Also known as the golden number, golden ratio, golden number, golden ratio.
Remember those times in math class when you questioned how and when you would ever use math in the real world? I also. But now that I’m a designer, I really wish I had stayed up in Geometry and learned about the golden ratio.
Well in my design career, I learned about the golden ratio and how to use it in design. When I studied it, I realized that this knowledge was one of the missing pieces of my design education. Who knows?!
In this post, you will get a crash course on what the golden ratio is, why and how I use it in logo design, and how you can start applying it to your work.
The golden ratio is a mathematical principle that can be found in nature, anatomy, color, and even sound waves. Due to its pleasant nature, it has been used in art, paintings, architecture, music, and design for thousands of years. Scientific studies have shown that we perceive things that contain the Golden Ratio as a beautiful, harmonious, and bordering perfection, even when we do not know it.
I found that the more I incorporate the golden ratio into my design, the more satisfying the result is. Similar to using a grid in layout design, using Golden Ratio provides a framework for my layout decisions. Of course, you cannot superficially use the Golden Ratio and think that everything will always be perfect. Using these proportions in your design work will take time and practice. But the more you use it, the more you start to see the relationships between the elements of your design and begin to detect and correct areas that are inconsistent in your work and that just don’t feel right.
Now to get technical.
Let’s look at some key terms and concepts. Each builds on the previous one.
To get to the Golden Ratio, we must first understand the Fibonacci number sequence. It can be found everywhere; from the number of petals, there are in a flower to the spirals in sunflower or pineapple to the pattern of keys in a piano. Once you get familiar with this sequence, you will start to see it everywhere.
The sequence is as follows:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 …
So let’s see how this works. Each number after the first two in the sequence is the sum of the 2 previous numbers.
… and so.
Now let’s put this in visual terms that designers can appreciate.
If we square each number to identify the spatial area, our sequence will now look like this:
And if you are an expert in puzzles, you will begin to see that the progression of the numbers forms a visual pattern:
Crazy, right? You just wait. It gets even better.
The golden ratio
This is where the Golden Ratio comes in.
The ratio of the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence tends towards the golden ratio. The ratio of two consecutive numbers in the sequence gets closer and closer to the golden ratio, 1.618.
The golden ratio is the ratio of two quantities where the ratio of the small quantity (a) to the large quantity (b) is the ratio of the large quantity (b) to the set (a + b).
The golden spiral
The Fibonacci pattern is not only found in nature but there is another pattern within it, called the Fibonacci Spiral (also known as the Golden Spiral). By adding a circular arc to each square, we will produce a perfect spiral:
This spiral may look quite familiar to you if you’ve ever examined a seashell or even seen a picture of a galaxy.
Now that you know what the golden ratio is, let’s use it in the logo design. This is where the fun begins!
Note: for the sake of simplicity, I use the term “golden ratio” when I’m talking about the golden rectangle, spiral, or ratio, as the terms are often used interchangeably.
One of the ways I design logos is by taking all the main forms of the Golden Ratio so that the proportions are harmonious.
Then I combined the shapes and used a grid to align all the parts.
And finally, I refine the points, the shapes and the connections.
Pro Tip: Don’t use more than one golden ratio when designing. If you need a smaller ratio, take it from the golden ratio you started with.
Another way I use the Golden Ratio is to determine the height and width of the logo, as well as the proportions of the strokes.
Pro Tip: Not all strokes can align with the Gold Ratio. In this example, the horizontal strokes must be slightly thinner than the vertical strokes to appear optically the same. Even the Greeks altered it a bit .
Lastly, I use the golden ratio to help me decide the location, size, and length of key elements in a logo.
So you want to use the golden ratio?
Incorporating the golden ratio into your workflow will help you make better and faster design decisions.
Wondering how you can use the golden ratio in your next logo to create a more harmonious and pleasing design?
To really understand it, I would suggest studying first the logos of the Masters, like Paul Rand and Saul Bass, and observe the Golden Relationship in their work. The goal is to train your eye to see. Trace the logos and take note of what you discover. Did the logo use the golden ratio? Did the points within the Golden Ratio of various parts of the logo intersect? Not far from your studio, you will begin to notice the proportions, the relationships between the forms, and the alignment. When you learn to see, you will inevitably make better design decisions.
Next, use the golden ratio as a way to correct the proportions once you have the logo design 90% complete. As you use the golden ratio to refine your work, you will begin to notice how you will incorporate it earlier in your design process. Even if you don’t rush. The goal is to use it as you would a guide and not force it.
Final tip: use it as a guide, not as a rule. Your eyes have the last word.