Friday, May 21, 2010

Invest in gold.

Golden ratio. Golden section. Golden mean. Golden proportion. Golden cut. Divine proportion or divine section. Whatever you call it, it's a universal law that uncovers logic in beauty. No matter how long I study it, I can hardly believe it. There's a measurement found through all of nature (pondered on by great minds for thousands of years, but really revealed in nature by Adolf Zeising in 1854) that...well, let's let Adolf himself give us the low-down:

"The Golden Ratio is a universal law in which is contained the ground-principle of all formative striving for beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art, and which permeates, as a paramount spiritual ideal, all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical; which finds its fullest realization, however, in the human form."
What a phenomenon. (Maybe that's why it's sometimes called divine?) The golden ratio is frequently represented by the Greek letter Φ (phi)I've really never been a math whiz, so I've translated the calculations into visuals to help me and others like me understand. If you want to read another clear interpretation, look hereAs illustrated above, the golden ratio is 1 to .61803. For every 90 degree turn, the radius of the spiral grows by a factor of Φ. What's more, the golden ratio, and why I'm even talking about it today, applies to everything visual. It's not just a science thing. Have you ever wondered why some artwork is so beautiful and complete-feeling while other artwork just isn't? It's because artists caught on to this phenomenon long before it was spelled out and used it to make their work full of tension, energy and interest. Like this little piece, perhaps:

Above, in Leonardo DiVinci's Uomo Vitruviano he shows "the proportions of the human body in geometric form" which happens to be based on the golden mean, just like Adolf told us it was. As you can probably imagine, art students today are taught about the golden rule so they can use it in their work, whether it portrays a human subject or not. This includes graphic design students. Knowing how to work with the golden rule is like being armed with a secret of the masters. Unfortunately, it doesn't make you insta-good, but it helps.

On that note, another layout method I learned in college was the Rule of Thirds, or "two-third/one-third" Rule. It's similar to the golden mean, but is easier to apply and reference. It can be represented using the same diagram as the golden mean, but actually plays better with the graph paper since it's based on whole numbers rather than fractions. (Another reason to love graph paper!) 
When you use this sort of grid, your work will just feel better. It still sort of feels like a mystery to me, but I keep going back to it for brochures, websites, business cards and the like because I think nature really does know best. I'm pretty sure it's created more fantastically beautiful things than we as humans will produce through all of time, so I trust it.

Photographs of artwork from
Illustrations ©StudioM


  1. Thanks for sharing that, Megan. I remember the thirds rule, but I'd never seen the "golden" equation, and the overlays on classic art were a nice touch. Nature knows what it's doing, and so do you. (-;

  2. Thought you might like this, too:

  3. Super cool! Thanks for sharing that link.

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