How to Plan Proportionally for Sizable Results

When anyone talks about proportions, they’re probably referring to the relationship between two or more parts of a whole. In art and design, proportions are used to create visual balance and can make a traditional work of art, digitally-designed ad, or use of language feel harmonious.

Read on to learn more about the wide-ranging effects of proportions and how you can leverage this knowledge to your advantage.

Proportions in Art and Design

The Fibonacci Sequence

The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. The first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each next number in the series is always the sum of the previous two. So, the sequence continues on to 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and it continues forever.

Among the Fibonacci sequence’s many applications are the measurements of plants’ and animals’ shapes and patterns. We see it in the spirals of seashells, the arrangement of a pinecone’s scales, and the branching patterns of trees.

The Golden Ratio

In mathematics, the Fibonacci sequence is used to calculate the golden ratio of 1.618034, which is often represented by the Greek letter phi (Φ).

The Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio can help to create aesthetically pleasing abstract designs and compositions.

To illustrate how the golden ratio works and how artists use it, let’s start with a “golden rectangle” whose dimensions are in the 1:φ ratio. If that rectangle is similarly split into a square and a new rectangle, the smaller rectangle will also have the 1:φ ratio. If each new rectangle is split in this way, all of the golden rectangles will continue to shrink while maintaining the same ratio.

We can then talk about the golden spiral — also called a logarithmic spiral — created by connecting the intersections of these squares and rectangles with a swirl.

The golden spiral
The Golden Spiral within Golden Rectangles | Image credit: Wolfram MathWorld

The Rule of Thirds

After examining the layout of golden rectangles, you might notice that they are approximately split into thirds.

Generally speaking, the rule of thirds is a great guideline that involves placing your focal point toward the horizontal and/or vertical third of your entire image. This can make the subject more noticeable and gracefully lead viewers’ eyes through the composition.

Proportions: The golden ratio and golden spiral in seashells
Spiraling seashells following the Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio, placed in a composition that utilizes the rule of thirds

In addition to photographers, artists and designers might use these patterns to inspire their abstract and realistic drawings or paintings, website layouts, or printed and digital promotional materials.

With many interesting properties that make it fascinating to creatives, mathematicians, and scientists of all kinds, the Fibonacci sequence is truly a unique and remarkable series of numbers.

Human Measurements

That brings us to the rules of proportions that apply to adult human faces and figures.

Facial proportions influenced by the golden ratio
Profile of a woman’s face, whose proportions are also influenced by the Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio

Since there is such a variety in personal appearance — like anything else in nature — keep in mind that the following “rules” are best used as general guidelines, not definite standards. They do, however, tend to help us recognize representations of our fellow humans.

Typically, eyes tend to be halfway down any face. The head is about five eyes wide, the space between the eyes is about the width of one eye, and the corners of the mouth align with the eyes’ pupils. Adult human figures are about eight heads tall.

Those who are still growing have very different proportions than fully-developed adults.

Woman crafting with toddler
Babies and small toddlers, for instance, have comparatively large heads, which take up about one-fourth of their bodies. Their eyebrows — not their eyes — are halfway down their faces.

When creating or requesting art or design that includes human figures, always remember to consider the age and uniqueness of each individual, as well as their relationship to your overall composition. In addition, stylized faces and figures will require exaggerated proportions.

Proportions in Content Writing

Even content writers need to be aware of proportions. This is because the proportions of your content can have a big impact on how readable and scannable it is for your audience.

If your writing is too densely-packed with information, readers will likely find it difficult to read and understand. On the other hand, if your content is too light, it may come across as rushed and unprofessional. That’s why you will need to vary the lengths of your sentences and paragraphs as well as the complexity of your vocabulary.

Shorter sentences can create a sense of urgency, while longer sentences can be used to provide more information or to create a more contemplative mood. In addition, great content consists of short but not too-short paragraphs, headings, and subheadings that summarize your most important ideas, bullet points, and engaging images and videos.

Content writers may also want to consider the various types of information they’re discussing. If a member of your team is writing an article about your company’s new service, they might make sure that the article is evenly split between information about the service and practical advice for readers.

How Proportional Thinking Can Affect Your Entire Business

Consider the relative sizes of different elements in your business, such as your overhead costs, your inventory, and your profits to more easily make successful decisions.

Service-based Business Operations

For example, if your team is deciding how much the business should spend to provide the aforementioned service, you can survey your customers about their demand for it. You might also look at the proportion of sales your competitors are generating with similar offerings.

If relatively few customers are interested and your competitors’ versions make up a small part of their sales, you will likely spend less on this service and reinvest the savings into areas of your business. However, if the opposite is true, you will need to invest more in that area to keep your company running smoothly.

Creative Marketing

Once you’ve perfected your internal operations and are looking for innovative ways to market your services, there will be plenty of channels and types of messaging you can use. It may be tempting to try all of them at once, but your marketing team will need to study and prioritize the methods that will allow your company to have the greatest positive impact.

Break the Rules — Proportionally

On the other hand, strategically setting proportions aside can lead to interesting and eye-catching results.

People often strive to balance rules with adaptability; on one hand, standards promise predictability, while on the other hand, the ability to adapt in novel ways to new situations is the key to discovery.

If rules are too rigid, they can prevent progress and stifle creativity, but too much adaptation can lead to disorganization. Having the right amount of each to keep things stable and moving forward can be challenging, but it is vital for long-term success.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with proportions in your own work, whatever it may be, to create something truly unique! If you wish, let me know about your design and marketing plans and how I can help.

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