The ruler 30.06.16

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rethink rulers

They don’t get used much nowadays, as a rule. But Studio AH—HA still appreciates them as objects, and measures with what comes to hand

The digital age has completely changed the way we design. Within our lifetime everything was patiently measured and placed by hand, turning the exercise of designing into a very physical and visual activity. Working that way could be an exercise in patience. A poster could look like a 1,000-piece puzzle. One extra millimetre, one extra letter, one extra colour, could mean a brand new start. Do you ever wonder if you have the endurance to go through that?

The funny thing is that nowadays everything is more accurate, and yet designers have lost that precise sense of scale, that sensibility for sizes and the unconditional love of measurements. You can now easily insert numbers and see things take shape, centimetres magically become live. You can even scale things up and down with the tips of your fingers.

Rulers and all their variations are becoming collectors’ objects, fossils from a time when they were fundamental. We love them, in all shapes and formats, and have built a small collection in the studio. Yet despite this, we always end up measuring things with random objects, with paper, with books, with our legs. Whenever a ruler is missing, the first things we use are our own hands and fingers.

So we’ve decided to design rulers that unabashedly reflect the way we work. As we measure things with objects, we’ve made rulers where the units are simple and ordinary. They are visual surfaces that gather the physical elements we whimsically use every day to have a sort of a sense of size. The first comprises all circular objects we use to define different dimensions and radii. The second defines widths and heights with the standard size of a hand. We feel like illiterates and we’ve decided to come out about it, shamelessly and openly. Now you know our weaknesses – and now we can make them strengths.


Words and images

Studio AH–HA


Above: One device takes dimensions from the human hand; the other, things found in the office

quotes story

The funny thing is that nowadays everything is more accurate, and yet designers have lost that precise sense of scale

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