In a fascinating article, 'Why we love beautiful things', Lance Hosey points to studies that demonstrate that "the sight of an attractive product can trigger the part of the motor cerebellum that governs hand movement. Instinctively we reach out for attractive things; beauty literally moves us."
It is becoming increasingly clear - beauty is not as subjective as we thought. This should be no surprise to Christians who understand that all creation was designed to portray the ultimate beauty of the glory of God that objectively exists outside of that creation. Colours and shapes are not randomly attractive or unattractive; they reflect a purposeful design.
So, Hosey tells us, we are beginning to understand why the unique properties of the "golden rectangle" are not just random magical proportions, but a shape that is both beautiful and useful, for our eyes can scan an image fastest when it is in that shape. It is the secret of the beauty of the face of the Mona Lisa and the appeal of the original i-pod. It is the shape that accounts for the beauty of the sound of the Stradivarius violin.
There are shapes and patterns and colours that have universal appeal - and of course they occur almost everywhere in nature. Like all good design, they combine both beauty and functionality. And they point to our Creator who exists in the beauty of holiness and who practically does all things well. While Hosey's New York Times article speaks of great design as a "mysterious gift from the gods" (which is at least one step up from viewing it as a random product of evolution), it is worth reading as a snapshot of the God who has made himself known in all that he has made. In his image, all design can, as Hosey puts it, "both look good and be good for you."