Golden Ratio

As a continuation of my previous post about “Force” and composition, I’d like to introduce the concept of the “Golden Ratio”. This is a compositional ratio that is commonly used in classic architecture, music, classic art, the design world, and mother nature commonly uses it in almost everything we see and experience.

This ratio between 2 numbers (A:B) is commonly known in the mathematical world as 1.618. The equation is if: A/B = (A+B)/A then we have 1.618—a number once considered the most beautiful in the world, mainly because of its pleasing aesthetics. The Parthenon, pyramids of Egypt, the UN Building in New York, and the Great Mosque of Kairouan all exhibit the golden ratio.

If we estimate the golden ratio further, we find that it’s approximately 2/3 to 1/3. A ratio that is easily palpable for everyone.

Let’s take this concept even further. In photography, we have the rule of thirds. The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. With this grid in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important lines (horizontal and vertical) of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image. Now imagine if we applied the rule of thirds to our lives.

For anything in our lives, the optimal setting would be 2/3 or 1/3, depending on the situation. We spend 8 hours of our 24-hour day at work (1/3 of our day). Our most worn clothes are probably only 2/3 (or 1/3) of our wardrobe. We tend to spend the most effort and energy with about 1/3 of our friends. The list goes on about keeping life manageable, useful, and beautiful in our lives, using “The Golden Ratio”.

Optimization and beauty, for me, go hand-in-hand. Keeping our lives in perspective and manageable sometimes dictates staying within this ratio. Anything more or less can cause disharmony, a situation we don’t want to deal with.

The visual world is easy to deal with. It’s the other parts of our lives that require more thought and discipline to create the beauty we desire.


Magic and Angelo


As we were discovering the beauty of the Ojai Valley, we came across the library of the late Krishnamurti, a writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects. We only discovered his library through a CD guided auto tour of the history, industry, and sites to see of Ojai.

Nestled amongst the natural beauty of the Valley, we found even more peace and beauty in the library… and something magical that caught us in a moment of awe. We introduced ourselves to the curator/librarian of the establishment and he introduced us to who and what this great man was about. Lo and behold, as we said our thank you’s, he referred to me as Angelo. It was a moment that we will never forget — Angelo is the name of one of our cats. Something he would never have known. We smiled and walked away with a magical feeling.

This magical feeling is something I strive for when I teach design principles to my students and when I present a wonderful design solution to a client. Design is magical — it creates a sense of awe when it’s principles are applied in new and innovative ways. It’s when you create an environment of peace and beauty that designers can create magic. It’s this magic that creates an emotional/spiritual peace and beauty.

It’s a wonderful cycle to be part of. So let designers be designers and let the magic happen. Give designers the space and peace they need and let the magic happen.

There really is something incredible about being in the Ojai Valley.