Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Golden Ratio and design

Reading the book "The Golden Ratio" by Mario Livio raises some interesting design questions. The book is a fascinating story of the history and present understanding of the golden ratio, i.e. the number "phi", or 1.6180339887...... This is the number that is the relation between two things. In nature the number seem to be present everywhere. In art it is possible to find "phi" in so many instances, and of course in architecture. It has been understood as the perfect relation, the most beautiful ratio. Sometimes as something God designed and to which all things have to obey.

This has been used as an argument that design should use this ratio to create beautiful things, that appeal to people. In that way it would be one ultimate true principle for design. Well, the problem seems to be that people are not always willing to accept this. Sometimes people want the opposite, something different, something odd, something "ugly". Design is not about the ultimate true principle, it is about the ultimate particular. It is about being able to understand what people in a specific context need, wants and desire, and to be able to surprise them by superseding their expectations.

Anyhow, the book is fascinating and the golden ratio is a true mystery. Why is it there? And why is it that nature seems to be possible to describe in mathematical terms..? Strange...


Erik Pukinskis said...

I know a number of people who absolutely love the Uglydolls. I think many of us resent the social pressure to constantly live up to a rigid standard of beauty. By loving ugly things we remind ourselves that someone else could love ugly us.

Erik Stolterman said...

I agree, except that you are ugly ;-) There is even a fascination and attraction in the ugly, different, dirty, or provocative. We need change and variation, but also love beauty!

Dumb Ox said...

What are the odds that two comments are left by people named Erik?

All the best,
D. Ugly Ox

Anonymous said...

perhaps erik was googling himself and chanced upon this webpage. is there anything called a coincidence? The Great Human Ken is but very limited at the end of the day (and at the beginning of the next day, and forever)... The Golden Ratio is just one example, but I am sure there are many many more ratios waiting since eternity to be discovered (the way someone discovered two eriks in the comments).

Nice Blog!