Having spent so many paragraphs belaboring the importance of thoroughly researching a problem, I can make this next point more succinctly: sketching on paper is an essential tool for thorough design problem solving, and it’s particularly helpful in developing grids. The simple act of quickly and loosely drawing out speculative combinations of columns and potential layouts can save vast amounts of time and often leads to much more creatively fertile grid solutions than simply jumping ahead to designing or even coding a grid.
I can’t emphasize enough the power and usefulness of using old-fashioned pencil and paper to work out problems, to brainstorm potential solutions, and to explore promising or even not-so-promising ideas that may be too costly or time consuming to test otherwise. In fact, the most important aspect of sketching is not so much making marks on paper, but rather being able to run through many ideas quickly, with little cost. Remember, you have no expectation that the sketches will amount to anything more than just sketches. Sketches don’t need to be pretty.
As mentioned earlier, it’s also important to keep in mind that sketching need not be a discrete phase of constructing a grid that begins and ends at specific points. Sketching can happen at any phase throughout the project, at multiple levels of completion—though of course it’s most useful to sketch earlier, so that more ideas and possibilities can be run through very quickly. Keeping a pencil and a pad of paper handy at all times is sure to prove invaluable.