Why are credit cards, televisions, books, and iPods shaped the same way? They all form a “golden rectangle”—a phenomenon we’ve recognized for millennia. But why are we so obsessed with these rectangles in our media? In 2009, Duke University researchers discovered a practical explanation. Humans can process information inside these rectangles, like text in a paragraph, very efficiently. In this case, we’re drawn to a lighter cognitive load. We like books because they actually look easy to read.
It’s just one of many examples given by Lance Hosey from The New York Times in a recent column. Through a series of research vignettes, he presents beautiful design as an evolutionary imperative beyond this caveman ideal of needing sharper rocks to better kill mastodons.