## The misinterpretations of freedom

January 6th, 2009 | Tags: a4, design, letter, paper, vignelli | 3 Comments

I was delighted to read this passage in Massimo Vignelli’s *The Vignelli Canon* (pdf link):

The international Standard paper sizes, called the A series, is based on a golden rectangle, the divine proportion. It is extremely handsome and practical as well. It is adopted by many countries around the world and is based on the German DIN metric Standards. The United States uses a basic letter size (8 1/2 x 11”) of ugly proportions, and results in complete chaos with an endless amount of paper sizes. It is a by-product of the culture of free enterprise, competition and waste. Just another example of the misinterpretations of freedom.

January 7th, 2009 at 01:16:48 PM (#)

Yeah, but trying finding A5 paper in the U.S. And when you do, buy it at whatever (marginal) price overhead. Learn from my mistake that purchasing A4 and getting it (professionally) “halved” may be less trivial than it appears — all “halves” not being equal. Nonetheless, I am still quite pleased with the outcome, but the slight size variations made the printing process more cumbersome.

February 1st, 2009 at 05:31:27 PM (#)

The overall message is sound, but Vignelli makes a couple of factual errors. The A paper series is not based on the golden rectangle 1:(sqrt(5)+1)/2 but rather on the ratio 1:sqrt(2), which allows the paper to be halved along its longest side and retain the same aspect ratio.

His other claim, that ‘Two thirds of it [A4 paper] is a square’ is also incorrect: this would surely imply a ratio of 1:1.5, neither the golden rectangle nor the actual 1:sqrt(2) ratio.

February 1st, 2009 at 10:23:40 PM (#)

Indeed. However, his tone is really the entertaining part.