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Have you ever wondered how renowned brands like Toyota and Pepsi have flawless logos, albeit their unique shapes?

The Toyota logo, for example, consists of three oval circles, all in equal proportions.

Attaining this level of perfection is challenging if left to a designer’s dexterity.

That’s why the golden ratio concept comes in. It’s an ancient mathematical ratio designers apply to get the most pleasing proportions of shapes and structures.

With this ratio, designers can meet a layout’s aesthetic demands without doing too much design work. Here’s more about the ratio and how to apply it in graphic design.


What is the Golden Ratio?

The golden ratio is a mathematical ratio expressed as number-1.618 and is represented by a Greek symbol, Phi. It’s also referred to as the Divine Proportion or Golden Mean.

It is used to help designers create uniform compositions in fields such as painting, designing, photography, and others that thrive on balance.

The ratio originates from the famous Fibonacci sequence, the principle of consecutive numbers. According to the theory, each number in the sequence is a sum of the two preceding numbers, i.e., 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 to infinity.

As the numbers increase, the ratio between them inches closer to 1:1.618, i.e. A/B= (A+B)/A=1.618. Architects and designers apply this ratio to design visually appealing shapes and structures.

Take a rectangle, for example, with a width of 1. To recreate a similar rectangle with aesthetically pleasing dimensions, multiply the width by the Golden ratio.

As such, the long side becomes 1.618, creating the ideal rectangle. The concept is applied in many fields, making it almost impossible to view the world otherwise.

Architects in the ancient days (1200 AD), for example, applied this ratio to determine the Acropolis’s height and base in Greek. Most books in the library also use this ratio to determine their formats.

Designers also use it to form spirals. Using Fibonacci’s sequence in decreasing order, we can draw a spiral inwards until it reaches the starting point.

This spiral is more visually appealing than an equally balanced spiral. Nature also has a way of showcasing the golden spiral, from hurricanes to galaxies, shells, flowers, and mutant cauliflowers.


How to Use the Golden Ratio in Graphic Design

The beauty of the Golden Ratio is that it’s expressed in a simple number that helps you determine the size of another element. As such, you only need to multiply an element’s size by 1.618.

You can apply the ratio when designing images, layouts, typography, etc. Here are other applications of the ratio in graphic design:

01. Image Composition

You could be designing images, but the lack of uniformity makes them appear untidy. The Golden spiral may be what you need to achieve a harmonious look.

You only need to overlay the spiral on the images to find out if they create harmony. Then, identify the focal points or areas that have the most impact and streamline them.

The golden spiral will also help you determine the elements that must be shifted to make the design more appealing.

02. Defining Hierarchy and Typography

When designing a copy that needs text, it would help to consider the messaging hierarchy in the layout.

Whether you’re designing a flier, poster, or wedding invitation, typography affects an item’s overall appearance.

That’s where the Golden ratio comes in. It helps you determine the font sizes for each text part to create a harmonious look.

For example, if the body copy is 12 px, you can multiply by 1.618 to determine the header’s font size. If you have the header’s text size, you could divide it by the Golden Ratio (1.618) to calculate the body’s text size.

03. Content Placement

The human eye is naturally drawn to well-organized content, and the golden ratio can help you achieve this. It will also help you determine areas that need more or less content.

For example, if a page has a comprehensive and narrow column, the ratio’s proportions can help you determine where to place more text. It makes the text readable while creating a sense of balance.

04. Design Logos

A visually appealing logo is critical for any brand looking to convey its message to its target audience.

Getting the shapes and proportions right is the first step.

The golden ratio helps you sketch out the shapes and proportions for each letter on the logo, allowing you to develop a logo that draws people in and connects with your brand. Popular logos like Apple, Pepsi, and Twitter follow the golden ratio.

05. Spacing

Positive and negative spaces have a significant impact on the final design. Any graphic designer will tell you that spacing is taxing and time-consuming. But with the golden ratio, this process becomes flawless.

You could begin the process with the Golden ratio diagram and allow the squares to guide you when placing the elements.

The diagram also ensures the proportions are consistent throughout the design, especially when working with different elements.

06. Design Perfect Circles

Even with the best design tools, achieving the perfect circle can be challenging. But you can leverage this formula to design the best circle.

The perfect circle follows the 1:1.618 ratio and is placed in the adjacent square. The Starbucks logo has been designed using this formula.

07. Cropping and Resizing Images

Cropping and resizing images appears simple, but sometimes, it can get rather technical. It’s easy to identify the blank space left after resizing or cropping an image, which makes a copy appear imbalanced.

However, with the Golden ratio, you can resize or crop an image correctly. You can overlay the Golden Spiral on the image before cropping it to ensure the focal points are well-balanced.



The beauty of any design is that it can be tweaked to one’s liking. However, viewers are pretty visual, so even a minor crop on an image can affect how they interact with your brand.

Although there’s no standard approach to making the best designs, the Golden Ratio helps you make changes while maintaining balance, beauty, and synchrony.

Paul Simiyu

Founder and Team Lead of Simpaul Design, a brand strategy and design agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Here at Simpaul Design, we work with brands across various categories with a focus on connecting with consumers and building brands that people want to be a part of. We specialize in brand identity and strategy, UX/UI, and brand transformation.

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