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The Golden Section

December 28, 2008

Today I want to talk about the “Golden Section”. In the visual arts this term can come up quite frequently, and design is no exception. The golden Section is a rectangle which has a length and width proportional to 1:1.618. The golden rectangle has appeared in numerous works of art throughout history, originating in ancient Greece, and has been found to be a preferred shape to other proportions world-wide.

In design this can be an extremely useful device both for layout and positioning elements, as well as the overall size and shape of the page. There are several ways to construct a “golden rectangle” but here is the method I find most helpful:

You begin with a square of any size, probably the width or height of your desired rectangle, and draw a line stretching from the bottom center of the square to the upper right corner (1). Then create an arch with that line by rotating the line clockwise until it is flush with the bottom of the square (2).

Then use the point which the arch reaches the bottom of the rectangle as a bottom right corner anchor to draw a second rectangle (3). Once the two rectangles are drawn, remove the center line and you have a golden rectangle. One of the most interesting aspects to this rectangle is that every golden section (the second, thinner rectangle you drew with the arch) can be divided into a square and another golden rectangle an infinite number of times.

The Fibonacci spiral can also be derived from this shape as well using the principle that each golden section divides infinitely into more golden sections, and use the corners of each new rectangle to draw the spiral as shown below.

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