Gregory Ronczewski leads the design of the TeamFit platform – view his profile on TeamFit

 

There are many definitions of what scale means. A scale is “a relative size of individual elements compared to each other and a reference measurement.” Of course, there are scales in music, or you will find many scales when you try to clean a carp for dinner. For a cartographer, it is “the ratio of the distance on a map to the corresponding actual distance,” and if you are building a model, the scale is “the ratio of the linear dimension of the model to the same dimension of the original.”

My uncle was an architect. I remember visiting his studio—I must have been 7 or 8—and there was this strange, triangular ruler that seems to always be present at his drafting table. When I asked about it, I was told that it is an architect scale ruler or skalówka in Polish. It was hard to understand the concept how using the same ruler one can make something bigger or smaller.

To give it a bit more context, in 1:100 scale, 1 cm represents 1m in real size. A drawing in this scale will allow you to present a plan of an average house on a letter size paper. If you choose 1:20 scale, 1cm on paper represents 0.2m, and you will have a hard time to fit a living room on the same size of paper.

The ability to scale things is a fascinating concept. It is, however, much more complicated than the simple act of using the mentioned above ruler or to make things “relative in size” to the other elements. Have you ever try to enlarge a small doodle that looks good as a concept for a logo? What a small sketch visually achieved will not translate well when the design is much larger. In fact, it will achieve nothing. It will not work. The same principle applies to the typography. I don’t remember how many times I heard to “manually kern titles.” It was the time before InDesign or Illustrator – it was a matter of selecting any three letters and adjusting the negative space that the middle one takes on concerning the left and right side. If you scale up or down things, their properties change.

Which brings us to the idea of details. How much information to show at any given scale? If we add too many features, the idea that we are trying to convey will be lost… in the number of details. On the other hand, if we fail to include enough details, let’s say an architectural model will look way too plain, provoking questions instead of giving answers. There is also another idea to consider: if you look at your concept at a large scale—a large-scale view of a smaller area with a higher level of detail—you will most likely miss the opportunity to understand the overall concept. You will be “too close” to the elements to glimpse any insights that may become available when you zoom out to see the general shapes.

When we talk about scale, it is hard not to touch upon proportions. If you Google ‘proportions,’ what comes first is writing & solving proportions in a mathematical context. The question of how to scale things in a such a way that the ratio remain valid has occupied many minds. From Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man to Le Corbusier and his Modulor, all in the search for ideal proportions in the context of scale. A few years ago I saw an exhibition at Le Centre Pompidou in Paris showing Le Corbusier as the architect, urban planner, painter and sculptor. He has defined the man as a universal metric reference in the architecture. It was a fascinating show, however, if you read the story of Villa Savoye (Poissy, 1931) and how un-livable it was (Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness), it poses many questions if so strongly formulated concepts help to understand scale and proportion.

The Modulor – an anthropomorphic scale of proportions developed by French Architect Le Corbusier. It is based on human measurements, the double unit,  Fibonacci numbers, and the golden ratio.

 

Let’s see what scale means for a skill map. How close to the map you need to be, or how far away, to grasp the essence of the map owner, a team or a company. How many details do we need to see without obstructing the view? For sure, the list of skills organized according to preferred classification method will help. That is probably in the middle of the scale. If I zoom in, should I see supporting evidence (projects, roles, certifications or diplomas connected to this skill) and the people who have confirmed it? If I zoom out, how do I understand the relationship between other skills or the time (when was a skill used for the first time). This gives me a sense of experience. But if I zoom out even more, what should I see? What visual insights should become available on a small scale? And for the sake of symmetry, what details do we need to see when we get very close to a skill? Let’s not forget the distortions or rather, the lack of ideal proportions we are faced with when we merely make something more significant, or smaller for that matter, especially when our object is a skill map – a representation of a human from a skill perspective.

We are working on several aspects of how to represent the skill map. Already, a current version offers a solid view into the competencies of an individual, a team or a company. We are trying to get closer to individual skills – our main building blocks.

Last night I was watching Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable on Netflix. It is a fake documentary created by Damien Hirst. At the beginning of the movie, he says: “it’s not what’s there – it’s about what’s not there.” As I was watching it (I did not know it was a fake), somehow the scale of the artifacts seemed odd, the proportions of the sculptures, although very beautiful did not make sense. It was too modern. Many people got upset by Hirst’s installation. I guess, if you look at it as a form of artistic expression, it is an impressive performance. But why bring up Hirst and his fake Venice Show here? To bring back the notion of scale – skills belong to people, and we need to look at them from a human perspective. Everyone is different, and we need to capture this. Applying abstract formulas to a representation of life experience is tricky. The image may become distorted, and insights will be misleading. This is a problem we are working to solve.