Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Part 5. Beginners Guide to the Elements & Principles of Design - Proportion and Scale

Scale and Proportion are closely linked and both are concerned with size. 

So let's consider how important is it for us to understand proportion & scale when designing our everyday displays. 
Here is a scenario  - " I have been asked to create table arrangements for a party in a venue that I have never visited".
When we start our design process, we think about the colours that we are going to use, and if there is a theme that also take high priority, but I wonder how many of us consider proportion and scale?

For me this is now a very important part of the design process that I need to consider right from the start. 
  • How big are the tables that the designs are being used on?
  • What is the size and height of the room?
Without knowing and using this information very early on in our design process we could suggest, propose and cost work that is total inappropriate for the room that it is intended to be used in! Believe me, I have been there... balloons too small or too big for the height of the ceiling and the size of the room and centrepiece that are too big or too small for the tables! 

You are the expert and you can use your knowledge and skills to advise and recommend to your customers.

So lets look at proportion and scale in greater detail.


This is the size or visual weight of each component as it relates to it's base, the other design components and to the overall composition, it should be visually proportionate or balanced.
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This Halloween Buffet Table design was one that I created for a competition in 1997 at IBAC 14! I think that this design demonstrates proportion very well.
It very interesting looking back on your earlier work, as although it shows proportion well, I can see a few area's  of this design that I would do differently today!

The focal point of this design is the larger pumpkin in the centre, this holds the greatest visual weight within the design, I have then used two additional pumpkins that are smaller than the focal pumpkin to create repetition (rhythm), they need to be smaller otherwise they would affect the visual balance of the design. All the other elements within the designs have been made to be in proportion with each other and to create a design that has a very strong Halloween theme (unity).


This relates to the overall size of a design in relationship to it's surroundings.

Using the Halloween design once again to help us to understand scale, we have to consider where this design is going to be used?  I created this design as a Buffet Table display, but how big is the table it is going to be displayed on? We need to consider the table and it's surroundings such as the room size and ceiling height too... will my design look too big on the table or will the design not make a big enough impact in the room? If the room is tall, would this design look better with additional helium filled balloons to give it height?

When creating a centrepiece design or simply placing balloons to tables, think of your designs as 'Table Decor'.  Arrangements should be at least 1½ times the height of the container, so by extending your design out onto the tabletop, you create a broader foundation for helium filled balloons. To extend a design you can use a number of different elements such as mirrors, covered bases, ribbons, fabric and confetti, by placing these under your design or scattered around you create greater impact and even greater perceived value.

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This Football theme centrepiece could have been simply placed on the table secured to a weight, however what I did with this arrangement was to create a base using two covered cake boards or cardboard discs. I used a green foil balloon to cover the larger of the two bases and a Football foil to cover the smaller base, not only does this emphasis the theme and create greater unity, it also puts the helium filled balloon in proportion with the table that they are being displayed on, without the base they would look visually unbalanced making the design look top heavy!

So we understand now how we should consider proportion and scale when it comes to table decor, but what about room decor and arches?

This is where we can use the 'Golden Rule of Proportion'. The Golden Rule of Proportion is a very simple guideline to dividing space in the most visually appealing manner. The numerical value of the Golden Proportion is very close to .62. So, any time you want to know how to bisect space you can multiply it by .62 (.6 will often be close enough).

So if a wall is 21 feet high, the arch should be placed so that the height of the arch is about 60 percent of the 21 feet. In this case it would make the arch 13 feet high: 21 x .62 = 13.

There will be times when other considerations will be far more important than the Golden Rule, after all , people need to be able to walk under an arch. But, the Golden Rule of Proportion can provide a quick check for making sure your elements are proportionate to one another and to the space.

Garland Arch showing proportion using the Golden Rule.

So, to understand Proportion and Scale will help us to be better designers. We know that we need to have some specific details about the venues that we are decorating like how high the ceilings are, the room sizes and the table diameters also. Once we have all the information we can give a better idea of the designs that we can create offering the perfect decor solutions every time. I would love to offer bigger balloons for table centrepieces but we need to make sure that the room and ceiling height could cope otherwise they would look overpowering and certainly out of proportion!

I hope that these Beginners Guides to the Elements & Principles of design are helping you? I know that writing these guides has really helped me, it's very easy to forget the importance of these when designing!

Here are links to Part 1 - Part 4

Part 1. Colour
Part 2. Line
Part 3. Texture & Balance
Part 4. Rhythm

Happy Ballooning!

Information in this blog has been taken from the Design Basics with Balloons a Pioneer Balloon Company Publication.

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