Archives for posts with tag: beauty

I’m terribly sorry for not writing. Let’s chalk it up to Mercury Retrograde, shall we?

A while ago I watched a short documentary called “The Science of Sex Appeal” which understandably focused part of its discussion on visual attraction, and how most people can come to a consensus about faces that are more attractive. We find the attractive faces generally more proportionate, but proportionate to what? Well apparently, faces that conform to the Golden Ratio, or “Phi”, are universally considered more appealing.

Here’s how it works:

This proportion is found more easily in faces most people consider attractive; for example, the ratio can be demonstrated by the length of the face: “a+b”, proportionate to “a”: the distance between the tip of the chin and where the eyebrows meet.

Then I started wondering how this might be applied to website design. Apparently, I am not the first to have considered this. Take for example, the homepage for Life magazine, which won a Webby in 2011 for “BEST VISUAL DESIGN – AESTHETIC”:

Now let’s apply an overlay of the Golden Rectangle over the same image of the Life homepage.

The results are interesting:

FYI, the transparent golden rectangle I used was from Joshua Garity's blog:

A great template for web design that’s universally appealing! I wonder if such a thing is now being taught in schools…

What’s more intriguing, though, is the question WHY this particular ratio is so aesthetically appealing to our brains? Humans have applied it in various examples of art, architecture and design, the Fibonacci sequence (which is an approximation of the Golden Ratio), but the ratio itself is beyond ourselves and our creation.

Approximations of “Phi” occur almost everywhere in nature, the proportions of the human body, and the dimensions and orbits of the planets in our solar system. But it’s more of a template, not necessarily a reality. It reminds me of the story of Plato’s idea of perfect forms, as well as the Allegory of the Cave. “Phi” is perhaps something to strive for, but reality (and from a more practical point of view, the needs of the business) may dictate differently.


After my last post about neural networks and movie sales predictors, I looked up the original New Yorker article. Gladwell intros with a quote by philosopher David Hume:

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”

Then the article contrasts this by laying out the evidence that there DO seem to be some standardized evaluators of what human beings find appealing in music and in movies (and websites?). What about books? The canon of literature?

The High Priestess

The High Priestess card from the popular Rider-Waite Tarot deck represents what we don't know or can't define; in other words, "whitespace".

Visually-speaking, I think movies are a fast-moving collection of symbols that our subconscious minds react to. Yep, that’s right, I’m referring to Jung’s definition of archetypes. The symbol of “mother” or “teacher” are universal symbols that we as human beings seem to process the same way, independent of culture or background or upbringing. Not to get too esoteric, but these same ideas of archetypes are the basis for the Tarot deck.

One method of choosing (or predicting) user experience is to create personas for the user. Let’s say I’m building a new site for my personal resume (which I am). Suppose Steve, a middle-aged manager of a marketing department at a medium-sized company is looking for a web developer (or UX/UI designer). Steve knows relatively little about how developers work, but he does know what he finds aesthetically pleasing. My job in building this new site is to please Steve’s eye, but also help him find the information he needs to determine whether I’d be a good candidate for the job. That would include my contact info, easily clicked samples of my code and designs, and my work history (so he knows I’m experienced).

So what if there were methods of mapping these archetypes and emotionally-charged information for website users? How would you use symbols to increase users and/or website sales? It’s a bit Mad Men, isn’t it?

%d bloggers like this: