How to Apply the 7 Elements of Design to your Work. Element 6: Size and Scale.

Examples of Size and Scale in Everyday Design
14Apr, 2014
In this, the second to last article of the elements of design series, we take a look at size and scale. These elements can play an important role in adding depth to a design and can also help to further convey the topic’s message. So what is size and scale?

Featured Image: Nat Geo Channel by Juan Bautista Fittipaldi licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0

What is Size?

Size is simply how small or big an element is in relation to other objects within a design. Generally, we use size to make a particular element stand out or to give it importance. However, size becomes a much more powerful design tool when it is considered alongside scale.

What is Scale?

We can generate scale within a design by making size relationships between elements. For example, if two circles of the same size were placed on a page there would be no size relationship – neither would be large or small. However, if one circle was a third of the size of the other, we would describe one as being big and the other as small. This is called scale of reference. It is impossible to determine the relative size of an object if there is no scale of reference.

Clever use of scale can produce depth, feelings of tension and movement within a design.



Below are a number of examples of how size and scale are used in everyday design.

Nat Geo Channel

This is a perfect example of using a scale of reference to indicate an objects size. We are all familiar with the size of a car, so this acts as the reference object. Furthermore, it’s sizing relative to the design space and the typographical elements (mega) adds depth, which in turn conveys the message of a mega factory.

Elements of Design: Size and Scale Example

Nat Geo Channel by Juan Bautista Fittipaldi licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0

Super Size Me

In this example the baseball field acts as the reference object. Without it, the baby would not appear to be super sized.

Elements of Design: Size and Scale Example

Super Size Me: Editorial Design by Heather Ferguson licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Toyota AIP

Again another great use of scale of reference. We all know how big our hand is, so this helps to convey the message of how small the car actually is.

Elements of Design: Size and Scale Example

2009 / ADVERTISING Toyota AIP by Atreïd Studio licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Final Words

So just to review, the golden rule is that we cannot generate scale without reference. Therefore, consider whether producing scale within a design will help to further convey the topics message.

About The Author
Matt Smith is a graphic designer and principal lecturer with expertise in print media and web design. He has over 20 years of experience under his belt and has dedicated much of his career to educating others. He founded Edgee in 2014 with the aim of providing quality education for new and experienced graphic designers. With ‘hands on’ experience and qualifications in graphic design, along with a Bachelor of Education in Adult Vocation, Matt combines his passion for design, typography and teaching with his expertise in Adobe Creative Suite to develop eBooks, tutorials and informative articles aimed at helping designers of all levels improve their skills and knowledge.