The art and science behind Aston Martin's beautiful design language

The secret sauce behind Aston's greatest hits lies in ancient Greece, and golden ratios.

People often say that beauty is subjective.

But in fact, it's a reasonably well-established science. When looking at something, our brains search for a natural pattern, a relationship between features. The ancient Greeks first noted this phenomenon over 2,000 years ago.

The Golden Ratio, as it's called, is essentially a rule of thirds.

By dividing a line into two parts, the longer piece (a) is divided by the smaller piece (b). With (a) + (b) divided by (a), equaling 1.618.

By implementing this ratio of 1: 1.618, designers can perfectly judge the relationship between different design features.

Up until the recent upheave at Aston Martin, the company utilized this formula on every car, from the original DB9 and Vantage to the flagship Vanquish range.

Many criticisms were leveled at this previous era of Aston Martins, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who thought they were ugly. Indeed, whenever I've seen a VH-generation Aston parked on the street, there'd always be a crowd milling around it. Yet, unlike what you'd see with a skittle-colored Lamborghini, the "plebeian" masses were not spitting on the windshield. Instead, they would always carefully circle the car, bemused but the apparent perfection of it all.

Every line, every crease on these cars works in perfect unison; the relationship between the side window and door and how the back two-thirds of the car seemed as if it melted into the front third. When your eyes travel around an Aston, there's order, there's logic, and your brain appreciates that.

It's honestly a shame that Aston Martin has chosen to depart from its iconic VH-era design language with the new DB11 and Vantage range. The DB9, Vanquish, and previous-generation Vantage were all expensive cars. Still, their designs suggested to everyone around that the price tag was not born out of ego-mania.

Aston Martin was one of the few automakers still dedicated to the Golden Ratio. Unfortunately, that era of design has seemingly gone past us. The lack of safety legislation during the 1960s gave designers relative freedom to utilize this magical ratio. It's why so many cars like the Jaguar E-Type would later hold permanent spots at museums like the MOMA in New York.

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Comments (31)

  • Brilliant article and totally true! I work as a designed for Aston Martin, and the design style has changed, we now try to focus on reimagining old models, making the DB5 visible in many models, especially the DBX, that was my first project and that is the one that was most challenging!

      4 days ago
    • Nice! Great to see some design love on DriveTribe. I’m actually an Industrial design student!

      DBX is really cool, especially considering all of the criteria it had to meet. Easily the best-looking SUV in recent memory. Although, I’ll...

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        4 days ago
    • Yes, I’ve been there since 2017, I used to be at jag, and Aston have definitely tried to reimagine there design language, and the reason for that is the Mercedes AMG engine, they want to make the car different from a Mercedes so it feel like an...

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        4 days ago
  • One of the best articles lately. I hardly see the hype over current Aston's lineup. It's a mess.

    Mid 2000's Astons are masterpieces. I would drive one with a diesel if I had to.

      3 days ago
    • Thanks! Agreed 100%, Andy Palmer's Aston Martin missed the mark-it should never be about speed with Astons.

        3 days ago
    • Yes. Astons belong with cars that are all about the journey, not the destination. About details, sounds, feel, sense of occasion.

      I'd add Alfa, older AMGs, Jags, even American muscles into that. I find new supercars, even German...

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        3 days ago
  • Great article and agree 100%. It's too bad that the kind of singular focus on design and symmetry that exemplified Aston Martins from that era seems to be sadly lacking in more recent car designs, with few exceptions.

      3 days ago
    • Love the virage

        3 days ago
    • I’m with you on that! As I’ve noted in the past, it was Jeremy Clarkson himself who said the “Virage looks even more beautiful than the DBS. It looks more beautiful than the most beautiful thing you can think of.” All owing to timeless design.

        3 days ago
  • My 2005 DB9 was a head turner, it got lots of looks at lights.

      2 days ago
  • It’s such an underrated brand, it’s superior

      3 days ago
    • Their older cars are underrated, but it's the technical "inferiority" which makes them great driver's cars. Not giving a damn or not being in a position to partake in the arms race for speed always benefits the driver.

        3 days ago
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