28 November 2011

[design] The Apple Logo And Natural Proportions

2723.Seen today, via Google+, was this picture, which appears to suggest that the famous logo of Apple, designed by Rob Janoff, was developed using the mathematic princples of the Fibonacci sequence and the golden proportion:

The diagram was created by Thiago Barcelos, and is dead clever and quite insightful. On the left, a rectangle in the golden ration subdivided via the mean; inside are circles of radii that fit within and work out to be the Fibonacci numbers. And, on the right, you see the various circles as they might have been used to construct the logo.

The diagram does tempt one to think that the designer used the mathematical principles in designing the shape. Janoff, so far as I know, has never said, but I have a feeling that he didn't actively use them.

They may have, rather, informed what he did.

I'm about to go down a rhetorical rabbit hole of my own making. Come along, if you wish. I grasp this on the gut level, but whenever I try to put this in words I wind up chasing my own tail and gibbering like an idiot at the end. Words sometimes fail.

When someone creates a bit of work with the idea that it should be pleasing to look at, we reach down to a common intellectual store. Each of us has this. The reason each of us has this is that we were all grown in the same world. This is not zeitgeist strictly speaking, but it contributes to that. Kind of a naturalistic weltanschauung, if you will.

The Fibonacci sequence is recapitulated in nature, or maybe our mathematics recapitulates it. The fruitlings of a pineapple; branchings of a tree and leaves; the honeybee's family tree. This all combines into a sort of gestalt sense of what the world is and how it pieces itself together. You may tune the world out around you, but you can't not notice it.

This feeds into a sense of what we find 'right' and 'pleasing' in a visual sense. Since the golden mean and Fibonacci numbers come into play there, then this informs our thinking, kind of like a voice gently whispering into our ears.

So when Janoff set down to create the Apple logo, he didn't work out circles and arrange them about until they supported the apple shape. However, this gestalt awareness probably informed him when he was nudging the curves about until everything had a sort of visual resonance. It's why the gap between the leaf and the apple seems just right. It's why the bite in the apple seems more or less at the right shape and in the right place. All the parts obey rules that nature and intellect have hard-coded into our skin and bones.

Have you ever looked at something that 'just wasn't quite right' somehow? Not everyone wants to design or create art, but we all have, I believe, this sort of sensibility, and we all rely on this shared experience. How? I take a naturalist approach, you may take a more mystical one, it doesn't matter and that isn't really the point. It's something we sense in the world around us and we feed back into it in a way. We all intrinsically know when something is well-proportioned. We may not be able to see it or put it into words, and maybe some of us don't care all that much, but we know. And when you know,  you're probably tasting the same thought process that Janoff used to make all the parts of the apple just so. 

In a real way, design comes from the world around you. It has ever been thus.

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