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What is the connection between a sunflower and knowledge management?

1 April 2012
Sivan Arar Reuven
sunflowers in a basket

To discuss the connection between cauliflower and knowledge management, we must first discuss the concept of "The Golden Ratio" (or "The Golden Section").

The Golden Ratio is a number that describes a mathematical ratio (its value is approximately 1.618), seemingly a random number, but history shows otherwise.

Mario Livio (2003), in his book "The Golden Ratio, The Story of a Mathematical Marvel," refers to the mystery of the connection between this number, which expresses a mathematical ratio, and the world as it is reflected in nature, science, and art.

According to him, this ratio has a mysterious tendency to appear in different and surprising places: in seashells, crystals, the shapes of galaxies containing billions of stars, works of art, architecture, and music. Some claim it is also related to the behavior of the stock market and, of course, also in cauliflower heads.

Some believe that the golden ratio is considered in art to be the most perfect and beautiful proportion that a human can depict. Renaissance artists in the fields of painting, sculpture, and architecture used these proportions to achieve what was considered perfect beauty. Proportions of the golden section can be found in abundance in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci and other great artists.

It is no wonder that many see this number as a mystical number, the very existence of which proves that the world is a designed creation.

But we are not dealing with sunflowers; we are dealing with knowledge management. So, what is the connection between the two?

Ostensibly, we are talking about an ideal aesthetic ratio. Most of us find it pleasing to the eye when we look at something symmetrical.

So why not apply this also when we design a user interface for a website or portal? We refer to our "page" as "prime real estate." We invest a lot of thought in planning the page and positioning the different areas on it, and we always try to get into the user's head and think about how they will approach the page we have defined.

Does the reader indeed read from left to right, top to bottom? What will catch their eye first, and where should we place the "more important" and "less important” areas? Should we divide the page into three horizontal sections or two? Should we display a side navigation bar or just a top bar?

Of course, the answer is not simple and consists of weighing functional importance, meaning which components are important to display and in what order, and importance related to the user experience, that is, design, graphics, page layout, and so on.

Better user interfaces also consider this ratio, even if not consciously. After all, we do not calculate the ratio precisely when designing website pages. However, this is an additional parameter we must consider when planning the user interface.


Livio, M. (2003) The Golden Ratio: The Story of a Mathematical Marvel, Arye Nir Publications

Amir, D. (2006) The Golden Ratio, Al"h, 36 pp. 63-70

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