Principles of Design: Scale

Use of Scale

What is scale? Scale refers to the size of an object relative to some other element of the design, while size is an absolute measurement. More than one element is needed to show scale, though it is possible to show scale through the use of white space. The black square is small relative to both the red square and the white space.
Different Sizes: Elements of different sizes can demonstrate perspective, create rhythm, or show relative status. Smaller elements tend to fade into the distance, creating a sense of perspective.
Similar sizes: Elements that are scaled to similar size suggests that there is some commonality among them, which may be obvious or more subtle. If similar scale goes against the natural order of things, it can create a sense of whimsy, or evoke feelings of disorientation.
Emphasis: The use of scale is a simple way to emphasize the most important part of the design. An illustration that takes up half the page is attention-grabbing. That layout suggests that the image is the most important element, whereas the heading stands out more if the scale of the image is reduced a bit.
Hierarchy: Scale is an effective way to create a visual hierarchy in a design. The largest design elements draws the eye first, then the next largest, and so on. Sometimes the title will be the largest element. Other times an image may be the focal point. Scale is relative so it shows the interrelationship of large, medium, and smaller elements as well as their level of significance.