by Kim Williams


Scale is the dimensional element defined by other elements of design size relative to art, its surroundings, or in relation to humans. Scale is the size of an element as it relates to its usual physical size.


Design Element
Center of Focus
Scale in Sculpture
Ron Mueck

Design Element

When scale is used in a design, it can greatly influence the meaning of the work. Determining classic scale when working with visual design can be achieved using the Golden Section, or the Divine Proportion. This is a visual representation of a number called Phi (pronouced fi). Phi is a number produced by bisecting a line at a particular point. Phi is 1.618033988749895, or by the numerical sequence called the Fibonacci sequence. Phi helps determine classic scale.

Phi is evident everywhere in the universe -- in nature, space, physics, mathematics, art, and design. Phi creates the Divine Proportion (termed this by Renaissance artists because of its abundance in the known universe -- they thought it was created by God), which is used by artists and designers.
Using the Divine Proportion as a guide to your compositions can improve the communication aspect of your design. If the unique proportion Phi creates is all around us, it stands to reason that designs created this way are more comfortable to us, more natural, and more effective.

Use the following procedure to put scale into practice:

  1. Start by deciding the size and dimensions of your project. Determine the height and format – portrait or landscape.
  2. For example, the image is 64 cm high. Take that height and create a 64x64cm square from it.
  3. Take 64cm and multiply it by 1.62. (You can use the whole sequence by rounding it up at the point is ok.) This gives you 104cm. This is the full width of the project.
  4. Subtracting your initial height (64cm) from your new full width gives you the all important Divine Proportion line. The design is created around this line to create a balanced image.

This is not a new theory, but does appear to have been lost in some newer web design. Getting back to basics will create more visually appealing scale in design.


Center of Focus

When scale is used in a manner which is unusual it grasps the attention of its viewers.


Scale in Sculpture

Scale in sculpture is measured in the terms of the size of the human body.


Ron Mueck

Some of my favorite illustrations of the use of scale are the works of Australian hyper-realist sculptor Ron Mueck.
He creates realistic human sculptures that use scale to a create unique visual effects.



Boulton, Mark, "Design and the Devine Proportion", Journal, January 6, 2005: