Living On the Grid

The Brady Bunch Photo - paramount / CC BY-SA

Recent thoughts about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact design by Creative Director, Nicole Stowe.

The Brady Bunch Photo - paramount / CC BY-SA
paramount / CC BY-SA

We are more than ever living life through our screens – TV, tablet, phone, laptop, desktop. And all of those screens are rectangles. And that format has become a distinct design element of the moment. It may be the tall vertical rectangle of a phone screen juxtaposed against the black letterboxing of your very horizontal TV as companies use footage from people’s (usually employees’) phones to piece ads together. Or, more likely, it’s the now ubiquitous Zoom grid. Maybe The Brady Bunch was more futuristic than we ever thought. If you’re not using Zoom for work or to socialize with friends and family, then you’re likely seeing it in your living room. Right now, commercials are using it and even TV shows – the Bravo Atlanta housewives are currently having their reunion show on it. The mute button is a revelation. 

Grids have a long history of use in graphic design, but those are grid systems. They are flexible. What I mean here is a specific and rigid group of rectangles.

This grid has become a powerful signifier of both unity and necessity. Either or both of these may be reasons for your brand to use it right now. Its orderliness can also be a source of implied stability and consistency – the regularity of it, the dependability of it. NY Governor Cuomo’s simple, consistent, meme-worthy slide shows have become a reliable comfort for some. The navy blue, much like the grid, is also a signifier of security and stability (although that choice is more likely the fact that it is one of the official colors of the state of New York). 

Embed from Getty Images

Beyond the Zoom grid, on a more human scale, I’m seeing the 6′ social distancing grid IRL. Images of people precisely spaced, like this park in Brooklyn. Or people in line to check out at my local big box store. Grids can create a sense of order, and when there is a vast amount of uncertainty, this can be unconsciously soothing. While this is a trend right now, from a strategic brand perspective, it’s not a given that you should jump on the bandwagon unless it’s helping you communicate something. And at some point, we will want to break out of the grids again.

Nicole StoweNicole Stowe, Creative Director/Design