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Beautiful Design Made A Little Easier

Posted on the 12 October 2012 by Onlinere @onretailblog

Beautiful Design Made A Little Easier Illustration

If I were to say to you; “There is a formula for creating beauty” – would you believe me?

A poll was conducted to decide who was more visually attractive, Kelly Osbourne or Kate Middleton. The public voted a massive 95% in favour of Kelly being more attractive than Kate. Does that surprise you? Me too! You will be unsurprised to know that it is not true. Our surprise at the fake result in the bogus poll suggests that beauty is something that the majority of humanity agrees on. Kate is conventionally visually appealing and Kelly well, not so much.

Beauty Within Design

It is a long established myth that some people are simply gifted with the ability to create beautiful things, and others are not. Natural inclination and practice from an early age have a part to play, but they are not the dominant contributors. The most important factor in creating beautiful things is implementing the theory of visual attraction.

The Theory of Visual Attraction

The Golden Ratio is one of the most important discoveries we have ever made, if you have never heard about it, look it up now. It has important implications in maths, physics, psychology, biology, art, design, nature along with countless other disciplines. For now we are focusing on its involvement in the psychology of beauty.

Gustav Fechner (1801 – 1887), a German experimental psychologist (Alfred S. Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann, 2007, p. 115) was instrumental in proving without doubt the connection between the golden ratio proportions 1.618 and human perception. He proved that the closer a proportion resembles 1.618, the more attractive people are likely to find it. Fechner presented a total of 347 people with a series of rectangles that ranged in side-length ratio from 1:1 to 2.5:1, all with equal area, he then asked each person two simple questions;

  1. Which rectangle do you find the most pleasing to look at?
  2. Which rectangles to do find the least pleasing to look at?

The results show that out of the 347 people who were asked ‘Which rectangle do you find the most pleasing to look at?’ 35% said the rectangle that has the golden ratio proportions and a further joint 40.6% said the two rectangles with proportions either side of the golden proportioned rectangle. The results produce a sliding scale of preference. The nearer the rectangle represents the golden ratio, the more attractive the experiment’s participants found it.
Interestingly, the evidence also shows that from the 347 people, none said the golden ratio proportioned rectangle was the least pleasing to look at.

The evidence proves that the majority of people prefer the golden ratio, 1.618 to any other proportion. The participants were not manipulated into providing their answers and this point only shows us that the golden ratio’s attractiveness is inherent within the human mind.

Now, this is all very nice but what has it got to do with ‘selling stuff on the web’? Simply put, people are attracted to attractive things. So when it comes to designing our websites we want them to be attractive and therefore it is important we are implementing the golden ratio or at least being aware of it in our web page layout, photography and graphics. By doing this we can ensure that we design in a way that we know people are more likely to find attractive.

To prove this is a valid consideration when designing, we can look to the success of the first iPod. The iPod is famous for being one of the most successful products in history, and its designer Jonathan Ives has won countless awards for this specific design. The secret behind the success of the iPod is that it used the golden ratio of 1.618 in almost all of its proportions, every last detail.

The iPod unashamedly capitalises on the inherent attraction human beings have to 1.618, and is an excellent example of how a designer who fully understands the golden ratio can use it to their advantage in a unique way. The iPod has brought Ives, the Apple Company and America economic success. When artists and designers understand and correctly use the golden ratio, they can reap massive rewards, above and beyond their contemporaries.


My aim here is simply to get you to explore the ‘why’ questions behind design. It’s easy to know something is beautifully designed and it is easy to emulate beauty, it is possible to create beautiful things through our inherent eye for what is beautiful and what is not. However, it is more efficient to understand the formula for beauty and be mindful of its rules as you design.

Further Reading

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