GraphicDesign&: Golden Meaning

For GraphicDesign&’s latest book, Golden Meaning, 55 creatives were asked to interpret mathematical concept the golden ratio. Responses include some witty and inventive work exploring how graphics can be used to convey complex or abstract theories…

For GraphicDesign&’s latest book, Golden Meaning, 55 creatives were asked to interpret mathematical concept the golden ratio. Responses include some witty and inventive work exploring how graphics can be used to convey complex or abstract theories…

Golden Meaning is the second release from GraphicDesign&, a publishing venture set up by Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright. The first, Page 1, featured 70 designers’ interpretations of the first page from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and offered a look at the effects of typography on reader experience (you can read our blog post on it here).


The golden ratio – also known as the golden mean or divine proportion – was first studied in Ancient Greece and has been used for centuries by artists, architects and even composers to create work with harmonious proportions. Contributors to the Golden Meaning were asked to create work based on this theory and have produced illustrations, mnemonics, typefaces and interactive software.

Malika Favre created a silhouette of a woman using a golden ratio grid (above), while Bibliotheque devised a mnemonic to help people remember the golden ratio as an angle:


Oli Kellett doctored a portrait of himself in accordance with a template devised by a retired US surgeon that uses the golden ratio to determine how a beautiful face should look:


Other designs consider how the golden ratio relates to our everyday surroundings – such as Mark Hudson’s, which compares the proportions of everyday objects, from a Mars Bar to a pack of playing cards.


And some involved a creative approach to coding: Face37’s Rick Banks and Tom Duncalf used Processing and the Fibonacci code to generate a typeface, and Sennep used coding to create a visualisation examining the relationship between the Fibonacci code, the golden ratio and the patterns on the head of a sunflower:


Not all of the works are entirely mathematically accurate but each presents a thoughtful, creative way of visualising a complicated theory. By choosing contributors from a range of countries, disciplines and age groups, Roberts and Wright have compiled a diverse collection that challenges traditional notions of how we can visually convey abstract ideas.

Illustration by Rose Blake highlighting the short period of time when the height of a parent and their child equals the golden ratio.

Julia’s submission, which matches numbers in the Fibonacci sequence to words in the Oxford English Dictionary.


“We invited contributions in batches,” says Roberts. “This allowed us to see how the book was progressing and ensure we had a real mix of work.

“We were keen to include illustrators, who are lateral thinkers by trade, but we also wanted plenty of contributions from typographers and some from creatives with a more mathematical or scientific background, such as The Luxury of Protest [which specialises in data visualisation],” she adds.

George Hardie chose to represent the golden ratio using wine.

The book was compiled with help from Guardian blogger and mathmetician Alex Bellos, who suggested using the golden ratio as the key concept.

“We  discussed a few options with Alex and thought this was a fitting choice, as it’s often associated with aesthetics and creating things of beauty,” explains Roberts. As Roberts points out, the standard dimensions of a paperback also use the golden ratio – something Erik Spiekermann addressed in GraphicDesign&’s first title.

Homework drew a ‘golden ass’…

As well as providing an interesting read for designers and mathmeticians, Roberts hopes the book will help make maths more accessible.

“As with all GraphicDesign& projects, our ambition was to show how the knowledge and practice of graphic designers, typographers and image-makers is uniquely capable of shedding light on ideas,” explain Roberts and Wright in their introduction to the book.

The pair are already working on a third title about religion, and hope to release a range of books marrying design with a range of subjects.

And Jessica Nesbeth used hair to illustrate the golden mean.

Golden Meaning is available to buy now at at an introductory price of £15.

Roberts, Wright, Bello and selected contributors will also be discussing the project at London’s Design Museum on Wednesday, February 26 – see for details or to book tickets.

Typeface by Adrian Talbot, made using golden ratio proportions..

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