Design Glossary

What is the Golden Ratio?

August 28, 2023 by

This is a guide covering everything you need to know about the golden ratio.

Have you ever wondered why some objects, structures, or art pieces appear inherently beautiful and pleasing to the eye? The answer may lie in a mathematical concept known as the Golden Ratio, which has fascinated scholars, artists, and architects for centuries.

From ancient civilizations to modern design, the Golden Ratio has been hailed as a key to aesthetic perfection, but what exactly is it, and how does it work?

In this article, you and I will delve into the fascinating world of the Golden Ratio and explore its significance in various fields, including art, architecture, and nature.

We will uncover its historical origins, delve into its mathematical properties, and uncover its application in design and aesthetics. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the allure of beauty and wondered about the secrets behind it, then read on as we unravel the enigmatic nature of the Golden Ratio.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a math aficionado, or simply curious about the wonders of the world, this article promises to unravel the mystery behind the Golden Ratio and shed light on why it has captivated human minds for centuries.

We’ll be covering the following topics:

Table of Contents

What is the Golden Ratio?

In mathematical terms, the Golden ratio equals 1.618, and Phi (Ф) – a Greek letter – represents it. It’s also called the Greek letter Phi, Golden Mean, and Divine Proportion – after how much it’s found in nature. However, when we talk about design, the Golden ratio definition is to make organic or natural designs that are pleasing to look at with the proportions or elements being in harmony with each other.

The Golden ratio is a great tool to make images and objects more appealing.

In design, the Golden ratio meaning is that the elements are balanced, but are still aesthetic.

When we use it in designs, it gives them an artistic edge that has always appealed to human eyes.

The Golden ratio is special because we can find it everywhere, from mathematical geometry, arts, and buildings to our bodies. It’s seamlessly built into our everyday life. It was first called “golden” in the 1800s and over the years, its relation with phi has become known.

It has many uses, and you can use it in typography, images, logo design, and when planning layouts for your ads or website.

The Golden ratio can be found anywhere in our world, in nature, painting, music, and architecture.

The ratio and the number behind it were derived using the Fibonacci sequence. So, what’s the Fibonacci Sequence?

Simply, the Fibonacci Sequence is a set of numbers that exist in nature, e.g., the total sides of a banana (unpeeled), and the petals in some flowers are Fibonacci.

The Fibonacci sequence begins with 0 and 1. Let’s take the next number as x You’ll get the value of x by adding the two numbers before x.

Right now, the previous numbers are 0 and 1 so x equals to 0 + 1 = 1. You can get consecutive numbers when you add the two numbers before that number.

Fibonacci sequence is 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… to infinity.

To make the ratio, we take two consecutive numbers n and n+1 from the Fibonacci Sequence and divide n+1 with n – the bigger number with the smaller number.

The resulting answer comes close but doesn’t exactly equal to 1.618, for example, 3/2 = 1.5, 5/3 = 1.667, and 21/13 = 1.615.

fibonacci sequence
Golden ratio

Why is it Called the Golden Ratio?

The Golden ratio is as old as the world itself and it’s prevalent in the world around us.

It was called by a few other names before it was dubbed as ‘golden’ by Martin Ohm in the 1800s.

In his textbook, Die rein Elementar Mathematik, he described Euclid’s “diving a line in the extreme and main ratio” theory as the “golden section”.

The value 1.618 is called the Golden ratio, and it can make any shape, logo, typography, and image pleasing to look at and give it hierarchy.

What is Special About the Golden Ratio?

The Golden ratio meaning is linked with a line – the simplest shape in nature.

When we divide a line into two uneven parts and take the larger part ‘a’ and divide it with the smaller part, b we get a ratio of 1.618.

The ratio and the derived Golden rectangle, and the Golden spiral are all found in nature, in the form of flowers, ferns, hurricanes, and seashells.

It helps to make images more appealing.

The Golden spiral is typically used in designing logos, cropping and resizing pictures, etc.

But what exactly is the Golden Spiral? The Golden spiral comes about when you multiply the horizontal side of a square by 1.618.

You’ll get a rectangle, then put the square on the rectangle.

Then, take the rectangle not covered with the square and cover it with a square – divide the horizontal side with 1.618 to find the dimensions of the square.

