What’s the golden ratio?
The golden ratio describes a mathematical rule to build proportions derived from nature. These proportions are believed to be pleasing to the eye and to create balance because we can find them everywhere around us, even in ourselves. Since ancient times artists, painters, and architects apply the golden ratio in their work. Pythagoras studied the concept of harmony and came up with the golden ratio and the Greeks applied his idea, building the Parthenon in Athens on his rule of proportions.
What does this mean in numbers?
Dividing geometrical elements into proportions of 1:1,618. To give you a quick example, something you can try out yourself: Draw a line on a sheet of paper. Measure your line and divide it into two parts using the ratio 1:1,618. Take the shorter part to create a square. Extend the square to build a rectangle. Now you can see the golden ratio in action.
How to use it?
Don’t panic now! You’re working with decimal numbers here and if you really did the math above, you probably saw this doesn’t really come out to 1,618. Some even believe this rule to be total BS. If you want to find out more, click over to fastcodesign.com and see how they unveil the truth about this legend.
BS or not, applying the golden ratio to your designs can help you. Create a grid in your design program based on the golden ratio. This doesn’t even have to be calculated to the point. You go by the rule of thumb if you like. By doing so, it becomes easier for you to see where to put elements of your design, how big you want an image to be, or where to leave whitespace. In general, this rule can be used to create balance by finding the right proportions.
In photography, the golden ratio can tell you where to put the main focus of the image and what belongs in the background.
The number one thing I learned from applying the ratio is to place things outside the middle. The example below illustrates what I mean. By putting an element right in the middle you create something that really looks designed, even forced. Just by placing it a bit above the middle line it appears to be more natural.