This is just one example of an article promoting use of the golden ratio in design. Over the past few years I've seen quite a few similar articles, but none of them really seem to go into depth beyond just explaining what the golden ratio is. I've been able to find very few actual studies that test it and it seems as if the results are inconclusive.

Here are some more web design articles advocating the golden ratio:

Unfortunately, even though the articles above are from some of the more popular design blogs online, not one of them even cites a study. Only Jason Santa Maria seems to be even questioning its use, but he only questions it for the medium of the web.

At the risk of going against the grain of the design community, is there any objective evidence that the golden ratio actually improves design? Are there any split test studies comparing the effectiveness of a website design based on the golden ratio versus one that isn't? And if, in fact, the golden ratio in design is proved to be more effective, why is that the case? Are there greater principles that we can pull from it that can be applied in different ways? Are there are other golden ratios?

  • I think the explanation of golden ratio should be very simple. :)
    – igor
    Commented Nov 17, 2010 at 8:28
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    The Golden Ratio is only effective ~62% of the time.
    – aslum
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 18:00
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    @JeromyAnglim has a pretty great answer for this over on Cognitive Sciences. There's more research out there than you might think! Maybe he'd like to post some of it here too...or maybe some of you all should come upvote his answer and help us round out our repertoire of questions under the aesthetics tag! We could use some expert help with editing the tag wiki too if anyone here has got a few minutes for it. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 1:08
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    Completely debunked by vimeo.com/88132964 : noone in antiquity used it, humans do NOT find it more pleasing and NO the famous nautiluys shell also has no golden ratio proportions, please see the video
    – edelwater
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 0:58
  • I would contest that the designs have nothing to do with a 'golden ratio' and instead have everything to do with the fact that the designs look good on 16:9 and 16:10 monitors.
    – 17 of 26
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 14:23

7 Answers 7


There isn't any evidence that proves the ratio creates better anything. There's a pretty good book on the subject on the discovery of the ratio, which also details some of the mysticism around it's supposed use in art and architecture.

‘The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World's Most Astonishing Number’, Mario Livio.

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    Be careful. It is said that while this book debunks some of the false beliefs, it claims some other “astonishing” properties of the golden ratio which are untrue. (I have never read this book, though.) ams.org/notices/200503/rev-markowsky.pdf Commented Nov 20, 2010 at 2:29

I assumed "the golden ratio" stuff was true for a long time for webdesign. But now I actually found the whole golden ratio stuff is utterly nonsense , see: http://vimeo.com/88132964

NO: architects, painters etc... did NOT use the golden ratio in their works, never, NOT: NOT it is not from the "antiquity", not the egyptians, nor greeks and the Da Vinci stuff is also nonsense. Even utterly nonsense.

It was some kind of hype after Adolf Zeising published a book on the golden ratio in 1854. Before 1830 there is not even mentioning of it. Any statistical analysis on pyramids to any paintings reveal there is no such usages.

And no... humans do NOT prefer the golden ratio as more beautiful contrary to the folk legend and NO they do no prefer the design to be "more perfect" "subconsiously"... its a hoax.

And on top of that : that famous nautilus sea shell: it does not even HAVE the golden ratio proportions.......

Again see: http://vimeo.com/88132964 because Dr. Keith Devlin: http://www.stanford.edu/~kdevlin/ can explain this way better than me.


If you overlay a series of shots from the film Blade Runner with a Fibonacci rectangle (divided in two parts by the golden ratio), main focal point after main focal point is placed right on top of the dividing line. I know it's subjective, but you should try placing your subject on that spot and then dragging your subject elsewhere. The closer it is to both vertical and horizontal dividing lines determined by the golden ratio, the less your eye wants to look around and the more significant and compelling that focal point becomes. As you pull it away, the eye wants to wander and flit around to other areas of the frame. The use of the golden ratio seems to be the norm among cinematographers who are constantly adjusting the framing of hundreds of images in a single project.

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    But Bladerunner was filmed in a 2.20:1 aspect ratio.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 1:10
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    TBH when I read this I thought it was sarcasm. Actually I'm still not sure whether or not it is.
    – Harry
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 23:12

Fibonacci (and the golden ratio - which is what the fibonacci sequence generates) occurs constantly in the natural world.

(which is due to the underlying maths and laws of energy of the universe)

Unsurprisingly, since we live in a Fibonacci world, the same proportions look as 'right' to us now, as they did for the Greeks:


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    Sorry this is false, very false, see: vimeo.com/88132964 , the Greeks never used it nor the did the Egyptians nor did da Vinci. Is a hoax.
    – edelwater
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 1:00

It is said that the golden ratio is a measure that's naturally present in nature. IMHO that's bullshit, but YMMV.

Anyway, I really like it's proportions, when used on certain things like rectangles.

I've also read a lot of how awesome grid systems are, and an example website (don't have the link to show it) was complete crap to my eyes, but acclaimed as an awesome design.

Seriously, other things are much more important IMHO. Typography, paragraph lenght, visual noise, are much more decisive factors than actual layout, but again, take this with a grain of salt, I'm not a designer.

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    Funny when you see someone so sure about an opinion that couldn't be more wrong. The golden ratio is present in nature, very much so. science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/fibonacci-nature1.htm
    – Jeremy B.
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 20:17
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    @JeremyB Yes, but I could come up with any random number like 12:34 and say "look, for every 12 rabbits that are white, 34 are grey, so this number is holy and sacred blah blah". For example, consider this huge table of coincidences. My point is that you cannot just trust a ratio. Maybe your design will look awesome with "The Golden Ratio (tm)", maybe it will look like crap. It's just a number. And 87 studies have shown that accurate numbers are just as good as the ones you make up. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 21:40
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    @JeremyB "many different natural organisms" have spirals and fractal forms. You just posted a link to a "popular science" site, and the few examples there aren't even very convincing. I can see fractals there, but not the golden ratio. What I meant is that I can pick any number and prove that "it exists in nature", the same way that these kind of sites can pick Fibonacci's number and show you that "it exists in nature" :) Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 19:24
  • That the 'golden ratio' appears in nature is, just as Camilo points out, as true as any other ratio. The golden ratio doesn't appear any more or less in nature than any other ratio. We've just built up this collective myth that the golden ratio is somehow more special. (It's not).
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 5:26
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    @DA01 Add to that the fact that most showcases "proving" this BS are drawn with arbitrary points at arbitrary angles on arbitrary photos of arbitrary parts of arbitrary lifeforms in arbitrary poses and they still need a good error margin, so the people believing this must have had a hard time when the world didn't end in 2012-12-12 12:12. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:34

The unfamiliar is bizarre. What we have been accustomed to all along, makes us comfortable.

As nature abounds in things that constantly reflect the golden ratio (already discussed at length), our senses derive a sense of comfort even in something new if it follows the known pattern.

This is not to undermine the qualities of the Fibonacci number or comment on the mysterious/ miraculous/ magical properties.


There isn't any objective evidence that it's better which would be hard since aesthetics are subjective even if a culture have same taste.

Having said that, proportions matter and golden proportions is certainly not the worst choice you can make. In web-design it's normally used by dividing into three which creates a rough estimation (yet another proof that it isn't objective) of the golden rule.

So don't think about it as an objective rule think about it as a pretty good ruleset among others.

  • Atleast we have a referance to rationalise our layouts using this proportion now, without that we wouldn't have had any thing to refer in the design. Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 11:55

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