Carl J. Kurtz

is a freelance graphic designer from Hamburg, Germany.


Get in touch if you‘d like to work on something together.



SmartGrids is an application that allows you to easily configure and preview modular typography grids.

A screenshot of the interface of the app AmartSrids. On the left, you can see the panels to transform the page, set the alignment, and set the typography style. In the middle, you see a preview of the grid. On the right side, you can configure the grid and see the output of the program.
Interface of SmartGrids

SmartGrids is an application I wrote in Python and published on GitHub. It allows you to quickly create and preview different typographic rasters based on several inputs. While this was nothing impossible before, it automates and speeds up the non-creative math part tremendously.

This project not only allowed me to learn how to write standalone applications in Python but has also taught me a lot about how and where fonts get stored on the computer and how the actual font files are set up internally. The project also introduced me to the fonttools library that I used throughout the project to get information from the font files.

You can input several parameters like the page size, margins, font size, and leading, and SmartGrids will show you all the possible grid configurations. Unlike the built-in grid creation tools in Adobe InDesign, SmartGrids will automatically align the grid to your body copy. The gridlines can be aligned with the cap height, ascender, or x height of the text. It also allows for a baseline shift so that the gridlines don’t align with the baseline of the text but with its descenders.

Preview of a layout and grid created with SmartGrids. Three white pages with images on it on a black background.
Gridsystem created in SmartGrids

Creating cap-height aligned grids in Adobe InDesign is not impossible either, but involves a lot of trial and error and manual measuring. This application allows you to skip the tedious guesswork and manual calculations. SmartGrids will show you all possible grid configurations and output all relevant values that you can then input into your layout software.

The grids follow the style proposed by Josef Müller-Brockamann in his influential 1981 book Grid Systems in Graphic Design.¹ Typographic grids help you structure your layouts in a meaningful and clean way. When working on larger editorial projects they can also speed up your workflow significantly.

Give it a try on GitHub, and feel free to give me all your feedback.

1In recent times, publications like Josef Müller-Brockamanns Grid Systems in Graphic Design (and the entire Swiss design canon for that matter) have been heavily scrutinized for furthering a narrow euro-centric narrative of what “good” design is supposed to look like. Essays like Cave Paintings by Ueli Kaufmann do a very good and important job of uncovering these narratives. Nevertheless, I believe that Grid Systems in Graphic Design is an invaluable resource for learning about Grid Systems, which still play a huge role in contemporary graphic design.

This website is set in Switzer, made by Jeremie Hornus for the Indian Type Foundry.

© 2021–2024 Carl J. Kurtz.
All rights reserved.

This website is set in Switzer, made by Jeremie Hornus for the Indian Type Foundry.

© 2021–2024 Carl J. Kurtz.
All rights reserved.