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Debunking The Myth Of Apple’s "Golden Ratio"

We’ve all heard that Apple’s logo and products adhere to the Golden Ratio. It’s a lie.

• 01 /08

The old Apple logo was not designed with the Golden Ratio in mind.

• 02 /08

Its iterations were not.

• 03 /08

And its latest version(s) weren’t either. Here we see that Apple’s apple actually has slightly different shapes in their Unicode logo and their vector-based press kit logo.

• 04 /08

David Cole, product designer at Quora, pulled out all the geometric stops to debunk the myth further. He began checking if circles could be matched to the logo’s curves.

• 05 /08

As it turns out, the arcs aren’t built from strict circles.

• 06 /08

He can SORT of get the circles idea working, but that begins stretching the ratio into pointlessness.

• 07 /08

Because eventually, you can get circles to fit into anything.

• 08 /08

As a fantastic kicker, Cole redesigned the iPhone with the Golden Ratio in mind. Here’s what it would look like. It’s not ugly. But it’s sorta like that friend you’d never actually date.

The Golden Ratio: just typing the words can make the clouds part. The most mathematical way of describing the ratio would be 1.6180 (read more here). The least mathematical way of describing the ratio might be a balanced imbalance, in which the small part of a figure is balanced with the larger part of a figure in a once-removed mathematical relationship, or almost guttural way.

In geometry, the ratio leads to aesthetically pleasing shapes, and its believers (including many bona fide scientists) will point to the ratio’s existence in nature all the way down to the human genome and even atomic particles. No doubt, if you go deep down that rabbit hole, you’ll encounter ratio conspiracists deconstructing Apple’s designs. They say Jony Ive’s designers are either peons arranged by this greater force or members of an Illuminati of industrial design. Either way, they’re all servants of 1.6180.

It makes for a nice story, backed by geometric wireframes that few of us have the patience to truly understand. But recently, David Cole, product designer at Quora, posted an epic debunking of the Golden Ratio as the impetus of Apple’s own apple logo (one of the biggest conspiracy theories out there). You should read the whole thing for its sheer intellectual crassness, but to spoil the takeaway, the Apple logo follows the Golden Ratio in the determined, mathematical way that you could make any shape fit a series of circles and triangles. Here’s Cole’s big conclusion:

Real visual rhythm is hurt by precision. This fact is where we get the saying in design: if it looks right, it is right.

So in a funny way, the Apple logo feels like it adheres to some system because it doesn’t.

In other words, Apple’s logo is great because it’s a custom creation. And it may be popular, not because it can be quantified within some formula of success, but specifically because it can’t. Then, to rub salt in the wound, Cole went on to redesign the iPhone with the Golden Ratio in mind. I wouldn’t call the result hideous by any means. But I also wouldn’t call it an iPhone, either.

[Hat tip: Core77]