The Golden Ratio For Designers

What is the Golden ratio?

The ratio of two numbers that equals roughly 1.618 is called the golden ratio, sometimes referred to as the divine proportion, the golden number, or the golden proportion. Often represented by the Greek letter phi, it has a close relationship to the Fibonacci sequence, which is a set of numbers where each successive number is added to the previous one. The ratio of each Fibonacci number to the preceding number progressively approaches 1.618, or phi. The Fibonacci numbers are 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so forth.

History of the Golden Ratio

The golden ratio was originally mentioned in Euclid’s Elements, a classical Greek treatise on geometry and mathematics, which dates to approximately 300 BCE. The proportion was known to Euclid and other ancient mathematicians such as Pythagoras, but they did not refer to it as the golden ratio. It would be many years before the proportion became mysterious. The ratio was hailed as symbolizing divinely inspired simplicity and orderliness in the book De divina proportione, written by Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli and including paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, which was published in 1509.

Mathematicians and artists began to recognize the golden ratio as a result of Pacioli’s book and Leonardo’s drawings. Many aficionados have asserted over the years since Pacioli’s book that the number is inherently beautiful, that it is a mathematical representation of beauty, and that golden triangles, golden rectangle side lengths, and golden ratio line segments are shown in works of art throughout history.

Since the golden ratio appears frequently in the natural world, proponents of the ratio contend that it is visually beautiful. Natural examples of the golden ratio are the proportions of nautilus shells and human bodies; however, these can differ significantly between individuals. Not all seashells expand in a pattern called a golden spiral that corresponds to the golden ratio. While it is true that nautiluses retain the same shell dimensions throughout their lives, the ratio of their shells is typically not an expression of phi but rather a logarithmic spiral.

There are other facets of nature where phi appears. Sunflower spirals and other seeds tend to hew closely to phi, while tree leaves and pine cone seeds typically grow in patterns that resemble the golden ratio. Because phi facilitates effective packing or dispersion, leaves that grow by the golden ratio will not shade one another and will instead rest at the golden angle.

Although there’s no proof that using the golden ratio is superior to using other proportions, designers, and artists are constantly striving to give their creations an intriguing composition, balance, and order.

The golden ratio in art and graphic design

A few designers and artists have purposefully centered their creations around the golden ratio. The golden ratio served as the foundation for most of the architectural system developed by renowned mid-century modern architect Le Corbusier. When Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, painted The Sacrament of the Last Supper, he purposefully utilized a canvas that resembled a golden rectangle. American prog-metal band Tool released “Lateralus,” a song featuring time signatures inspired by Fibonacci, in 2001.

Additional instances of the golden ratio have been discovered by art historians in the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Mona Lisa, and the Parthenon in classical Athens. But most of the time, there isn’t any concrete proof that artists deliberately employed ratios in the manner that Le Corbusier, Dali, or Tool did. We are unable to determine whether phi was intentionally used by ancient engineers in the pyramids’ design notes or specifications.

How to use the golden ratio in your work

Mathematical rules do not apply to aesthetics or design. Even if you can make a bad design that still follows the golden ratio, you can utilize the ratio to guide your composition in order to reduce clutter and produce a balanced, ordered design. According to graphic designer Jacob Obermiller, “placement is everything on a graphic that might be pretty busy.” The golden ratio is a useful tool for guidance.

The rule of thirds and the golden ratio can function similarly. It can serve as a compositional convention or guidance, but it is not a strict guideline for organizing your work. In the end, guidelines of any type are beneficial and space is crucial. According to Sara Berndt, a student of human factors engineering, “if everything is important, then nothing is important.” You could alienate your reader, viewer, or user if you just center every image or arrange text in an arbitrary block. Make sure everything in your work is well-composed and appropriately spaced out by using the golden ratio as a guide.

You can generate diversity and white space that appeals to the eye and facilitates comprehension of text by using a convention like the golden ratio or the rule of thirds. According to Berndt, “the relationship between blank space and the ‘pay attention’ space is the essence of the golden ratio.” People can only process so much information visually. This is a guiding concept that will assist you in comprehending the span of human attention and producing visually appealing content.

If you choose to base your artwork or design on the golden ratio, it can make your work appear more balanced, even, and visually appealing. However, as long as you create thoughtfully and imaginatively, your ratios don’t have to be precisely 1.618. Adobe Illustrator can assist you in crafting your work so that everything is balanced to your own golden standards, regardless of the ratios and proportions you choose to use.


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