The vertical side or the width should stay the same for both the square and rectangle.

Then, cover the rectangle with the square. Repeat this process with the square part until you get three small squares.

The overlapping of these two shapes gives you the Golden rectangle.

golden spiral
Golden rectangle

Start to draw the spiral arch from a small square that is adjacent to the second square you used.

Take the arch to the second smaller square and into the square below. Then, extend it into the second square you used and take it into the uncovered part of the rectangle.

Finish the spiral arch at one edge of the square that covers the rectangle. The Golden spiral covers the overlapping Golden rectangle.

golden spiral rectangle
Golden spiral

Anything made with the Golden ratio becomes the most picturesque image for the human eye.

This characteristic of the Golden Ratio makes it special, and we can use it in arts and design, architecture, and website building (layouts, typography, etc) to design elements that appeal to human nature.

What is the Golden Ratio Used For?

The Golden ratio has been used throughout our history in paintings, architecture, and even music more aesthetically pleasing to the human eye.

People like Leonardo Da Vinci used it in his work, and the Mona Lisa painting was made with this ratio in mind too. In our everyday life, it also has many uses.

1. Typography

The Golden ratio definition dictates that it equals 1.618, and you can use this number to set the hierarchy of your typography – the art of writing.

You can use this ratio to find the font size that would fit your headings and subheadings according to the body text size.

Assume that you have got an 11px (pixel) body text size, and you want to know what size the heading of the blog should be.

Simply, multiply 11px by 1.618 and the answer will be 17.798 so you should use a font size of 18-19px for the headings.

For 12px body text size, the answer will be 19.416 when you multiply 12 by 1.618 so a 19-20px size would be good.

2. Photographs

The Golden ratio is an effective tool for cropping or resizing pictures. You can use the Golden spiral for this job.

The Golden spiral is closely associated with the Golden ratio and by placing it on an image, you can find the portion that you want to keep or the focal section of the image.

With the Golden spiral, you can find harmony with the various elements in the image.

When you overlay the Golden spiral on your picture, the part with the highest number of details should be in the tiniest rectangle in the spiral, but this part doesn’t need to be in the center.

It can be in any part of the image, but you’ll need to change the spiral based on where the most details are.

By trying out a few spiral overlays, you can make sure that the focal/highlight point of your image is at the center of the spiral.

Moreover, you can move the objects around until the spiral shows the harmony it should in your image.

To further explore the use of the golden ratio in photography, we recommend this video by Reg:

3. Logo Designing

You need a well-designed logo that can deliver your brand’s message in just a glance. The Golden ratio can help you find the correct alignment and the best foundation for your logo.

Many big brands that are trending nowadays use Divine proportions to make their logos, e.g., Pepsi, Twitter, and Apple.

You can use the ratio to find the right width and height that fits your logo and what proportions work well for the internal objects in the logo design.

To make the logo, you can take the numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence and draw circles against each number. You can use these circles to make a grid on which you can make your logo design.

Twitter used this method to make the tweet bird that represents Twitter.

With the Golden rectangle, you can position all the objects in harmony with each other or use the Fibonacci circles as the foundation for the logo.

You can also use both the Golden rectangle (the overlapping rectangles and squares without the spiral) and the Fibonacci circles to make a grid for your logo – Apples used both for their logo.

To further explore the use of golden ratio in logo design, we recommend this video by Dansky:

4. Layout

With the ratio, you can design layouts that are appealing to your audience.

For example, if you want to create something for your website or blog that has the main message and then a sub-message, you can use the ratio to calculate the number of pixels for both.

For your infographics, if you want to create the main sidebar width of 667px, simply divide it by 1.618 to find the width of the sidebar that would suit that particular layout.

The ratio may not provide the exact lengths in some cases but it can give you an estimate of where to place what element to make the whole layout more pleasing to look at.

Moreover, you want to focus the important element of your poster, ad, or image in the middle of the Golden spiral because that is the place where your audience’s eye will land first.

How to Use the Golden Ratio?

1. Visual Composition and Design

Here’s how to use the golden ratio in visual composition and design.

Proportional Divisions

Divide a line or shape into two parts so that the ratio of the larger part to the smaller part is approximately 1.618. This can be applied to image and layout design.

