When designers work on a layout, they almost always take into consideration the Golden Ratio. What is the Golden Ratio and what does it do for human made designs?
First and foremost, it is a ratio between two numbers with one greater than the other. To explain this as a mathematical formula: if the ratio of those two values is 1:1.618, then it will also equal the ratio of the sum of both values plus the greater value. It is often represented by the Greek letter “phi” or φ. Linguistically it’s also called the Golden Mean, the Golden Spiral, Phi, the Divine Section, the Golden Cut, the Golden Proportion, the Divine Proportion, and Tau(t).
What is so Golden about this Ratio?
Contrary to the fact that gold is uncommon and precious, the golden ratio is found everywhere in nature. It is found mostly in the proportions of the spirals in galaxies, sunflower seeds, nautilus shell and even in the human body.
How can we use the Divine Section in our designs? Rightfully, the Golden Ratio sounds mystical because humans have been using the formula in their design for centuries. The best example is the Great Pyramid of Giza. However, there was never a mention of the proportion in the Rhind Papyrus until Euclid (365 B.C.-300 B.C.) first documented our consciousness of the ratio in his “Elements”. Plato theorized about it during the classical era.
The Renaissance period was arguably the golden age of the divine proportion. This is the time when Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo (not the ninja turtles) rose to fame. Leonardo da Vinci first called this “Section Aurea” (Latin for golden section). Years later, Luca Pacioli wrote about da Vinci’s works in his book De Divina Proportione (The Divine Proportion).
Today, the Golden Ratio is still used for natural feeling designs. Famous logos such as the Twitter bird, Mac computer’s bitten Apple, and the revamped Pepsi circle all use shapes with divine proportions. Google’s typeface also uses the Golden Ratio in the spaces within and among its letters.
Designers use this formula to layout webpages and print templates. You might not notice this right away, but the ratio of the main section of this article to the sidebar on this page contains the Golden Ratio’s aspect ratio. This formula is a pattern that is innately ingrained in humans and it feels natural on a subconscious level.