Ratio in Other Medium – Magazines

Modern day media can use the Golden Ratio in many different ways. Within this article I will be looking at magazines to see how they utilise this visual technique.

I’ll start off by looking at magazines from the pre-modern period and compare the principles for the composition of visual images with those of modern magazines.  “The Gentleman’s Magazine” is considered to have been the first general-interest magazine, first published in 1733.

The Gentleman's Magazine - May 1759 - Hover over the image

By today’s standards this magazine looks rather visually uninspiring, more like a newspaper. As for the Ratio, it doesn’t work particularly well as it doesn’t seem to fit in any orientation. The visual aid of St John’s gate itself doesn’t mix well either with the Golden Ratio It maybe the case that the producers of the magazine were less interested in the layout of print and images and more concerned with text content.

Nowadays we live in world with stronger visual media images. If the Gentleman’s Magazine was on the shelves today we wouldn’t pick it up, despite the content. Technology for sure has influenced the nature of how magazines look. But has it taken onboard the way the Golden Ratio works within layout and photography?

Lets take a look at a recent issue of “Real Homes, the complete home improvement magazine.”

Ignore the fact that the dimensions of this magazine are slightly too wide, this is a perfect example of how a modern day magazine works with the Golden Ratio. If we take a close look at the text and image it shows that it’s almost a perfect fit of Ratio. We can now decode how the producers wanted us to view the magazine on the shelf, guiding your eye from the title, to what’s inside the magazine and finally ending up smack bang on the children of the nuclear family. It’s like the producers took the template of the Golden Ratio and designed the layout around it. A stark difference to “The Gentleman’s Magazine” of 1759.

Next, “More” magazine.

With this magazine the orientation of the Golden Ratio works in reverse i.e. from right to left.  This, to me, doesn’t flow quite as well. This could be because of the western orientation to read from left to right. This is the first time the orientation of the Golden Ratio has had an effect on how I read the image. Nevertheless, technically it still works. Not quite as well as the above (Real Homes) but does catch the main stories, apart from the “I had a baby with my brother” article which it misses out completely – no big loss though.

Moving onto “Amateur Photographer”.

“Amateur Photographer” is, because of its subject matter and target audience, a key magazine to look at. Being a magazine for amateur photographers, could be and probably is for many the first time they’ll read basic photography theory. The front cover fits the bill nicely covering the major articles within the magazine. But what I’m interested in is the way the images are composed within the magazine, not just the layout. A closer look inside is required.

I’ve pulled two photographs from the inside of this issue. The scan on the left shows how the photograph works well with the text. You can tell where the photographer wants you to look, straight into her eye. Scan two on the right is a full page image so the composition has got to be strong. As it is, the lighthouse is slightly off the perfect point of the Golden Ratio, but not by much and not detract from the overall effect.

For the last image I have pulled a portrait from the same magazine. The feature was titled “Art of Africa”. Photographer John Kenny took these intimate portraits of people living in sub-Saharan Africa. As you can see, with the crop of the photograph used, the Golden Ratio doesn’t really fit this image well. In fact, the majority of the images used didn’t fit the Ratio. This isn’t unique to John Kenny’s way of photographing this set of images, as out of all the styles of photography, portraiture appears to be the least concerned with the Golden Ratio. Something to look out for.

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