Fibonacci Spiral

The golden ratio is related to the Fibonacci sequence, which can be used to create a spiral that gets wider by a factor of φ in each quarter turn. This spiral is found in many natural forms and can guide visual composition.

2. Photography

Here’s how to use the golden ratio in photography.

Subject Placement

Place the main subject of your photo at a point that is one-third of the way from one edge, and use the golden ratio lines to guide the composition.


Use the golden ratio lines for framing to align elements in your photo for a balanced and visually pleasing composition.

3. Art

Here is how to use the golden ratio in art.

Canvas Division

Divide your canvas into sections based on the golden ratio to guide the placement of important elements in your artwork.


Use the ratio to determine the dimensions and proportions of elements in your artwork to create a harmonious and visually appealing result.

4. Architecture

Here is how to use the golden ratio in architecture.

Building Dimensions

Architects can use the golden ratio to determine proportions of different parts of a building, such as the dimensions of windows, doors, and rooms.

Building Layout

Apply the golden ratio to lay out different sections of a building in a way that creates a balanced and visually pleasing design.

5. Web Design

Here’s how to use the golden ratio in web design.


Use the golden ratio to determine the dimensions and placement of different sections on a webpage to create a visually appealing and balanced layout.


Apply the ratio to choose font sizes and line heights that are visually harmonious.

6. Logo Design

Here’s how to use the golden ratio in logo design.

Logo Shape

Design logos with shapes that follow the proportions of the golden ratio to create a sense of balance and harmony.

Symbol Placement

Place symbols or elements within the logo based on the golden ratio to achieve an aesthetically pleasing arrangement.

7. Typography

Here’s how to use the golden ratio in typography.

Line Length

Use the golden ratio to determine the ideal line length for paragraphs of text to ensure readability and a balanced appearance.

Typeface Ratios

Choose font sizes and spacing that follow the proportions of the golden ratio for headings and body text.

Who Invented the Golden Ratio and When?

Even before Martin Ohm, a German mathematician, named the divine proportion as ‘golden’ in the 1800s, accounts in history state that it was used by the Greeks and the Egyptians.

The Great Pyramid and the Parthenon are said to have been designed with Phi in mind.

Artists and mathematicians like Phidias, and Plato used the Golden ratio in their work and worked on it.

Similarly, Euclid, who lived from 300 BC to 365 BC, explained that a line divided at 0.6180399 is referred to as “diving a line in the extreme and main ratio’’, which he later dubbed as the Golden Mean. In 1200 AD, Leonardo Fibonacci discovered the Fibonacci Sequence.

Fast forward to 1500 AD, Leonardo Da Vinci used the Golden mean or the Divine proportions, as was called during that era, in his artwork, e.g., in his ‘The Last Supper’ painting.

Later in the 1900s, Mark Barr, an American mathematician, designated phi, a Greek letter, for the Divine proportion.

Phi is the Greek letter for the alphabetical letter, F, which also happens to be the first letter of the Fibonacci series, and phi is the first half of Phidias, who is known to have used the Golden ratio in the sculptures he made.

Phi or the Golden ratio is used nowadays in mathematics, arts and design, and architecture, and it’s even associated with spirituality.

Final Remarks

The Golden ratio equals 1.618, and the ratio is a result of the Fibonacci Sequence, and when the consecutive number in the series is divided, they equal 1.618.

This number is also called Greek Phi and is an essential part of the world around us.

You can find the ratio in the world around us, in nature, art and architecture, and even our bodies.

You can use it to make the Golden rectangle and Golden spiral.

These two are used in logo designing, image resizing, and designing layouts for ads, websites, and infographics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of the golden ratio?

The Golden Ratio, often denoted by the Greek letter φ (phi), is a mathematical concept that has been believed to represent an aesthetically pleasing proportion found in nature, art, and design. It is thought to create visually harmonious and balanced compositions, and has been used by artists, architects, and designers as a guide for creating visually appealing works.

Does everything in life follow the golden ratio?

While the Golden Ratio has been observed in various aspects of nature, art, and design, it is not a universal law that dictates the proportions of everything in life. Its application is subjective and often dependent on human perception and aesthetic preferences. While it may be found in some instances, it does not necessarily govern all aspects of life.