The Golden Ratio: Design’s Biggest Myth

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

“Strictly speaking, it’s impossible for anything in the real-world to fall into the golden ratio, because it’s an irrational number,” says Keith Devlin, a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. You can get close with more standard aspect ratios. The iPad’s 3:2 display, or the 16:9 display on your HDTV all “float around it,” Devlin says. But the golden ratio is like pi. Just as it’s impossible to find a perfect circle in the real world, the golden ratio cannot strictly be applied to any real world object. It’s always going to be a little off.

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This is going to anger a lot of people…


"Zeising’s theories became extremely popular, "the 19th-century equivalent of the Mozart Effect," according to Devlin, referring to the belief that listening to classical music improves your intelligence. And it never really went away. In the 20th century, the famous Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier based his Modulor system of anthropometric proportions on the golden ratio. Dalí painted his masterpiece The Sacrament of the Last Supper on a canvas shaped like a golden rectangle. Meanwhile, art historians started combing back through the great designs of history, trying to retroactively apply the golden ratio to Stonehenge, Rembrandt, the Chatres Cathedral, and Seurat. The link between the golden ratio and beauty has been a canard of the world of art, architecture, and design ever since."

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