Golden Mean

Aspects of Design





The Golden Mean or Golden Section is a mathematical relationship of 1:1.618. It is believed to be the most beautiful and perfect proportion.

Golden Rectangle

Golden Rectangle

A rectangle constructed with sides in a 1:1.618 relationship is called a Golden Rectangle. It is believed, but has never been proven, that the Greeks based much of their architecture, pottery and painting on this rectangle.

Constructing the Golden Rectangle

A logarithmic spiral can be constructed by breaking up the golden rectangle into smaller and smaller components all of identical proportions. This spiral is believed to be the basis for many spiral structures in nature.

Start by drawing a square.

Fibonacci Spirals in Nature

Logarithmic Spiral based on the Golden Rectangle

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man is based on the ideal male human proportions set out by Ancient Roman architect, Vitruvius Pollio. It exhibits a number of golden ratios. Most humans are not of ideal proportions so it is difficult to say how accurate the application of the golden mean is to the human body.


Vitruvian_Man_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci Public Domain via Wiki Commons


A report in the American Journal of Psychology, 1974, Vol 84, (1) Concluded, after testing a large number of people, ” that preference for the golden section is an artefact of its position in the range of stimuli presented and of the measures of preference rather than of any intrinsic aesthetic quality.”

A mathematical obsession accurately applying the golden mean to visual artworks is probably not worth the effort. Rough approximations are generally near enough. 3:5 or 5:8 is about as close as can be detected without resorting to a ruler for confirmation.

(1) Davis S, Jahnke J, 1991, Unity and the Golden Section: Rules for Aesthetic Choice, University of Illinois Press.