Design is a series of rules, whether you realize it or not. There are some simple, explicit rules. Lines of text should be around 66 characters wide. Text colors should have appropriate contrast so as to be accessible. Widows and rivers in paragraphs of text should be avoided; the variations in a type scale reduced to provided juxtaposition to each other. These are the explicit rules; those which we can easily write books about.
I was able to get a sneak peek at some of the early work on The Grid's typographic system. And being lucky enough to spend time with Jon Gold has dramatically influenced the way I think about designing systems. Rules, constraints, logic and math are a deeper part of my design process and vocabulary (though I still have a long ways to go) because of a handful of conversations with Jon.
His thinking on typographic systems is fascinating and should give pause to anyone who finds themselves spending too much time on the "what" of design, rather than the "why." I won't pretend to understand all of the complexity in the algorithms Jon worked on, but his post makes a point clear enough to me: design isn't magic. It's a series of rules and logical decisions that can be compared, contrasted, improved, learned, and taught. And the opportunity that exists to bring this kind of thinking into our design tools, processes and teams is staggering.
Our tools could take us towards trends, or away from them. We can, right now, suggest a more popular font, but equally we can surface similar but undiscovered treasures for those looking to branch out from the mainstream. We can suggest, hint and correct; all built from solid design principles and the collective sum of our experience as designers. All this is within reach.
I'm excited to see what's next.