When a trained draughtsman makes a mark on a blank sheet of paper,
a number of sophisticated decisions have already been made.
The shape and proportion of the page chosen may be a root phi. This is because the 18" x 24" sheet of paper, whether the manufacturer or the person drawing knows it or not, is this famous rectangle: the root phi. Commercially manufactured drawing pads often have these dimensions or proportions.
Given that the sheet of paper has these proportions, the sheet also has implicit area divisions. There are center divisions that are both vertical and horizontal. Diagonals of the sheet divide the paper into halves, quarters and so forth, while keeping the same proportions of the page. When teaching, I often refer to these divisions as the subterranean level of the page—these divisions exist, and it is up to the designer/draughtsman to know how to employ them in the course of producing a drawing or design on the page.
The image in the mind’s eye of the draughtsman has a dominant vertical which happens to be the longest vertical in the scheme. Placing that element on the page is a significant decision. To accomplish this, the trained draughtsman employs the golden section, or as it is also known, dynamic symmetry.
This design method, which dates back to ancient civilizations, has provided a means of organizing the design of everything manufactured by hand or machine. Those familiar with the golden section are able to almost enter the minds of those ancients who employed this system in their work. This is an exciting notion. For, if we can closely follow the design logic of a past master, we are able to learn to design as they did.