The format is where your grid and layout lives. It’s your canvas; the U.S. Letter, A4 sheet, zine-spread, tablet screen, web browser, and back of a bar coaster.
Margins are the “whitespace” between the edge of your format and the outer edge of your content. The margins are the “here be dragons” of the canvas. Content that pushes into the margins must do so carefully.
Columns are the zones that stretch vertically from margin to margin. More on them later.
Rows span horizontally from margin to margin. They form a checkerboard with the columns.
Also known as the alleys. Gutters are the buffer between individual columns and rows. They act like wool between plate mail, an invisible space that keeps your design elements form grinding against each other. Without them, designs fall out of balance.
An element can bridge these “ditches” as they span from one column or row to another, but the trick is that they never end inside of them.
The modules are areas of space where rows and columns intersect. They’re the building blocks of your design. When modules link together, they create columns, rows, and spatial regions.
When modules are grouped together, they create spatial regions or zones. These are the broad strokes that divide the canvas. Vertical regions might become columns. Horizontal regions might become maps. The more complex the regions, the more complex or unique the information.