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Good design has been up for debate for as long as we’ve been creating. There are
endless forums, social media threads, and in-person conversations about what makes for
great design, with everyone contributing their own point of view.
That’s the beauty of design, right? Everyone can interpret it differently.
While there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach for design, there is a concrete,
mathematical approach that can help us get one step closer to creating amazing design
experiences every time: the Golden Ratio.
The Golden Ratio is a mathematical ratio you can find almost anywhere, like nature,
architecture, painting, and music. When specifically applied to design specifically, it
creates an organic, balanced, and aesthetically pleasing composition.
In this article, we’ll dive into what the Golden Ratio is, how to calculate it, and how to use
it in design—including a handy list of tools.
What is the Golden Ratio?
Also known as the Golden Section, Golden Mean, Divine Proportion, or the Greek letter
Phi, the Golden Ratio is a special number that approximately equals 1.618. The ratio
itself comes from the Fibonacci sequence, a naturally occurring sequence of numbers
that can be found everywhere, from the number of leaves on a tree to the shape of a
The Fibonacci sequence is the sum of the two numbers before it. It goes: 0, 1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8,
13, 21, and so on, to infinity. From this pattern, the Greeks developed the Golden Ratio
to better express the difference between any two numbers in the sequence.
How does this relate to design? You can find the Golden Ratio when you divide a line
into two parts and the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum
of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618. This formula can help you when
creating shapes, logos, layouts, and more.
How to use the Golden Ratio in design
Now that the math lesson is over, how can you apply this knowledge to the work you do
on a daily basis?
Here are four ways to use the Golden Ratio in design:
1. Typography and defining hierarchy
The Golden Ratio can help you figure out what size font you should use for headers and
body copy on a website, landing page, blog post, or even print campaign.
Let’s say your body copy is 12px. If you multiply 12 by 1.618, you’ll get 19.416, meaning
a header text size of 19px or 20px would follow the Golden Ratio and balance the 12px
body font size.
If you want to figure out how big your body text size should be, you could do the
opposite. If your header text is 25px, you can divide it by 1.618 to find the body text (15
or 16 px).
2. Cropping and resizing images
When cropping images, it’s easy to identify white space to cut out. But, how do you
make sure the image is still balanced after you resize it? You can use the Golden Spiral
as a guide for the image’s composition.
For example, if you overlay the Golden Spiral on an image, you can make sure that the
focal point is in the middle of the spiral.
3. Layout
Leveraging the Golden Ratio can help you design a visually appealing UI that draws the
user’s attention to what matters the most. For example, a page that highlights a wide
block of content on the left with a narrower column on the right can follow the Golden
Ratio’s proportions and help you decide where to put the most important content.
4. Logo development
If you’re designing a new logo and feeling stuck, turn to the Golden Ratio to help you
sketch out the proportions and shapes. Many popular logos follow the Golden Ratio, like
Twitter, Apple, and Pepsi.