2x Grid

The IBM grid is the framework for all the visual elements and typography. It’s fundamental to everything we design. No matter what device or medium you’re working with, the grid gives you just enough structure and guidance so you can focus on your creative idea.


2x Grid for events

Divisions of two

At the core of the 2x Grid concept is the idea of divisions of two. This can be applied to most surfaces, 3-D objects, and architecture as a means to divide space into a helpful grid system. Dividing your space into 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, or 64 columns gives you the basis of the system with the purpose of helping you make decisions and organize your content.

watson chatbot
business card
cloud high performance
icon grid
grid example
street with rain
think schedule
tote bag
watson cloud
water thing example

Constructing the 2x grid

Each application of the grid can require a different grid structure. When constructing the grid, keep in mind these different types of grids and choose which one best serves your need.

No margin or gutter

Margin with no gutter

Margin and gutter


Add margins to your canvas when you need separation of content from the canvas boundaries. In some cases, margins are specified by the production method.

grid ex 2x grid with margins

2x Grid constructed with margins

EventGridExample v2

2x Grid without margins

Columns and rows

Within the grid, columns and rows are especially important—they give layouts their structure. You can choose between 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 divisions. Stick to your choice throughout your design to maintain structure.

grid ex security lg

Columns only

RowsGridExample v2

Rows only

grid ex columns and rows

Columns and rows

Always divide the live area to ensure equal column and row widths.

Never divide from the canvas boundary when using a margin.


Add gutters to columns and rows when additional space is needed to separate content. When using gutters, always align type to the gutters rather than the canvas divisions. Columns and rows must always remain equal.

grid ex with gutters

With gutters

grid ex without gutters

Without gutters

Distribute gutters evenly to achieve equal columns and rows.

Don’t add gutter to the canvas divisions without redistributing.

Base unit

If the 2x grid gives your designs structure, base units give them precision. Using a base unit will establish relationships between your grid proportions, typography, dimensions of shapes, and space between elements. You can choose either the mini unit or a baseline unit to build your grid and spatial relationships.


The mini unit

The mini unit can vary in size depending on the media. When choosing an appropriate unit for your application, consider the viewing distance. Each mini unit in the scale below has a type scale pairing and was determined by legibility over distance.

Mini unit scale

Mini unit sizes based on viewing distance:

View distanceMini unitMediaMinimum Type Size (caption)
0–0.5m2mmHandheld print6pt
0.5–1m4mmPrint viewed within arm’s reach12pt
1–2m8mmPosters and small signage24pt
2–4m16mmHuman-scale print48pt
4–8m32mmPrint viewed from across a room96pt
8–16m64mmPrint viewed from across a street192pt

Handheld card—2mm mini unit

Standing banner—16mm mini unit

Billboard—256mm mini unit

mini unit grid example

Grids above viewed at intended distance—all mini units have the same apparent size.

Mini unit for product and web

The 8px mini unit guides everything in both software product and web environments, from the construction of the grid to all the elements that live within it.

IBM digital media templates

Baseline unit

For advanced typographic layouts, consider creating a base unit from the leading of your document. You can use the leading size or a fraction of it to determine the baseline unit. Although this method requires finer tuning of margins, gutters, and type specs, it can help establish vertical rhythm and typographic harmony throughout your design.

The baseline unit can be used to construct all of the grid proportions, or you can take a hybrid approach by using the mini unit to create your grid and a baseline grid to guide your content.

Baseline unit grid

Hybrid mini unit grid with baseline

Spatial relationships

All spacing between elements can be defined by the base unit. Use the following multiples of your base unit to construct your layout: 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x, 12x. Consistent and replicated use of spacing ensures spatial rhythm between all content.

spatial relationship grid example
StandingBannerExample v2

Standing Banner (mini unit)

StationeryExample v2

IBM Letterhead (baseline unit)

Aspect relationships

Use common aspect ratios, such as 16:9, 4:3, 3:2, 2:1, and 1:1 for images and containers. Always measure the width to the columns; the height is determined by it.