Jay Hambidge was an American artist and historian. He studied under William Chase at the Art Student’s League in New York. Hambidge is best known for his work on Dynamic Symmetry, an idea which he began working on around 1904 when he noticed “incoherence of modern design” and was “convinced that there must exist in nature some correlating principle which could give artists a control of areas...both in nature and in art.” Hambidge first went about testing his ideas of such a system on ancient Greek vases and then, with sponsorship from several institutions including the School of Fine art of Yale University, he had the opportunity to visit Greece and to see if his idea of Dynamic Symmetry had influenced the Greeks in architecting buildings like the Parthenon.

While in Greece he noticed that the spirals on the ionic column capitals of ancient Greek temples were laid out by the so-called "whirling rectangle" method for creation of a logarithmic spiral. He realized this by examining numerous ionic capitals in art museums until he located some in which the holes made by the placement of compass points had not been obliterated over time. (One of these capitals was an unfinished, broken piece, dug up from a rubbish heap near a temple -- it had apparently been damaged during manufacture and was discarded; its burial preserved it from the elements, and the marks of the geometric layout were remarkably clear upon it.) No "sacred meaning" for the log spiral form of the ionic column capital has been determined from Greek writings, but the use of other log spirals in Greek temple architecture (for instance in floor-block proportions and their placement in relation to overall floor area) indicates that Greek architects, unlike the Romans who came after them, deliberately constructed their temples according to "whirling rectangle" geometric ratios. Hambidge began to notice the use of “whirling rectangle in other places as well and soon came up with a theory which he named Dynamic Symmetry. The theory outlined mathematical laws of proportion based on patterns of plant growth, known as phyllotaxis. He came about this discovery while examining a maple leaf. This led him to the belief that all great art followed the laws of dynamic symmetry and that these laws were still being employed in contemporary art.

At a lecture in London in 1919, Hambidge explained his theory of design types which included “Static” design, the kind that is found in “crystals, cross-sections of seed pods, and in natural mosaic forms” and is contrasted by “Dynamic” design, which is observed in “man and the plant, the five regular solids of geometry, and Greek and Egyptian art, particularly the former.” Hambidge did not use the word “symmetry” in the traditional sense of dividing an object in half along an axis but instead in the sense of proportion, “the proper or due proportion of the parts of a body or whole to another in regard to size and form; excellence of proportion.”

After publishing two books about Dynamic Symmetry, Dynamic Symmetry and the Greek Vase and Dynamic Symmetry and the Greek Parthenon, many prominent contemporary artists began to include Dynamic Symmetry in their art work. Some of which included Robert Henri and George Bellows. Henri learned about Hambidge and his theory after reading an anti-cubism article in which Hambidge used Dynamic Symmetry to argue that Dynamic Symmetrycubism was “not radical, but blindly, haltingly conservative.” Henri and Bellows began to regularly attend Hambidge’s lectures on Dynamic Symmetry and were intrigued by Hambidge’s unique take on design and how “the history of design shows is beyond questions that symmetry and rhythm are consciously used by artists who are real masters of composition.” Henri’s homage to Hambidge's theory is a piece titled “ Fay Banter as the ‘Image’ in the ‘Willow Tree”.

Although Jay Hambidge is not know as one of the great artists of the 20th century, his re-discovery of Dynamic Symmetry influenced countless artists in almost every discipline. The idea of Dynamic Symmetry has found it’s way out of the art world and into enterprise as well. Companies such as Tiffany’s use it in the designs of their jewelry, Chrysler used it in the designs of their cars, and it’s even found it’s way into the 21st century with tech companies using it the design of their logos and software applications.

In addition to being found in logo design and artwork, the golden ratio had also found it's way into being used to design typography. Proxima Nova is a geometric type face that is based on a mixture of the general proportions of Helvetica and the construction details of Futura. After many years of re-tooling, designer Mark Simonson ended up with Proxima Nova a typeface which I found follows the golden ratio pretty closely. It also happens to be the type face that this site is set in.