Eames’s Legendary “Powers of 10”

Increasingly, designers are shifting scale from rethinking artifacts (whether buildings, posters or toasters) toward whole systems thinking. I would call this a scale shift from, let’s say, 10^1 to 10^5. Prompted originally by environmental thinking and more recently by the rise of networks and globalization, we are starting to recognize that it is impossible to design things in isolation from the larger systems that they live within — whether those are systems of resource extraction, manufacture, distribution, consumption, or waste. Since our technical systems are wholly mixed up with our natural systems, that creates additional levels of complexity. In order to design within these confounding contexts, we need to be able to scale up and scale down as we design: to consider both the granularity of the things we are designing as well as the much larger contexts within which they exist.

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