Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Golden Ratio: where design and mathematics coincide

The golden ratio (also known as the golden mean, golden section or divine proportion) is a height to width ratio that measures 0.618 and manifests itself in nature, art and architecture. The Parthenon in Greece incorporates the ratio, but it’s unknown whether or not the designers actually used the principle. The human form has this same basic geometric relationship — DaVinci studied this and created drawings that illustrated the proportion in his Vitruvian Man (below). Piet Mondrian used the golden ratio in much of his work in  the 1920′s. Even Twitter uses the golden ratio principle for it’s screen design.

The Golden Ratio looks like this:

It's defined as the ratio between two segments such that the smaller (bc) segment is to the larger segment (ab) is to the sum of the two segments (ac), or bc/ab = ab/ac = 0.618.

And can be calculated like this (adding 1 to the ratio is phi, yielding the same basic geometric relationship):

More examples of the Golden Ratio:

Fascinating! Is it an inherent aesthetic preference or is it a design technique turned tradition? How do you explain the proportion found in nature? However you decide to answer those questions, it’s hard to argue that it has had an enormous impact on art and design over the years and continues to influence design today. Next time you see something that just “feels” right, or that you just can’t take your eyes off of, take a look at the proportions and remember – Ahh, it must be the 0.618!

- Ryon

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