The golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. It is the very definition of Yin-Yang or the word Harmony.
As Einstein put it:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Einstein is sometimes quoted wrongly with the above, as some people have interrupted it as “keep thing as simple as possible” or what some people call Occam’s Razor. But I disagree. When he says about “but not simpler”, he was actually referring to the Golden Mean.
As Aristotle said about the Spartan way of life; How they trained Men, not women and how they trained for War but not for peace. Aristotle knew that this is not a good way to live. If there were no enemies to fight, what would happen? Such disharmony creates greater difficulties in the future.
What does this mean in design and development?
Ancient Greek structural design is based on symmetry and proportion. Modern research also suggests that people whose facial features are symmetric and proportioned according the golden ratio are looked upon as more attractive than those whose faces are not.
The Golden Number
The Golden Number has been much publicised in the fantastic book, “The Da Vinci Code”. Phi, (1.61803… etc) appears throughout life and the universe. A few believe that Phi is the most efficient outcome, the result of natural forces. Others believe it is a universal constant of design, and the signature of God’s handwork.
Phi is used in Art; masterpieces such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”, The Parthenon, the famous Greek temple built for the goddess Athena, Biology; proportions of the human body and faces and Mathematics; Phi is found within Geometry.
What does this mean in life?
There is a word that is used constantly now days which (apparently) if we can achieve, we will live a happier, longer, more fulfilling life; Balance. Balance is the middle of the average or the Golden Mean. A healthy balanced diet, a balanced working life, being within the average weight for your height. Pleasure / Pain? Obtaining the Golden Mean allows us to enjoy all life’s pleasures without becoming to obsessed with, for example, Chocolate or Rabbit food. Enjoy both!
Life is a balance and if we stay within the realms of this, we will enjoy the most of what the experience of living can bring us. Look towards the Golden Mean (and its applied use) for inspiration when developing an “experience”, be it life, a piece of work or design, or a movie. Explore all the different shades but obtaining the “Mean” provide us / the viewer / the user with the balance that we / they require.
As a side note, when dealing with functional outcomes, we should look at Occum’s razor. Which being us back to another quote:
“When you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better.”