In their book Graphic Design: The New Basics, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips discuss the term scale, and how it can be considered either an objective or subjective term. When we’re thinking about a scale in objective terms, we’re referring to the actual dimensions of an object in relation to another surrounding object. A scale in subjective terms is when humans compare an object’s size to themselves. For example, in the middle left frame of the image above, you can see that there is a person standing next to a tree. That person is very small compared to the tree and if that person were to compare how big the tree is to himself, then he would look at the tree as this big object because that is how humans compare themselves to other objects subjectively. People can go inside small rooms and then think about the scale of one of those small rooms compared to another massive building that they have been in before. An example of an objective scale from the image above would be to look at the tree in relation to the size of the house. The house is a lot bigger in comparison to the tree and takes up a lot more space in the frame, but the tree is taller than the house, it is just very skinny. Page fourteen from Clowes’ David Boring shows how scale can be relative. In the top two frames on the left, the book that the man is holding looks a lot bigger than the book in the middle right frame because of the elements surrounding the book. In the top middle frame, the book is practically the only thing in the frame besides text and the book takes up a lot of the frame because it is zoomed in. Then when you look at the book in the middle right frame, it looks a lot smaller because we are comparing it to the objects around it like the bus, window, seat, and the man that is holding the book. You can have the same object in two different pictures but one object can appear a lot larger or smaller than the other object because of the elements surrounding the objects in each of the pictures. When you see larger objects in relation with surrounding smaller objects that could even be the same object, we call this a contrast in scale. A contrast in scale can add depth or movement to an object depending on the scale and placement of the object. All of these terms create meaning within an image and make the image more visually appealing. A good example of depth in the image above is when you look at the book all alone and up close in one image and then see the book farther away with objects around it that give the frame depth as a whole.
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