I’ve been toying with the idea of scale and pattern recently. This thought arose because of a presentation I gave in March on Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group. The talk was part of the monthly On Design Lecture Series that we host in our studio as staff development but is also open to our community as part of The School of Making educational programming. (It’s on hiatus for the summer, but we’ll let you know as soon as we start back.) Many of our young in-house designers are fascinated by the 1980s and wanted to know more about the design influences that fueled this era. I went to design school from 1983 to 1987, so this concept of 1980s design seemed appropriate and very exciting to revisit.

While unearthing my thoughts on the 80s, I realized that the most prominent design trend in my memory was Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group—the Italian design collective during the 80s who challenged the “established” rules of design. Their playful use of scale and pattern remain strong influences in design today (and my personal design aesthetic as well). While putting together the talk, I realized it had been such a long time since I played with scale. So, I pulled two gorgeous books on from my library: Ettore Sottsass Metaphors and Ettore Sottsass. Ettore Sottsass Metaphors sets the stage for playing with shapes in nature and Ettore Sottsass is incredibly inspiring for its illustration of scale, pattern, and color in design—aside from being one of the most beautiful books I own.


Motivated by these ideas, I turned to our New Leaves stencil—a design that was included in our most recent book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. The pattern was the perfect size to reduce and expand in scale, as the large surface areas and undulating details provide graphic interest at every level. The original stencil size is 25.5” x 40.5”, and we developed five sizes—from the Extra Small by reducing the scale by 49% to the Extra Large by enlarging the scale by 491%.


These stencils were then used in two projects (and a few more coming soon): a collection of DIY Sewing Kit designs for The School of Making, and a “street tag” for an alley just outside of a fantastic new music venue downtown called 116 E. Mobile from our friends at Single Lock Records. Look for our Journal posts tomorrow and next week to learn more about each project.

We documented the project with ASUS.

And use these stencils by downloading the original New Leaves design—free for a limited time with the code ZENFONE2 at online checkout—and tag #SWOCS and #theschoolofmaking on your finished project.

Here is the scaling guide for our New Leaves stencil experimentation:

Extra Small – 49% (Stencil artwork size: 15.5” X 23”)
Original – 100% (Stencil artwork size: 25.5” X 40.5”)
Next size – 184% (Stencil artwork size: 48” X 36”)
Next size – 295% (Stencil artwork size: 48” X 36”)
Largest – 491% (Stencil artwork size: 48” X 36”)

4 comments on “DESIGN + SCALE

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  1. carol

    I tried to download the stencil using zenfone2 in the coupon code & it said it was an invalid code. Can you help? Thank you.

    1. Alabama

      Hi Carol,

      Our apologies. The issue has been fixed. Give ZENFONE2 a try now, and it should work for you. If you have trouble ordering, or have any questions, give us a call at 1.256.760.1090 for immediate assistance. Thank you.