Saturday, September 26, 2009

golden ratio

Jim asks:
I have heard about the "golden ratio" of 1.6, but how do you figure the dimensions of a box? For example if I have a box with sides 3.5" high how long and wide would you make it? Thanks for any advice and I love your work and books.
First, in answer to your question, 1.618 x 3.5 inches = 5.663 or 5 2/3rds approximately. But the ratio is between two dimensions, not three. Just think for a moment about a three dimensional object. The golden ratio of 1: 1.61803399 provides a means to control the length in proportion to the height as in the design of the Parthenon in Greece. I actually never use the golden ration in making boxes because boxes are never viewed from the perfect vantage point from which the golden ratio can be observed. If you view something from a variety of angles, when will the golden ratio actually come into play?

I've made golden ratio scanning wands to give my furniture design students the opportunity to observe my slide presentations and call out when they see a piece of furniture that is actually designed according to the golden ratio. It almost never actually happens because most designers are thinking about other things. Like, how does it fit the room? What are the planned contents and how will it fit those objects it is designed to hold?

The golden ratio is indeed an interesting thing. Does it help in the design of boxes? I think there are more useful design principles.

It would appealing to think that there might be a simple mathematical method to determine proportion that would be better than thinking about all the other elements of relationship... What goes in it? Where does it sit? Can the hand fit in to grasp the objects inside? Is it so large that it overpowers its placement? Does it look safe and substantial, or does it look top heavy and likely to fall?

The easiest thing is to design for what goes in the box, but if you don't know that, design from the wood that you have available, or knowing that box making is a process in which a single box is just a step in a journey, just start making.


Anonymous said...

The last side should be phi^2 times 3.5''.

Harry said...

Could you please explain to me the difference between Pi and Phi? I’m kinda confused with this term. And what makes the Golden Ratio so special?

Katie said...

Well, your explanation above is very interesting. But I have some questions. Why do you never use the golden ratio in making boxes? What kind of furniture which can use the golden ratio?

Doug Stowe said...

You can use the golden ratio in making boxes, but it is more useful to make boxes that fit the object or objects intended to fit. The same thing applies to furniture design. If you are making an entertainment center for example, you might want to consider the size of the TV and the amount of space you have in the room, what other components you want to make room for, etc. On a table, you want a standard height, but should that standard height determine the length and depth as well? If so, all tables would need to be the same size in order to utilize the golden ratio. In answer to Harry's question about what makes the Golden Ratio so special, my answers would be hype and mythology, though some claim there is some kind of magic in it.