The Golden Section
What do sunflowers, the Parthenon, nautilus seashells, and the pyramids in Egypt all have in common? They all follow the Golden Section.
Golden Mean, Gold Ratio, Divine Proportion are all common names for what is known as the Golden Section which is based off the number Phi = 1.61803398874… discovered by Italian Mathematician Fibonacci. Phi is the ratio between the number sequence 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 etc. where by adding 2 numbers together the next number in the sequence is derived. So, 1+1 =2, and 1+2 = 3, 2+3 = 5 and so on. When we divide two sequential numbers i.e. 5/3 = 1.67 and 21/13 = 1.615 the ratio between these numbers soon become very close to Phi (1.618). In practice, we can use the proportion 5/3 to represent Phi or the golden proportion.
What’s so amazing about this number? Well this number is special because it has been used as a proportion in art and architecture since at least the Renaissance and is evident everywhere in the universe, nature and even in our human bodies. When used in design it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and can enhance the visual impact of your design. This is what the Golden Section looks like.
Many a times, as a designer, we use our eye, or base our decisions on our feelings “yeah, that looks right..” But when we follow the Golden Section, a beautiful proportion that is well balanced is created. Here is an example of how you can use the Golden Section to lay out a page.
For years, the Golden Section has been used in design. In product design there’s Apple’s iPod, Toyota’s icon and bank cards. In architecture there’s the Parthenon and also the Fansworth House by Mies van der Rohe.
Another point worth noting is the Fibonacci Spiral. "Fashion Photographer Jake Garn" uses the Fibonacci spiral in composing his photos. Read more about his technique for composing photos and the Rule the of Thirds – which is a very simplified version of the Golden Section. jakegarn.com/the-rule-of-thirds/. The Rule of Thirds is an easy way of proportion a design – whether that be a page layout or a photo.
To learn more about using the Golden section in graphic design take a look at Mark Boulton’s site.
I know it’s a lot to take in and comprehend..! If there’s one thing you can take away, is that well-balanced design can be reached by following the Golden Section. Next time you design a layout, logo or brochure take into consideration the Golden Section. It will improve your design significantly!