Appealing images use the golden ratio

1. The golden ratio

THE golden ratio is believed to have aesthetically pleasing properties. The golden ratio is a naturally occurring number that has been the subject of interest since ancient Greek times, and has been used in architecture, art, books and music since at least the time of the Renaissance. For example, artists have used the golden rectangle to select the most aesthetically appealing canvas dimensions.

If the golden rectangle is aesthetically pleasing, then it makes sense to use the golden rectangle when preparing images to be inserted in presentations, proposals, reports, blog posts, etc. The image above has the dimensions of a golden rectangle and, more interestingly, the shape of the spiral above the street lamp is a golden spiral.

Denoted by the Greek letter phi, Φ, the golden ratio is an irrational number equal to:

Golden ratio 6

2. The golden rectangle

The golden rectangle is the name given to any rectangle for which the ratio of the longer side ‘a’ to the shorter side ‘b’ is the golden ratio.

Golden ratio 5

Interestingly, if the two sides of a rectangle are in the golden ratio then the ratio between the sum of the two sides and the larger side is the same as the ratio between the larger side and the smaller side.

Golden rectangle

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3 Replies to “Appealing images use the golden ratio”

  1. Hi Tom,

    I like what you’ve done with your blog! You and James have given me the inspiration to start my own. I have added your blog to my site. I hope you don’t mind!


  2. Something interesting you might like to note is that the photograph above doesn’t have the light (nor the pole supporting it) in the centre of the frame.

    It’s deliberately weighted to the right, about 2/3 of the way across the frame (obviously from the left). Photographers refer to this as the “Rule of Thirds” and it’s an approximation of splitting the frame into the golden ratio.

    That’s why that image “works”, moreso than the physical length:height ratio of the actual frame. The frame’s obviously been cropped too – most people are accustomed to viewing photos with a 3:2 length:height ratio or (if you’re using a compact camera) 4:3. The weird crop makes the image look “fat”.

    It’s not universal – and symmetrical objects (arches, for example) are better off symmetrically composed.

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