The Myth of Golden Ratio
I’d like you to watch this video before you read the rest of the article.
The video is a guy asking random ordinary people a fake question about a fake movie.
Do you think Eddie Murphy deserved an Oscar nomination for his role in Ninja Knights?
There is no such movie called ‘Ninja Knights’ starring Eddie Murphy!
All the people being interviewed lied flat out and were like, “His performance was just magnificent, magnificent!”
Often people might term a movie as dry and boring but if you tell that the movie has won an Oscar for screenplay, their review would change to a glowing praise.
“It had depth and character. It becomes an affecting allegory for the fleeting joys of life.”
Some thing similar happens in the design world where including the Golden Ratio in your design some how automagically makes it superior.
Designers often have this habit of trying to include the ‘Golden Ratio’ – 1.618 in their designs.
Twitter recently redesigned their logo and used the Golden Ratio. People have pointed out that Apple’s iCloud logo uses the Golden Ratio.
At least since the 20th century, many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio—especially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratio—believing this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing
But does Golden Ratio really have any special properties which can make design look aesthetically pleasing? Did great artists like Da Vinci, really use it to create great works of art?
Attributing the ‘Golden Ratio’ for beauty of Mona Lisa is an insult to Da Vinci. Do you really think that Mona Lisa or ancient Greek sculpture are beautiful just because of a number?
Most people who sing about the magical properties of the golden ratio have only read about it in Dan Brown’s novels (I think it was Angels and Demons). Having read all of Dan Brown’s novels I can tell you one thing for sure – he lies a lot.
Now I’m not saying that Dan Brown is wrong every time but he does exaggerate few things to make his books interesting.
In Angels and Demons he talked about the difficulty of creating Ambigrams.
In reality there are several softwares and webapps out there which can create an ambigram for your name on the spot.
Similarly when Dan Brown talks about the golden ratio, he tells us that it is found all over the nature. Even the human body is built keeping in mind this ratio.
People are different, everyone has different bodily measurements. If you take the ratio for everyone it won’t be the ‘Golden Ratio’ it would be different for everyone.
If you draw 2 rectangles, one with the ratio 1.618 and the other with any random ratio. Is there any reason why the rectangle with Golden Ratio would look better?
Proponents of Golden Ratio talk about how it occurs in nature. I came across this question on Quora:
Does Angelina Jolie’s face follow the golden ratio perfectly, where as Jennifer Aniston’s face doesn’t and is that the reason why Brad Pitt left her for Jolie?
I tried to draw a ‘Golden Rectangle’ over their face to try and see if it fits the definition of a beautiful face according to the rules set by the ‘Golden Ratio’ and here is the photo.
As the photo clearly shows, unlike Mona Lisa the Golden Rectangle doesn’t fit either Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie. If you don’t find them gorgeous you need to get your eyes checked.
Several people wrongly believe that Apple’s logo is based on the Golden Ratio. According to such people, everything beautiful must have the Golden Ratio. David Cole decided to test this claim and here is his result - Fake!
He posted a picture, which I will share here. It shows how the iPhone would look like, had it been designed keeping the Golden Ratio in mind:
The ‘Golden Ratio’ is just a number and it should be treated that way, unless you see ‘Golden Rectangles’ everywhere, like this:
For those of you who follow Manchester United, you might be knowing that some of the world’s greatest footballers have worn the jersey no. 7.
George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have worn that jersey.
Was there anything special about the jersey no. 7 which some how gave these players super-human abilities? Was that no. the reason for their success?
These players are legends because they worked hard at their game. Here is an even better proof that the jersey no. 7 had no effect on them.
If any design is made keeping in mind the Golden Ratio, doesn’t make it, somehow perfect. A good design doesn’t necessarily need the Golden Ratio. It is just a number like any other. It occurs in nature but it isn’t the only one and there is nothing special about it. Human have 2 legs, hands, eyes, ears, etc. but that doesn’t mean anything. You wouldn’t draw 2 Mona Lisa’s side by side and say that since 2 is a magical no. this makes it perfect.
I don’t mind designers using any ratio for creating their design, but when they tout it as a feature it makes me cringe.
Do read this excellent article written by Donald Simanek where he talks in detail about the mistakes by ‘Golden Ratio’ proponents.
Here is the article on Wikipedia which points out the mistakes made by ‘Golden Ratio’ believers.