The Golden Mean (also called The Golden Ratio, Phi, The Divine Proportion) is a simple ratio:

1 : 1.618

that is considered aesthetically beautiful, and which has been used in art and architecture for thousands of years. It is a bit like Pi – in that it is a difficult number to represent in numbers, but it arises naturally out of simple geometry… and like Pi, it is everywhere. Phi’s symbol is:

phi

Phi frequently turns up in nature and in the human body, particularly the human face. Eyebrow size and position, sunflower-seed number and position, and the dimensions of the pyramids have a single mathematical thread running through them.

Golden Ratio Architectureface
monasunflower

To Mathematicians, at its simplest it looks something like this:

formula

To me, it looks more like this:

golden_ratio

If I’m ever designing something, or laying out some artwork and I’m not sure what the relative proportions should be, I either get some calipers and measure it… or I draw that pattern above in a graphics program, and try to fit things inside it.

Of course it can get to be a whole lot more complex than that – you can have Phi within Phi in a fractal-pattern… but for me it all starts with the two blue boxes above.

Here are some more resources with information about The Golden Ratio: