Fibonacci Numbers and indesign Margins

Jan Tschichold was the master at applying this system of proportion to page layout. Not a bad endorsement for its use, since he is one of a handful of master designers who every typographer looks to for inspiration and guidance. He is an old school guy, worked about a hundred years ago, but basically the Michelangelo of typography. Anyway, someone you should know and pay attention to:)

So, by now you have been introduced to the idea of the Golden Section and have also written down the Fibonacci number series (Fibonacci was another old school guy, but not a designer. He was a mathematician. Don’t let that scare you off. What he did was simplify things so that we non-math folks can actually apply the Golden Section to what we do—design. Here is the series of numbers that go by his name: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13…

So to apply it—to specifically use it to determine margins in inDesign—you must first understand the idea that you are creating a visual relationship between the size of white space or margins as they relate to the overall page size. It quite similar to how you might cut a mat for a drawing, with the bottom wider than the top, etc. If you fail to understand this basic concept—ASK.

The second concept that is necessary to understand is that the numbers from Fibonacci symbolize proportion or a comparison of one thing to another. (a basic version of this, which is not based on Fibonacci, would be to say one thing is twice the size of something else— it is a comparison). So, using Fibonacci, the comparison changes as the numbers in the series go up. It is not always twice the previous size. Doing it with Fibonacci (sounds like a dance groove) instead creates a more dynamic and interesting but certainly harmonious visual relationship. It is dynamic, because it IS interesting but not as literally predictable as “twice the size”.

Ok lets do it!

Using InDesign, go to Layout>>Margins and Columns

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 7.52.38 PM

Whatever the numbers are in the top, bottom, right, left fields (in this example its is 3p0) that number = 1 in the Fibonacci Number series.

To make this work, you have to unlink the top, bottom, right, left entries from each other, so simply click on the little chain link so it has a diagonal line through it like in the example above. Now you can enter different numbers in each field.

So, now all you have to do is make a design decision. Where do you want the margins to be larger? Pick that margin and assign the next number in the Fibonacci Number series. The scary math part is that you have to multiply that Fibonacci number to the number that = 1. (its really not that scary, you’re fooling yourself because of some previous relationship. You really are better than that)

Mr. Fibonoaci said this is where the magic lives! 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8… you get the rest if you are paying attention.

so I suggest start applying the series using the SECOND 1 (not from the first 1) and then when 3p0 =1, then 6po would = 2, and 9p0 would = 3

Applying the series to the layout margins could be this:
the inside and outside margins both =1
and the top margin =2
and the bottom = 3
would look like this:

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 8.03.58 PM

Remember, you are simply saying that whatever the number starts out with when you open the Margins and Columns window = 1. (in this example that number is 3p0, so 3p0 =1)

Then take that number and multiply it by the successive numbers in the Fibonacci series to find the correct proportions for the other margins. You decide which margins to apply the larger or smaller numbers. (remember back to your original vision for which margins you want larger, smaller or equal.—come on its a design decision)

You can do this! Its a visual thing. not a math thing at all.