How can you quantify beauty? A formula for aesthetic appeal.

For centuries there has been a link between art and mathematics, but how can you quantify beauty? How can you create a formula for aesthetic appeal?

Philosophers, mathematicians, architects and artists have tried to answer these questions for thousands of years.


The Golden Section


Many theories on aesthetic measurement have their basis in numerical patterns that occur naturally such as the proportions of the human body, for example the distance between your elbow and the tip of your fingers compared to the distance between your elbow and your wrist. Theories, such as the Golden Section, (and its many other names), arise from these natural patterns and they are applied to art, (either consciously or subconsciously), to create ‘beauty’ by way of considered composition.

The Golden Section, Golden Ratio, and the grandiose Divine Proportion are all names for the same thing; a ratio of 1.618. Golden Ratio is the ratio between two segments so that the ratio between point ac/bc is 1.618. This may not seem that important, but the Golden Section is found throughout nature, mathematics, architecture, art and design. It is derived from a naturally occurring number, called Phi, which has intrigued humanity for thousands of years.
Many usages of the Golden Section in art ” and architecture specifically ” were no doubt by complete accident.

Artists and architects are visually”aware people. Those early experimenters were in tune with the proportions of their surroundings and incorporated what they saw into their art. They did it because it felt right. The biggest problem with the Golden Section is the mathematics involved. Using the ratio as a basis for deriving layout measurements is, frankly, a bit of a nightmare. Very quickly, you can end up with unworkable numbers. This is where the Rule of Thirds comes in.

The Rule Of Third

Photographers have used the Rule of Thirds for years, who borrowed it from, yet again, classical artists and architects. The theory is simple ” which is why it’s easy to apply in your day”to”day design work. Divide any workspace, or layout, into thirds horizontally and vertically, and align key focus points of your composition to where the lines intersect. The Rule of Thirds is easier to use than the Golden Section. The simple division of space can easily be applied to designing for the web. For fixed width designs, (E.g., 960px wide), the space can be broken down into three 320px columns.

For fluid designs ” those that use percentages for layout ” they can be divided into 33% columns. The challenge, however, for applying this theory to modern web design, is that we can’t be sure on the vertical space. This is where subdividing the Rule of Thirds comes in handy.

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