In the visual landscape of emojis, size doesn’t matter: a human face, a Moai, and the Statue of Liberty all appear in the same unobtrusive size, in line with the rest of a text message.
Emoji to Scale upends this assumption foundational to the logic of the world of emojis, sizing them to scale beside one another. In a light parody of infographics and wall signs you might find in a museum that offer information of actual pedagogical value — such as the size of marine animals or dinosaur species — Emoji to Scale presents us with common sense we learn in early childhood development, like the fact that a mosquito is smaller than a rat, which is smaller than a cat.
Beginning with the mosquito emoji, clocking in at three millimeters, a visitor scrolls down to introduce larger emojis, so that at any given point in time every emoji on the screen has the correct proportions in relation to one another. The grand finale hits us with the heavy hitters of the moon, Earth, Saturn, the Sun, and the Milky Way, each immediately rendering the preceding emoji a disappearing speck on the screen.
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: Because it was bigger than the cars.
— Marc (@MarcBeddy) January 13, 2013
Javier Bórquez, the designer and artist behind Emoji to Scale, tells Hyperallergic he was inspired by a “why did the chicken cross the road?” tweet he came across. “Because it was bigger than the cars,” the answer goes, followed by a string of emojis which depict the rooster emoji towering over a lineup of cars and vans. The tweet got Bórquez thinking about how he could iterate on that observation. The initial website only took Bórquez six hours to throw together, with the vast majority of that time spent on measuring or looking up the size of various objects.
Were the emojis to be replaced by photographs of their real-life counterparts, the project would be stiffly instructional and redundant. But Emoji to Scale, while firmly anti-utilitarian, is clever for committing to the bit and rolling with what makes emojis inane: they’re never quite functional for communication, but charming despite and occasionally because of their uselessness.