When we talk about scale on graphic design terms, it can be described in two ways which are objective and subjective. According to Graphic Design The New Basics by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, scale being seen as objective means the actual size of an object and the similarity between the actual thing and a small model of it. Think of those little collectible cars and compare them to the actual car itself. Both have the same characteristics (visually at least) but the model is obviously smaller. On the subjective side of things scale means comparing things to your physical self, or in other words your own impression of an object. Let’s say that you are holding a hamster. Subjectively the hamster is relatively small compared to you. Next, you’re standing next to an elephant. The elephant is much larger than you scale wise.
My example for understanding scale comes from the graphic novel The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. From the two pages I choose there are examples of both objective and subjective scale. First of all, for objective scale, you can see the kids dressed in black and white are different sized in each frame. Each of the kids are still the same but they are drawn at different sizes depending on what is happening in each frame. For subjective scale, the Eiffel tower is shown in almost all the frames but is drawn to scale compared to the characters in the graphic novel. Of course in real life we know that the tower is giant compared to us, so it makes sense that its giant compared to the characters in the graphic novel despite it being a fictional story taking place in the real world.
When drawing something to scale it must be relative to other objects within its environment. Going back to the example with the Eiffel tower, it is relative to the size of the people. As we know the tower is giant in real life, since the world in the graphic novel takes place in the real world all of the people, souvenir stand, trees, etc. Also when drawing things to scale, depth is created. The last frame on the right page shows the kids drawn larger than the buildings in the background. This creates the illusion of depth. When something is in the distance, it appears smaller and when something is closer it appears larger.