Apple Used “Extreme And Mean” Math To Design iCloud’s Icon



Neat spot by Alam van Roemburg: the iCloud icon uses the Golden Ratio, which has been thought since the 16th Century to lead to pleasing, harmonious proportions in aesthetic design.

How do you use the Golden Ratio to design some harmonious icons? Let’s say you want to draw the perfect rectangle. Using the golden ratio, what you’d do is draw a perfect square, then draw a line through that square. Now in the top half of the square, draw a diagonal line from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. If you then moved that diagonal line like an hour hand from the upper right corner to trace an arc above the square, the highest point of that arc is the rectangle’s ideal height according to the square’s golden ratio.

Although the Golden Ratio was first identified back in the 16th Century as the one most likely to lead to harmonious design, it was first identified by Euclid back in the 3rd Century B.C., who famously described it as an “extreme and mean ratio” worthy of no small degree of respect.

Pretty cool, huh? Still, no surprise given Apple’s attention to detail, and in fact, Cupertino’s not the only tech company to prominently use the golden ratio in their products: Twitter’s new design also conforms to the Golden Ratio. Still, pretty neat!

Update: Looks like Alan was alerted to this neat fun fact by this cool Japanese blog post, which was the original source.

  • oriorda

    This elegance and thoughtfulness, and attention to the smallest detail over a 30 year period, has brought Apple to the pre-eminent position it holds today, a position that binds people to it in a way not seen among most IT companies. I’ve found over the years that a determined opponent will refuse to acknowledge these things matter (“Who cares about the default font?” they ask) but for those of us who appreciate the results from others taking great care in what they do, well, we think these things do matter, and it’s a good reason why we continue to buy Apple.

  • AJ

    I’ve seen these maths also apply to the design of the 1st gen iPhone as to where the home button should sit, and how big it is related to the corners which in turn affects the location of the ‘swipe to unlock’.  I’m sure trigonometry teachers everywhere are glad somebody listened, and wishing one of the was an Android developer.

  • Luke Lucas

    that was my thought, too. sitting here looking at the iDisk icon on my desktop that’s been there for ages.

  • Eduardo Malheiros

    This is nothing new. As a graphic designer I use the golden ratio now only regularly but always and for everything!

  • Elliot George

    This is actually a seriously awesome post! Please write about this sort of thing more if you find it. Just so happens i’m very interested in all the things mentioned here. Mathematics, Design and Apple!

  • Beware

    If only these people applied their free time, actually helping and improving the world through some voluntary/charity work…

  • Beware

    And I am talking about the dude who spotted.

  • Reivax

    You mostly answered your second question with your first. If no one noticed or mentioned back then, that’s why it’s just being mention now.

  • Reivax

    Would someone please post a rude and unorthodox comment on this page, already? I’m itching to use ‘extreme and mean’ as a (stupid) pun.

  • markhunte

    The Golden Ratio is in Nature. And can be seen in the very design of the human body. I always had the impression that many people felt it was divine.

  • imbenking

    They didnt say it was new! Infact, 2000 years ago is far from new! 

  • obamapacman

    Seems that Alam did not credit his source: June 9: http://stam-design-stam.blogsp

  • baby_Twitty

    Look at the word Poop. What do you notice? It too has the 1.6 holy-devine golden ratio when measured from front to end.
    Poop begins with P, ends with P, centered by a pair of double O balancing out everything, delicately.
    Not to mention 2 hidden 1.6 ratio can also be found within both it’s ‘o’s.
    In fact, Poop is so magical, if you spell it backward, you’ve still got ‘poop’!

    Poop, it’s the most harmonious word ever in nature and the universe.

  • Esperanza

    Original article is here!  That article was uploaded June 9. Alan was uploaded to June 15.  

  • jerhoman

    Really great post, would love to see more of this sort of thing

  • createclove

    Makes you wonder if its just coincidence…or not.

  • GhostySlime

    Better than the MobileMe logo thats for sure

  • Scarnox

    Awsome info! As a graphic artist and Apple user this is superb knowledge.

  • WVMikeP

    Coincidence?  From a design-oriented company?  Seriously?

  • integraphixchicagomarketing

    Their means are always ‘extreme and mean’. It’s Apple – hehe.

  • Boris

    I’d like that attention to details to be stretched on UI design issues too. To make operating app windows in OS X a bit less painful experience than today. 

    Will hope that Lion and Mission Control shall change a lot. 

    (great article tho)

  • Robert Mungo

    The golden ratio applies to the iPod as well. The Classic iPods (1:1.67), the iPod shuffles with the wheel control (1:1.59), and iPhone and iPod touch (1:1.7) are all built close to the golden ratio.

    People find things made to the golden ratio more attractive without even knowing why. The human body is very close to the golden ratio and people who’s faces are closest to the golden ratio are universally deemed more attractive.

  • Thiago Barcelos

    Very Nice!!
    I made some studies about the Apple’s design too, check it out!

  • God

     Macs sux!

  • boastboy

    Unflipping believable!! This really just blows my mind, it’s “attention to detail” taken to the nº!

  • Lasse Embøl Sørensen

    it’s just soundcloud’s icon revisited. come on.