The What, How, and Why of Golden Ratio in Graphic Design - All You Need to Know

The What, How, and Why of Golden Ratio in Graphic Design - All You Need to Know

Because humans are such subjective beings, what we perceive as “beautiful” has always been a topic for debate. We each have our own standards, tastes, and definitions of what beauty is, and the truth is, we never really agreed on one representative interpretation of it.

However, artists and mathematicians alike have come together to devise a technique that could objectively measure one’s beauty. This technique is done through what is now known as the Golden Ratio.


What is the Golden Ratio?

The golden ratio, also known to mathematicians as the Fibonacci Sequence, is a technically intricate tool that gives things—from nature, architecture, art, and even design—a sense of proportion and harmony that would make any work functional and aesthetically pleasing.


How is the Golden Ratio used?

Golden ration in graphic design

Visually, the golden ratio is any precisely measured shape that can be cut into smaller versions of itself. After being continuously cut into smaller pieces, the shape would indeed become smaller, yet would also still maintain the same proportion as the rest of the larger shapes that preceded it.

Mathematically, the system of the golden ratio was formed out of dividing parts (the reason why it’s called a ratio) into smaller parts, which would eventually approximately equate to the number 1.618.

While the golden ratio sounds complex with its intricate use of mathematical fractions and sequences and other hard to understand mathematical jargons, the golden ratio formation can actually be seen all around us in nature.

From shells, plants, to even the formation of galaxies above us, we intrinsically perceive these objects as naturally beautiful with their own sense of proportion, balance, and harmony brought by the golden ratio.


When did the use of the Golden Ratio start?

In the world of art, the use of the golden ratio can be traced back to the Renaissance era of the ~1400s. Great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo would use the golden ratio to craft some of their masterpieces.


Where can we see the Golden Ratio?

As mentioned earlier, we can see the golden ratio in nature. From the spiraling formation of seashells, to how succulents twistingly bloom outwards, to the mesmerizing swirls of galaxies, to even the anatomical composition of our own bodies.

People have taken inspiration from their fascination with the beauty of the golden ratio as well, giving birth to artistic renderings inspired by it.

In fact, the world of art was hugely inspired by the golden ratio for centuries through timeless masterpieces we continue to admire today and treat as the standard of great art. Although this technique was formed centuries ago, the concept of using the golden ratio for art and design work is an effective way to create functional and aesthetically pleasing works. 

1. The Mona Lisa

One example of the effective use of the golden ratio is evident in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Painted in the 1500s, the famous painting made use of the golden ratio to construct the overall layout of the painting. From where the model or “Mona Lisa” would place her hand, to how her posture would be, to how she would position her face, and a lot more.

Leonardo da Vinci also applied the technique in different works such as The Last Supper, Old Man, and The Vitruvian Man. 

2. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

While the usage of the golden ratio in art is often subtle, one piece of artwork where we can see the usage of the golden ratio more clearly is the painting called The Wave Off Kanagawa by the Japanese artist Hokusai during the 1800s.

Golden ration in graphic design

In this painting, we could see the use of the golden ratio to construct a sense of proportion, balance, and harmony. Clearly, we could see the main subject that is the large wave on the left, given emphasis as it is placed on the left 1/3 side of the canvas. The artist also made use of the negative space on the right side to emphasize the strong waves even more. 


Why do we use the Golden Ratio in graphic design?

Now that we have seen how the golden ratio has been used in nature and art, we can now have a clearer understanding of how it can be used to enhance our graphic designs. Because the golden ratio is used to give any visual work a sense of proportion, balance, and harmony, many designers use the technique to create technical yet beautiful designs.

As graphic designers, we can use the golden ratio to create vectors by simply using the golden ratio as a guide. One easy way to do this is by using the circles brought by the ratio and use these to create different shapes. 

Here are some examples of how the golden ratio was used in graphic design:

1. Apple logo

The iconic Apple logo is an allusion to the forbidden fruit in the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the pursuit for knowledge. The design was achieved through the simplified use of the golden ratio through the use of different sized circles based on the ratio’s proportions.

Once the circles were completed, the shapes were used as a tool to craft an image of a bitten Apple. The circles had been repeated numerous times and they were used to create clean curves and shapes that would later on the form into the iconic Apple logo as we know it today.

2. Twitter logo

The iconic Twitter logo, named Larry, is a picture of a bird that was also made through the use of the golden ratio. The small wings of the bird were crafted by the smaller circles brought by the golden ratio, while the general shape of the bird was crafted using the biggest circle from the ratio.

Instead of going freehand and guessing random shapes, it would be ideal for graphic designers to use the golden ratio’s proportions as a reference to create clean and balanced graphic designs.


In conclusion

The golden ratio is a universal tool for artists and designers alike to produce works that are harmonious and pleasing to the eyes. Despite being a method created centuries ago, the golden ratio proves to be an effective and universal tool to create works from timeless masterpieces to smart designs.

The best graphic designs are not only aesthetically pleasing but, more importantly, effective and timeless as well. Graphics Zoo’s experienced graphic designers know the importance and value of good design to create designs that are effective, timeless, and proudly represent your brand.

If you need assistance with your graphic design projects, get in touch with us at