Leonardo DaVinci was known to use the Golden Ratio in his paintings including The Last Supper.
The Golden Ratio (a.k.a. “Golden Mean” or “Divine Proportion”), a number that’s found in the proportions of starfish, human faces, and hurricanes, isn’t just an uncanny natural phenomenon. Because it is believed to play an important role in the way we interpret beauty (both natural and manmade), the Golden Ratio can be spotted in various arts from photography to architecture. While some artists and designers purposely employ the ratio, it's reasonable to wonder if some of them find it more organically simply because they have a "good eye." In many cases, we may never know the answer!
Examples of The Golden Ratio in Art and Design
Georges Pierre Seurat is another painter noted for his use of the Golden Ratio to compose the landscapes of his pieces.
This clever necklace represents a more literal approach to using the Golden Ratio in art and design!
Is the Apple logo a perfect design?
The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hoksai is a well-recognized and beloved painting. Does it owe its aesthetic appeal, in part, to the Golden Ratio? Was this a purposeful choice on the part of the artist?
Tara Mastroeni explains that architects take advantage of the golden ratio in their building designs because it allows them to create aesthetically pleasing designs with room for a great deal of variation. Here are just a few examples of homes that both follow the Golden Ratio while still looking quite different from each other.
Now it's your turn!
Want to experiment with the Golden Ratio in your own designs? Follow this guide to drawing a Golden Rectangle, which follows the Golden Ratio, creating one of the most visually satisfying geometric forms. You can also try various programs to help with calculations. A few options include goldenRatio, a program to helps designers plan a general layout; Atrise Golden Section, which, among other functions, may be used in Adobe Photoshop to help you crop visually pleasing images; and Golden Ratio Typography Calculator, a simple tool that helps you determine the most visually pleasing typography for your website.
Is the Golden Ratio really so golden?
There is certainly some debate about whether or not the Golden Ratio really does, in fact, play a role in the way we’re visually attracted to objects and people. After all, as individuals, we have distinct tastes and don’t always find the same subjects beautiful. The Hass School of Business published results of a study that found that participants, on average, preferred rectangles that are in the range of 1.414 and 1.732. This range includes the Golden Rectangle (1.618) but indicates that it’s not everyone’s first pick.
Moreover, there is some speculation that the Golden Ratio doesn’t have a lot of practical application in the real world of design. As John Brownlee explains, many contemporary designers find that they don’t rely on the Golden Ratio, some eschewing it altogether.
What’s more, actually implementing the Golden Ratio in a design is mathematically impossible because the number goes on forever. We’re only able to produce approximations. Others argue, however, that approximations are enough since the Golden Ratio is more about the larger picture, so to speak, and a general aesthetic impression.
A final critique of the Golden Ratio--or rather the obsession with it--is that it's just one more manifestation of humans seeking patterns and logic where patterns and logic don't necessarily exist.
Nonetheless, the Golden Ratio is still revered as a majestic theory and may inspire, if not exactly dictate, the proportions of beautiful designs.
What's your take on the Golden Ratio?
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From hurricanes to ancient architecture to the center of sunflowers, examples of the Golden Ratio are all around us.
The Golden Ratio.
Live Science defines the Golden Ratio (also called the Golden Mean or Divine Proportion) as “a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. It is often symbolized using phi, after the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet.” As with pi, the golden ratio is a number whose decimal points go on ad infinitum. 1.61803398875… is just the beginning. Phi is usually rounded off to 1.618. The equation is expressed as a/b = (a+b)/a = 1.618…
The Golden Ratio has been discovered and rediscovered by mathematicians throughout ancient history and across cultures. The ratio may be seen in the proportions of great ancient architecture including the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Parthenon. Plato (428 - 347 BCE) described the ratio as the most “universally binding mathematical equation.”
A full-scale recreation of the Parthenon in Nashville, TN.
The Golden Ratio is closely related to the Fibonacci Sequence discovered by Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202. Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34… The expression is written as xn = xn-1 + xn-2. The Ratio of two successive Fibonacci numbers roughly equal the Golden Ratio--especially as the numbers increase in size.
The Golden Ratio also informs the Golden Rectangle, which is considered the most visually satisfying geometric from. The ratio of the length and width of the Golden Rectangle equal the Golden Ratio. The Golden Rectangle is often employed in photography, art, and design (but more on that in a later post).
Outside of the realm of mathematics, the Golden Ratio plays a surprisingly significant role in the natural world. In nature, the Golden Ratio can be found in the arrangement of flower petals in some flowers, seed heads, pinecones, tree branches, shells, spiral galaxies, dolphins, starfish, sand dollars, honey bees, hurricanes, human fingers, and even our DNA molecules.
Moreover, the Golden Ratio, loosely speaking, can be found on the faces of individuals that are generally found most attractive. A geometric “beauty mask” can help predict whether or not the proportions of an individual's face will be deemed attractive by the average person. Of course, we know that beauty comes down to more than a math equation and it's important to promote concepts of beauty that move past traditional definitions--but it's interesting to think about the way this one equation plays such an important but quiet role in our perception of aesthetics.
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Photo: Live Science, Wikimedia Commons