What is the golden ratio?
Simply put, the golden ratio, often denoted by the Greek letter phi, is the hidden calculation that calculates perfection and beauty. It is found in nature, art, architecture and even finance. Two objects are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. Simple, right? Alright, maybe not.
So let’s simplify. Have you ever marveled at the way rose petals wrap in perfect sequence around the stem? Or do you wonder why people can stare at the Taj Mahal for hours? This is the golden ratio in action.
The Greeks developed the golden ratio. It is based on a pattern of numbers known as the Fibonacci sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and continues ad infinitum. The Fibonacci sequence – developed by Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci – is the sum of the previous two numbers in the number sequence.
Graphically, the Fibonacci sequence is often visualized by a logarithmic spiral drawn inside an arrangement of squares. Each square illustrates the area of the next number in the sequence. The ratio between the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence is approximately equal to the golden ratio 1.618034.
Who discovered it?
The golden ratio was first described in Euclid Elements over 2000 years ago. Euclid of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician known as the “father of geometry”, first referred to the golden mean. In the simplest terms, if you take a straight line from point A to point B and divide the line with point C, this will divide the line in a way where the ratio of AC to CB is equal to the ratio of AB to AC.
The discovery of the golden ratio can be attributed to many different thinkers throughout history. The Greek sculptor and mathematician Phidias applied phi to the design of the Parthenon, built in 440 BC, which features structural columns that form golden rectangles. These golden rectangles are constructed with an aspect ratio of approximately 1.618.
How is the golden ratio calculated?
The golden ratio formula can easily be illustrated using the golden rectangle formula. If you measure the shorter side of a rectangle and cut a square out of the rectangle, the smaller rectangle should have the same proportions as the original. If the proportion is in the golden ratio, it will be equal to approximately 1.618.
How do you use it in design?
One of the first lessons new photographers and designers learn is to master the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds divides an image equally into three distinct parts, horizontally and vertically. It places the subject of the image at the intersection of the dividing lines or along one of the lines. Like the golden ratio, the rule of thirds is one of the most important goals for any content creator or designer.
While the history and math behind the golden ratio may seem complex, its graphic design applications are quite simple. They can be easily used in your design layout, spacing, content and images. The golden ratio can also guide designers when considering typographic hierarchy, image composition, logo design, etc. When the golden ratio is used, it creates a visual harmony that is difficult to explain but easy to calculate.
How do you use the golden ratio in your design layout, content and images?
When designers are given an assignment to create engaging content, they are often given various perks. Using text and images, designers are tasked with arranging each component in a way that not only communicates the desired message, but also inspires the viewer to engage with the call to action. The most visually appealing work is often created with reference to the golden ratio. Similar to the rule of thirds, the golden ratio also encourages designers to divide images into three distinct sections, each serving a unique purpose.
When considering both design layout and content placement, the golden ratio can be useful for even the simplest of projects. Many designers often visualize how the golden spiral design looks in their image. With the golden spiral as a guide, the eye is naturally drawn to its center, where the most important details of the content should be placed. Areas of visual interest are usually placed within the spiral. Secondary content is in the furthest areas of the spiral, and negative space is usually placed furthest from the center.
For example, the two-column layout of some of the top performing websites is not accidental. It is an intentional and direct application of the golden mean. Web designers usually create a grid for the design, which has a standard fixed width of 960px. If you divide 960px by 1.618, the result is 593px, which becomes the width of the main content column. Subtracting 960 by 593 gives 367 pixels, the width of the secondary content column.
How do you use the golden ratio in your spacing?
An image is composed of two types of space. It is every designer’s goal to strike a balance between positive space (the subject of the image) and negative space (the surrounding areas). The use of positive and negative space is often assumed to be the result of a designer’s eye for placement and instincts. But the golden ratio is also responsible for how a design will be perceived. Using the golden ratio diagram, designers can determine the location of each element guided by the squares.
Is the golden number still relevant?
Many people think that the golden ratio is a myth that designers may consider irrelevant. The golden ratio, according to many critics and opponents, is a dying art. Since it is an irrational number, it is impossible for real-world objects to reach the golden ratio. While famous architects like Le Corbusier and artists like Salvador Dalí composed their masterpieces based on the golden rectangle. In modern times, many people are simply uncomfortable with the use of mathematics in their daily lives.
However, it would be foolish to reject the Golden Spiral entirely. Examples of the golden ratio are all around us. Try it on your next design assignment to see if it works for you.
Create your own design with Picsart
Now is the time for you to experiment with your own golden ratio examples. Start by playing around with the quick and easy editing tools at your fingertips on Picsart. Explore the #goldenratio hashtag to find out how artists and designers around the world are incorporating examples of the golden ratio into their designs.
On the Web
1. Open the Picsart web editor and click New project begin.
2. In the left panel, select Downloads and choose your image.
3. In the left panel, click the Stickers tool, search for “golden ratio”, then apply the sticker to your image. Note the placement and remember what you learned about positioning for positive and negative space from the golden ratio examples mentioned earlier.
4. Complete your modifications and validate by clicking on the Export button to upload your creation.
On the app
1. Open the Picsart app and tap the purple plus symbol to get started.
2. In the Photos category, select an image you want to work with.
3. Scroll to Stickers tool, search for “golden ratio” and apply the sticker to your image keeping in mind everything you have learned so far.
4. Finish with any last minute changes or adjustments you need and hit Apply to confirm.
5. Save to your device or publish your creation to the Picsart community.
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