Have you ever visited somewhere when you were little and then gone back many years later when you were an adult? Did you bring a friend along with you and blather on excitedly all the way there about how it would be absolutely super-colossal, gigantic, enormous!
But then you get there.
As an adult, the magic is gone. You realize it was only your perspective as a small child that made the pool seem so huge.
What is Size?
Other ways to say size are scale and proportion. It is the relative largeness or smallness of an object in the context of composition.
Using Size in Your Designs
Although size is pretty simple to explain, it is carries a significant amount of weight in design. Size is important to:
- create depth
- create perspective
- create hierarchy and organize
Remember our telephone poles from Get in Line, Now? Not only do the poles decrease in thickness as they get farther away, they also decrease in size. They appear to be shorter the farther they get from the viewer. As we’ve seen before, depth is important to make objects or scenes seem real and create a genuine, nearly tangible experience for the user, especially where products are concerned.
To see how important depth is in a design piece, think about the opposite. What if your sense of distance or scale was thrown off because of a designer’s inept use of depth? While it may be a cool optical illusion in this piece by M.C. Escher, it would create feelings of confusion, imbalance and uncertainty. In, say, an ad selling cars the audience might begin to distrust the car or the brand because of their disorientation.
Perspective is different from depth when dealing with size because now perspective means giving the viewer a sense of the true height, width and depth of an object. If you put an elephant next to a mouse, you get a sense for how small the mouse really is. On the other hand, if we were to put an ant next to a mouse, the mouse would seem gargantuan!
Perspective can be quite a useful tool when influencing the audience’s opinion of a product or person. If viewing an object from a worm’s eye perspective, meaning the point of view is near the base of the object (or possibly below it if it is on a pedestal, cliff or table), the object becomes important, strong, powerful and in a commanding position in the composition. The same object from a bird’s eye perspective—from well above the object—makes the object seem unimportant, weak, vulnerable and insignificant.
Size is tied with color as the most obvious way to create hierarchy in a design. Larger elements attract more attention, but with the current consumer mindset, the “fine print” will also be something that viewers purposefully hunt down and read, sometimes even before seeing the headline!
It is necessary to keep the hierarchy intuitive—the headlines, subheads, bylines and body copy should all be consistent throughout the pages of a magazine, newspaper, book or blog. Inconsistent sizes will only result in confusion. Organizing in a logical way will create direction and guide the audience through the piece, bringing attention to each important point.
You can read more about the elements of design in the Real World Example series:
How have you used size in the past to relate depth, perspective and hierarchy in your designs? How will you use it in your next design?