**Golden
Section
**

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**Golden section**

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Glossary

**What’s
special about 62 per cent?**

The golden section is a proportion of about 62% to 38%.
It’s an irrational number. Irrational numbers have
decimal expansions that neither terminate nor become
periodic.

(Skip
this paragraph if you like.) The golden section divides a
whole into two parts. The smaller part is in the same
proportion to the bigger part as the bigger is to the whole.
For practical purposes, this is often shortened to 1:1.618,
or about 62 per cent. With twelve decimal points, the bigger
part is 61.804697156984 and the smaller
38.195302843016%.

**Is the
golden section useful in type design?**

Not really. But let’s try it anyway.

Here we
apply it to the character height we have in mind, from
ascender to descender, to decide the x-height.

We can
then use it again, and give ourselves the ascender height
and descender depth.

And for
the third time we’ll use it for the capital height,
between the ascender height and the x-height. Are these
proportions outstanding? Perhaps.

Here are
four sets of proportions. The first is 1:1.4142135623731
(that’s 1 against the square root of 2, which underlies
European paper sizes). The second proportion is two-thirds.
The third is the golden section. The fourth is 1:1.89, which
is hardly a popular choice. Has one of them got timeless,
universal qualities that the others lack?

Still,
the golden section can be useful. It may not give you
exactly what you want. But it helps by limiting your
choices. Some people get more attached to the theory than is
good for them. For the full tour, see D’Arcy Wentworth
Thompson’s monumental work, *On Growth and Form.*
(Cambridge University Press 1942; first published 1917).