book for many practical reasons including as a reference source.


Lastly, the baseline is the lines on which your body text sits (see image above). The baseline grid is a formula which uses the body text leading size. This is why its important to get your body text approved first. This is also why it’s important to get the foundation of your design grid right. Like building a house – if the foundation is wrong, the house will eventually fall apart. So lay your foundation down correctly, and the job will look good and run smoother 😉

Feedback is fuel for improvement! so feel free to comment or ask questions.

Next, I’ll talk about the spec design.

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