Scale is ubiquitous in the world of design, but its implications mostly go unnoticed. Terms that are easy to use, like the global or human-scale, have widespread allure and even impact, yet they also hide and confuse.
Although scale is a fundamental feature of all systems, artefacts and organisms, it is surprisingly rarely reflected upon in design. In the abstract, scale points to mathematical features but it is, above all, inherently relational and comparative. To think about scale nearly always involves thinking about another context of activity or reception that is either inside, outside or beyond the immediate field of practice. Design research may be pivotal in how matters of scale are understood and acted on.
In these times of urgent troubles, problems appear to be large-scale and designers are often invited to ‘scale up’ their efforts to solve them, or defend the wellbeing or the rights of a universal ‘human’. Meanwhile viruses, for instance, wreak havoc in machines and bodies across different orders of scale, connecting and disconnecting in complicated ways. If size, temporal duration, scope, territory and impact work in scalar ways in design, whether noticed or not, how can we learn to take scale seriously?
NORDES 2021 provides opportunities to explore the multiple roles, processes and impacts of scales across all areas of design and design research in all their manifestations. How does scale matter in the context of design, designs and designers? What kinds of scalar relationships does design involve and how does or might design research identify and problematise these?