What is Scale?

Scale is a multiplier that indicates the size of an object on paper or in reality. For example, a standard scale for house plans is 1/8 inch on the plan equals one foot in reality.

Participants evaluated a number of different definitions for the types and characteristics of scale. Many of these definitions were ambiguous.


Scale is a multi-disciplinary concept which can lead to ambiguous definitions. This is especially true when the discipline of use is different from the original field of study. This was the case with “Cartographic scale” and “Modelling scale”, two types of scales which are both associated with remote sensing but have more in common with geoinformatics than with geography.

The aim of this study was to review existing types and definitions of scale, systematically investigate their level of ambiguity and determine their applicability. In this context we interviewed 150 scientific researchers from a range of geospatial disciplines. Question one asked participants to rate the importance of spatial and temporal scales in their work. The results revealed that most participants considered “Modelling scale” and “Cartographic scale” to be important but ‘Observation scale” and the policy scale were less frequently mentioned. In question two respondents were also able to provide comments and remarks about the definitions provided.


Examples of scale can be found all around us. They help us understand the relationship between size and importance of objects in a work of art, like this bas-relief sculpture. They allow us to see how a building fits into its environment, such as this photograph of Foster’s St Mary Axe Street skyscraper in London. They are used to create blueprints for machinery and architecture, to shrink vast lands into small pieces of paper like maps, and to assist architects, machine-makers and engineers in the design process by giving them a visual way to represent the size of their designs.

Many participants in this research identified several types of scale, but they had different understandings of the definitions. This can be caused by disciplinary boundaries, but it can also be the result of the fact that some definitions are ambiguous or may not apply in all disciplines (e.g., constant sum scales). It is important that any scale definitions are clear and applicable across the disciplines.


Scaling is the process of assigning objects to different categories based on their sizes. This concept can be applied to a number of fields, including research and statistics. It can be used to highlight important data points or create a narrative within an infographic.

Scale is also a common concept in art. Artists often use scale to emphasize certain elements through disproportionate size. It can be seen in works like the statue of David or Claude Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse.

While the concepts of size and proportion are often confused, they are very distinct. Proportion refers to the relationship of different sized components within one whole composition. Scale is the ratio of an object to another whole object.


Scaling allows businesses to expand beyond their local area and serve a broader demographic. This can help businesses gain valuable market insights and intelligence, which they can use to refine their products or services. It can also allow them to develop innovative marketing strategies and create new business opportunities.

Many commercial scales require periodic calibration for accuracy. This is because they intrinsically measure the force of gravity, which varies from place to place. They need to be calibrated for each location in order to get an accurate measurement of mass.

Digital scales work by using devices called load cells, which convert a physical force into an electronic signal that can be measured. These cells come in different designs depending on the type of weighing device. Most commercial scales have a structure that houses these cells and a signal conditioner. These scales can be used for medical, industrial, and retail applications. They can weigh objects in a variety of units, including grams, ounces, pounds, grains, karats, and percentages.