The Golden Ratio
The golden ratio is a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part.
This principle has been used through out history in the design of architectural structures and paintings. With the recent development of printing, type setting, and page layout, the golden ratio has found its way into this avenue as well.
Great page layout, design, and architecture many times just feels right. It has that sweet spot that feels balanced and visually appealing. According to some designers this is a result of the golden ratio.
The sweet spot for typographical layouts
Aldus Manutis was a printer in the 15th century. His work included the development of roman type, italics, and the modern appearance of the semicolon and comma. Within his work we began to see an interested in balancing a page layout for readability and appearance. As an example, Aldus would match the typography of his work with the illustrations.
There is a reason to why we continue to reference his beautiful timeless set text. One of them is the concept of modular scales from his decisions in page layout, sizing of type, and thickness of letters.
“a modular scale, like a musical scale, is a prearranged set of harmonious proportions.”
-Robert Bring Hurst
How do we use the golden ratio in our work?
When setting type for a body we usually have somewhat of an idea to the sizing. We look for the sweet spot, the spot that really sings. Once we have found this sweet spot, we then have the first ingredient when setting up a modular scale. What ever that size is we can either multiply it by 1.618 or divide it by this number to begin seeing a series of harmonious numbers. The type of numerical sequence we find naturally occurring in nature.
It is important to understand that we cannot follow this equations completely, but that it gives us a basis for well designed layouts and typesetting.