Those who believe the golden ratio is the hidden math behind beauty are falling for a 150-year-old scam. The golden ratio has any relationship to aesthetics at all comes primarily from two people, one of whom was misquoted, and the other of whom was just making shit up.
The first guy was Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar who wrote a book called ‘De Divina Proportione’ back in 1509, which was named after the golden ratio. Weirdly, in his book, Pacioli didn’t argue for a golden ratio-based theory of aesthetics as it should be applied to art, architecture, and design: he instead espoused the Vitruvian system of rational proportions. The golden ratio view was misattributed to Pacioli in 1799.
The other guy was Adolf Zeising, a German psychologist who argued that the golden ratio was a universal law that described “beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art… which permeates, as a paramount spiritual ideal, all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical.”
He was a long-winded guy. The only problem with Zeising was he saw patterns where none exist. For example, Zeising argued that the golden ratio could be applied to the human body by taking the height from a person’s navel to his toes, then dividing it by the person’s total height. These are just arbitrary body parts, crammed into a formula.
I’m honestly not just saying this to sound smart, but this doesn’t surprise me at all. Whenever I see designers deconstructing their work and others, like with the Apple logo above, I just see so many places where things seem arbitrary and/or don’t line up properly. I’m sure these designers could explain away all of this, but it makes my BS senses tingle in exactly the same way they do when someone is talking about homeopathy or chemtrails.