Using the Golden Ratio is simpler than you might think. There are a couple of quick tricks you can use to estimate it into your layouts, or you can plan a little more and fully embrace the concept.
The quick way
If you've ever come across the Rule of Thirds, you'll be familiar with the idea that by dividing an area into equal thirds both vertically and horizontally, the intersection of the lines will provide a natural focal point for the shape.
Photographers are taught to position their key subject on one of these intersecting lines to achieve a pleasing composition, and the same principle can be used in your page layouts, web mockups, and poster designs.
Although the rule of thirds can be applied to any shape, if you apply it to a rectangle with proportions approximately 1:1.6, you get very close to a Golden Rectangle, which makes the composition all the more pleasing to the eye.
Full implementation of the Golden Ratio
If you want to fully implement the Golden Ratio into your design, you can do so easily by ensuring that the relationship between your content area and sidebar (in a website design, for example) adheres to the 1:1.61 ratio.
It's okay to round this up or down by a point or two to make the numbers worth with pixels or points – so if you have a content area of 640px, a sidebar of 400px will match the Golden Ratio well enough to work, even though it's actually a ratio of 1:1.6.
Of course, you can also sub-divide the content and sidebar areas up using the same ratio, and the relationship between a webpage's header, content area, footer and navigation can also be designed using the same basic Golden Ratio.
Next page: Golden Ratio tools and tutorials