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Golden ratio

What is the golden ratio in design


Golden ratio

The golden ratio in design is a myth. A myth that is broadcast by thousands of teachers, blogs, media. And even in top design schools, you can attend a lecture where a seemingly experienced professor will be telling you that all great masterpieces were created in the proportions of the golden ratio.

So what is the golden ratio? And why, if it’s a myth, is it so widespread even in the professional environment?

What is thegolden ratio in design?

In short, the golden ratio is the proportion of parts of a visible work of art that supposedly makes it more attractive to the human eye because this proportion occurs in nature and was used (sometimes) by great artists, architects and designers when creating their masterpieces.

In the golden ratio, the image is divided into unequal parts, with each smaller adjacent part relating to the larger adjacent part as well as the larger part relates to the sum of the larger and smaller parts. This ratio equals 1.62… and like Pi is irrational.


Why is the golden ratio a myth?


There is no evidence that this proportion affects humans any stronger than any other proportion, say one to one or two to one.

That is, human thinking is closely related to mathematics, and everything that has at least a little understandable mathematics for humans will seem more logical, orderly and understandable to humans.

For example, if we see 1327 apples of the same size (the same size being a 1 to 1 ratio that we can call, for example, a diamond ratio), we group them and generalize them into 1 pile, stopping analyzing each of the 1327 apples in our brain? thus translating a complex and not so important for survival task into a series of primitive ones.

In this respect, the golden ratio may help our brain generalize parts of an image, but considering that any image fits under some mathematical system or proportionality, the question arises: why do we need to fit it specifically under a 1.62 proportion? Such fitting already smells of alchemy or astrology.


Many experiments have been conducted with A/B testing where people were shown virtually identical images or objects with only one difference: in one case the golden ratio was applied and in another it was not.

All experiments ended either with parity or with defeat of the golden ratio which seemed too elongated and not aesthetic to subjects.


When adherents of the golden ratio cite great architectural buildings or paintings as examples, they mostly deceive by embedding an image into the golden ratio with serious deviations as if not noticing that the image is far from being built in this proportion but only partially and approximately.

Why, if the golden ratio in design is a myth, is it so widespread in the professional environment?

This is a more complex question from the series of why people make mistakes or do bad things. There are many reasons for this, let’s consider the main ones.

1. Educational system. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, in most cases, practicing designers are not permanent teachers of design schools, universities, and even courses, and educational programs are also composed by people who have a remote relationship to real practice (at least in most countries). Textbook and program compilers form them from some criteria that only they understand. Teachers read everything that is in the textbook compiled a century and a half ago and only slightly adapted to modern language, without filtering information, because they do not understand what exactly needs to be filtered and why to do it at all, what is the motivation?

2. Small harm. Beginning designers often believe in false information because it does not cause significant harm to the final design, and since at an early stage the graduate understands that he may still not understand something, he takes precautions, just in case applying the infamous golden ratio, especially since it makes him smarter in the eyes of people who do not understand design.

3. Monetization. A beginner designer purely for insurance or out of naivety periodically applies the golden ratio in his work, without getting any result from this technique, but is still afraid to refuse. He begins to think about how to use this miracle for his own benefit. The first thought that comes to mind is that you can demonstrate in your portfolio how much effort he put into creating, say, a logo according to all the rules of the golden ratio, which will surely at least slightly increase the cost of his work, because the final customer will think that more work has been done and accordingly increased the likelihood of increased quality.

4. Media and blogs. The eternal story about the lack of topics and news for media and blogs. From a financial point of view, it is often more effective to grab a large number of topics with a bright headline without checking the content, especially if no one particularly refutes the content.

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